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A Busy Year Securing Vulnerable Nuclear Material and Making the World Safer

January 7, 2011 - 6:22pm

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This holiday season was certainly a busy one for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA). While many Americans were off completing last minute Christmas shopping and spending time with loved ones, the team at NNSA was working around the clock to secure over 50 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from three sites in the Ukraine. As part of President Obama’s ambitious plan to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world in four years, NNSA assisted in repatriating the dangerous materials from the Ukraine to a secure facility in Russia.

The successful completion of this mission capped a year of important achievements by NNSA and its international partners, which included securing 10 metric tons of highly enriched uranium and three metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium from Kazakhstan – enough material to create approximately 775 nuclear weapons. These complex international efforts were buoyed in large part by the Nuclear Security Summit, which took place last April and was attended by over 40 countries that pledged to secure their vulnerable nuclear material.

We’re not the only ones to take note of NNSA’s achievements. Up against some very impressive nominees, the Arms Control Association recently voted to make NNSA Administrator Thomas D’Agostino Co-“Arms Control Person of the Year” for his work with Kazakhstan's Deputy Foreign Minister Kairat Umarov and international partners on that highly sensitive Kazakhstan project. This honor highlights the importance and difficulty of the milestones that NNSA and its partners have achieved in the past year and the magnitude of the work left to be done.

That’s a magnitude that is not lost on NNSA or any of their international partners. Achieving President Obama’s goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world is not an easy challenge, but it’s a challenge they feel prepared to meet thanks to increased budgets and international support.

As Administrator D’Agostino stated during his recent interview with Rachel Maddow, they’re on track to complete their work in all 35 countries they’ve committed to securing by the end of 2012 – simply put, "19 [countries] down, 16 to go”.

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