By Daryl G. Kimball Arms control works when governments and political leaders work together and commit the necessary resources to get the job done. This week, the South African government and National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) announced the successful return 13.8 pounds of highly enriched uranium to the United States for disposal. The operation is part of the long-running Global Threat Reduction Initiative, which converts nuclear reactors to run on non-weapon-grade low enriched uranium (LEU) rather than highly enriched uranium (HEU). The South African operation returned U.S.-origin nuclear fuel to the United States. However, the NNSA needs continued funding for the program to convert 200 research reactors to LEU by 2022. As Arms Control Now noted earlier this year--and as MSNBC's Rachel Maddow Show reported this week (see clip below)--funding for that program and other critical programs to secure nuclear weapons usable material is now at risk.
The Arms Control Association, which is part of the Fissile Materials Working Group, a network of more than 60 leading experts and non-governmental organizations, is urging the House and Senate to fully support the Obama administration's fiscal 2012 budget request for GTRI and other high nuclear security priority programs. If they don't, the goal of securing the most vulnerable nuclear material within four years will be in jeopardy.