05/30/2013 - 16:17

From danger to dollars: What the US should do with its highly enriched uranium

Ingrid Drake

Drake joined the Project On Government Oversight in 2007 as a fellow. Previously, she worked as a Capitol Hill and Washington correspondent for...

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Peter Stockton

A senior investigator at the Project On Government Oversight, Stockton served as special assistant to Energy Secretary Bill Richardson from 1999 to...

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Although the Obama administration has highlighted the need to secure fissile material worldwide, domestic efforts to secure highly enriched uranium (HEU) have been sluggish and uninspired. In the post-9/11 era, the United States has tremendous opportunities not only to better secure its dangerous HEU, but to make money by doing so. The authors write that the United States could create a new HEU surplus by designating that which is unnecessary for military needs; reduce the backlog of retired warheads awaiting dismantlement; increase the rate at which surplus HEU is downblended into low enriched uranium (LEU), a form of uranium unusable for weapons but usable as nuclear fuel; and sell that LEU to nuclear power plants for billions of dollars. The slow pace of downblending HEU in the United States poses a security risk to the population, deprives taxpayers of a needed source of revenue, and sends the wrong message to the global community about the US commitment to combating nuclear terrorism, the authors point out, and developing and implementing a new downblending strategy should be a priority.