1 November 2010

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...


Peter Stockton

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

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.