In a letter dated March 29, 2016, 35 Nobel Laureates from physics, chemistry, and medicine urge national leaders attending President Obama’s fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit on March 31st to reduce the risk of nuclear or radiological terrorism to near-zero by:
1) Commissioning technical studies to investigate the transition from highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuels that are most easily used in an improvised nuclear explosive to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuels (that cannot be used directly in weapons) in naval nuclear propulsion;
2) Devoting resources to address the remaining HEU-fuelled research reactors over the next decade by converting them from weapons-usable uranium or shutting down reactors where conversion is not feasible; and
3) Developing commercially-viable technologies that do not use highly radioactive sources for blood and cancer treatment, as well as scientific research and industrial applications.
The signees stress that because terrorist threats “cross national boundaries,” they “require the concerted work of all nations to prevent… terrorist acts from happening.” They also “urge” world leaders “to devote the necessary resources to make further substantial progress in the coming years to real risk reduction in preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism.” Moreover, they underscore how essential it is “to reengage Russian technical experts and officials despite the recent downturn in political relations” because dozens of HEU-fuelled reactors are still operating in Russia.
The letter, written by Dr. Burton Richter, a Nobel Laureate in physics and the Paul Pigott Professor in the Physical Sciences at Stanford University and Director Emeritus, Stanford Linear Accelerator Center, and Dr. Charles Ferguson, President of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS), and list of signees is available here.