USIS Washington File

09 June 2000

Text: Holum Outlines U.S.-Russian Non-Proliferation Efforts

(Stresses importance of permanent disposal of arms material) (2120)

Senior Arms Control Adviser John Holum says the United States is
"working closely with Russia" to help remove excess material from
weapons programs to ensure that it is "never again used, by anyone,
for military purposes" and "to prevent leakage to terrorists and
proliferant states."

Holum, just back from the Clinton-Putin summit in Moscow, has
negotiated with the Russians for years on critical arms control
issues. He characterized the nature of recent U.S.-Russian engagements
as "more a meeting of partners, seeking to reconcile differing
perspectives" as well as looking "to proceed with the business of arms
control and non-proliferation."

Speaking June 8 at a State Department "Open Forum" on managing nuclear
weapons and materials in the 21st century, Holum said the United
States has consolidated a number of its non-proliferation efforts
throughout the Newly Independent States (NIS) because "it is the best
way to prevent the proliferation of weapons materials, technology and
expertise." So far, he said, $4.5 billion ($4,500 million) has been
proposed by the Clinton administration for the Enhanced Threat
Reduction Initiative (ETRI) which funds cooperative efforts with
Russia, Ukraine, and other NIS states to prevent the proliferation of
weapons of mass destruction and the materials to make them. (See

During the Moscow summit, the U.S. and Russian presidents announced a
Plutonium Disposition Agreement that commits each nation to dispose of
at least 34 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium by irradiating it as
fuel in reactors or by immobilizing it with high-level radioactive
waste. (See
"".) As
the two countries pursue additional strategic arms reductions in the
future, Holum said, even more plutonium in excess of military
requirements will be created.

The administration has allocated $200 million for plutonium
disposition and expects to add another $200 million to that amount,
Holum said, adding that the United States is encouraging other nations
to join in the effort. The United States is working hard, he said, "to
secure additional commitments in the context of the G-8 Summit" in
Okinawa, Japan, in July.

Following is the text of Holum's remarks:

(begin text)

I've just returned from the Moscow summit and I can assure you, the
timing for this open forum is most appropriate. We were heavily
engaged in addressing just the issues we're discussing today.

At the summit, and indeed in the numerous arms control engagements
we've held over the past few years with our Russian counterparts, I'm
struck by the nature of the discussions. Certainly we have
differences. But the ideological tone of the Cold War is long over --
it's now more a meeting of partners, seeking to reconcile differing
perspectives and to proceed with the business of arms control and

I mention this, because it confirms that the gravest security risk we
faced during the Cold War -- the prospect of a massive nuclear
exchange -- is not the greatest security risk we face today. Many
weapons remain, but they are coming down -- fast -- and a conflict
that could inspire their use is less and less imaginable.

Today's main security risk from the former Soviet Union has a
different face. It arises from what may be called the "residue" of the
Cold War - the possibility that nuclear technology, materials, and
expertise may fall into the wrong hands.

Think about it. You're Iran, or Iraq, or a terrorist group, and you
want a nuclear weapon. If you had access, you might be tempted to
steal one. But it would be hard to conceal and transport, dangerous to
handle, and protected by codes so you probably couldn't make it work
anyway. Or you could make your own weapon, drawing on widely available
technical information. The hardest part would be to get the special
nuclear material, but then a small quantity -- the volume of a soda
can of plutonium, or a football sized piece of highly-enriched uranium
(HEU) -- could be enough. Indeed, if you did attain a weapon, you'd
probably take it apart, to "mine" it for the HEU or Plutonium and
forget about figuring out how to operate the weapon itself.

In the wake of the Cold War, the former Soviet Union and other New
Independent States represent potential opportunities for terrorists or
rogue nations to acquire nuclear materials and expertise on the cheap.
Deteriorating economies and a shrinking weapons establishment have
created hardships for weapons scientists. Temptations for illicit
trafficking in these materials are growing. And the good news of
weapons dismantlement is accompanied by the bad news of more and
potentially more accessible weapons grade material.

So as we address an arms control problem by reducing strategic weapons
through START, we're also confronting a mounting challenge to our
non-proliferation efforts.

We're working closely with Russia to address these challenges. We're
removing excess material from weapons programs; and we're trying to
make sure that such material is never again used, by anyone, for
military purposes. And we're helping to secure nuclear materials and
assets, to prevent leakage to terrorists and proliferant states;


We first want to make sure that fissile material is withdrawn from
military stockpiles and never again used in nuclear weapons.

-- We have established fissile material transparency regimes for HEU
and plutonium.

-- We're building confidence that the HEU we're dealing with is from
dismantled nuclear weapons, and that the plutonium is weapon-grade and
newly produced.

-- We're close to completing negotiations with Russia and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on a model legal agreement
to make sure that, once fissile material is removed from nuclear
weapons programs, it will come under IAEA verification.

Transparency regimes have a dual challenge: to be sure that the
subject material is of the declared quantity and quality, while
protecting information sensitive to national security. One can see the
sensitivities this raises -- the first objective calls for more
intrusiveness; the second for less. Somewhere in between, we have to
strike a workable balance.

Removing Excess Material From Weapons Programs

Once we are confident what we're dealing with, the ultimate answer, of
course, is permanent disposal of the material.

As a start, combining non-proliferation goals with commercial
activities, we're buying 500 tons of Russian HEU from weapons, blended
down for use as civilian nuclear reactor fuel. About 30 tons will be
blended down this year -- in essence, transforming material for
weapons into electric power for consumers.

Plutonium is harder. The first step is to keep the problem from
getting worse. Several Russian plutonium-producing reactors also
produce needed electricity. We concluded in 1997 the Plutonium
Production Reactor Agreement (PPRA), designed to convert those
reactors and stop all production of weapon-grade plutonium.

For disposal, burning plutonium requires special fuel fabrication and
specially designed or modified reactors. As a matter of policy, the
U.S. does not favor a plutonium fuel cycle, because there is very
little difference between the plutonium used in weapons and the
plutonium used in bombs. But there is a big difference between making
new plutonium and designing reactors to burn it, on the one hand, and
using existing reactors to get rid of plutonium on the other.

In Moscow last weekend, President's Clinton and Putin announced a
plutonium disposition agreement, under which each country must dispose
of at least 34 metric tons of weapon-grade plutonium by irradiating it
as fuel in reactors or by immobilizing it with high level radioactive
waste, rendering it suitable for geological disposal.

Further arms reductions will likely make more plutonium excess to
defense needs. So additional plutonium declared excess in the future
will also be disposed of under this agreement.

Securing Fissile Material

But these are long term solutions. The HEU agreement is for 20 years,
and Russia has additional HEU beyond the first 500 tons. Plutonium
disposition will start out at two to three tons a year, and then move
up to four tons, so, again, it's a multi-year effort, even to dispose
of 34 tons on each side.

So in the meantime, the key to our efforts is improving the security
of weapon-usable material to prevent its theft, loss or unauthorized
use. The security of these materials is the first line of defense
against nuclear smuggling that could lead to nuclear proliferation or
nuclear terrorism.

-- To prevent the unauthorized removal of nuclear material, we're
providing Russia with radiation monitors; modern access control
devices; perimeter alarm systems; and tamper-indicating devices.

-- We're providing super containers, to ensure the safety and security
of nuclear weapons during transport, and we're helping to improve the
security of nuclear weapon storage.

-- We're helping Russia consolidate material in fewer, more secure
sites and to install effective accounting and security systems. The
fewer sites we need to worry about, the less is the risk of diversion,
and the more efficient the use of U.S. funds.

-- We're helping to design and construct a facility at Mayak to store
fissile material from dismantled nuclear weapons. The facility, which
we expect to be completed by February, 2002, will provide for the
safe, secure storage of up to 25,000 containers of former weapons

-- And we're taking steps to strengthen border controls, including
radiation detection technologies, to make it harder to take nuclear
materials across borders.

Together, these steps help make sure that Russia's nuclear material
does not leak out, while awaiting ultimate disposition.


This is a broad overview focused specifically on materials. Other
programs address other aspects of the problem, for example, the
International Science and Technology Centers in Moscow and Kiev that
employ literally thousands of former weapons scientists who might
otherwise be tempted by job offers from unsavory regimes.

All of this adds up to a broad, and expensive, agenda that will
require not only U.S., but international, leadership and

We've consolidated a number of our non-proliferation efforts
throughout the NIS. We think this is the best way to prevent the
proliferation of weapons materials, technology and expertise. The
President's Enhanced Threat Reduction Initiative proposes over $4.5
billion over five years for these efforts.

We're encouraging other nations to join in as well. Plutonium
disposition, for example, is estimated as a $1.75 billion program.
Thanks to Senator (Pete) Domenici's (Republican, New
Mexico)leadership, the U.S. has already put $200 million on the table,
and expects to add at least another $200 million. Now that agreement
is in hand, we are working hard to secure additional commitments in
the context of the G-8 Summit in Okinawa.

We have a great opportunity to turn nuclear swords into plowshares,
but we need to act while the international consensus for action

To its credit, Congress has largely supported these efforts although
right now there are holds that are actually stopping work on such
activities as border security, NIS export control, and the Science
Centers, and we're looking at cuts for 2001. The Secretary has been
working very hard to get the holds lifted and the cuts reversed.

I might add here that these programs add another reason to pursue the
formal strategic arms reduction process under START. With the Russian
economy a mess and their forces headed downward anyway, some question
why we shouldn't just let it happen, and set our own force levels as
we see fit. Aside from issues of force structure, verification, and
long-term stability, another very good purpose to negotiate on
strategic arms is to foster the cooperative climate that is
indispensable to our joint non-proliferation efforts. START gives
Russia confidence that we're pursuing non-proliferation and arms
control objectives in ways that are reciprocal, stabilizing,
transparent, and legally binding.

And the relationship isn't simply procedural. It's easy to foresee,
for example, that proposed START III warhead transparency measures and
ongoing programs to assist with the dismantlement and safe and secure
transport of Russian warheads could be mutually reinforcing.

Similarly, whether Russia will close or convert some of its nuclear
facilities may depend on programs that are providing jobs for
displaced Russian weapon scientists and engineers -- programs that let
us deal with the expertise that went into making Russia's nuclear
weapons, even as we do something about the materials and components
coming out.

So I think we're going about this business the right way, but let me
leave you with one thought: we've got to continue to pursue our
nuclear objectives on a number of fronts. We can't let progress in one
area obscure the need for sustained efforts in another. In the end,
all our efforts have one common objective -- enhancing U.S. security.
That's what all this is really all about.

Thank you.

(end text)

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