Jump to search Jump to main navigation Jump to main content Jump to footer navigation

Global Security Newswire

Daily News on Nuclear, Biological & Chemical Weapons, Terrorism and Related Issues

Produced by
NationalJournal logo

U.S. Could Bury Bomb-Sensitive Uranium

Preparations are under way within the U.S. Energy Department for eliminating roughly 3,400 pounds of nuclear weapon-sensitive uranium 233, the New York Times reported on Sunday.

The effort -- projected to cost $473 million -- would involve interring the manufactured uranium in an area for disused low-level radioactive substances at the Nevada National Security Site. The material would remain inside 403 steel casks now holding it at a facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn.

An abandoned mid-20th century initiative to use the material in atomic armaments and other nuclear systems accomplished what the Times described as the most technically challenging step in preparing a uranium-based weapon: purifying a fissile supply of the substance. Still, preparing the substance for use in weapons would necessitate the use of sophisticated machinery available to only a handful of governments, Energy Department personnel said.

Clinton-era DOE consultant Robert Alvarez, though, said placing the material a short distance under the earth's surface would establish "a bad precedent in terms of international safeguards." The uranium is slated to go between 8 and 10 feet below the floor of 40-foot-deep trenches already in place at the Nevada site.

A report by Alvarez advocates mixing the material with uranium isotopes unable to sustain a fission chain reaction. The Energy Department has said such an effort would result in an needless use of additional funds, but the Times said the potential step's expense was unclear.


Note to our Readers

GSN ceased publication on July 31, 2014. Its articles and daily issues will remain archived and available on NTI’s website.

NTI Analysis

  • Nuclear Disarmament Dynamic Map

    Feb. 19, 2015

    The Nuclear Disarmament Resource Collection contains information and analysis of nuclear weapons disarmament proposals and progress worldwide, including detailed coverage of disarmament progress in countries who either possess or host other countries' nuclear weapons on their territories.

  • Discussion Paper: Strengthening the Security of Plutonium

    Sept. 17, 2014

    In advance of the 2016 NSS, this paper explores a range of options to secure and minimize plutonium stocks around the world.

Country Profile

Flag of United States

United States

This article provides an overview of the United States’ historical and current policies relating to nuclear, chemical, biological and missile proliferation.

Learn More →