Laura S. H. Holgate Ambassador (ret.)
Vice President, Materials Risk Management
Resources on U.S. Plutonium Disposition
Reducing global stockpiles of weapons-usable material is an essential component to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and avoiding the catastrophe of nuclear terrorism. The U.S. has already identified over 34 metric tons of weapons grade plutonium as excess to defense needs and is working to dispose of that material.
With the Cold War behind them, the United States and Russia pledged to eliminate excess weapons-grade plutonium in order to prevent its theft or diversion for illegal nuclear programs and to prevent its reincorporation into their weapons programs. From a nonproliferation standpoint, plutonium is of the greatest concern because only 8 kilograms are needed to make a nuclear bomb. The United States and Russia each declared 50 metric tons of plutonium to be surplus to their security needs. In September 2000, both countries signed the Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), in which they committed to transform 34 metric tons each of excess military plutonium into a proliferation-resistant form over the course of 20 years. The United States continues to pursue the aims of the PMDA through the dilute and dispose approach.
This page provides a collection of resources related to dilute and dispose. It includes analysis of the advantages and challenges of previous mixed oxide fuel approach, the management and disposition of plutonium, and resources for further reading on plutonium disposition.
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“The bottom line is that the countries and areas with the greatest responsibility for protecting the world from a catastrophic act of nuclear terrorism are derelict in their duty,” the 2023 NTI Index reports.
Understanding nuclear materials, including how plutonium and enriched uranium are produced, and the basics of nuclear energy and nuclear weapons, is the focus of this tutorial.
Motivations behind and implications of China's decision to sell Pakistan two more plutonium-producing heavy-water reactors. (CNS)