Nuclear Security Summit: Ukraine to Get Rid of Weapons-Grade Uranium by 2012

Ukraine to Get Rid of Weapons-Grade Uranium by 2012

By Stephen E. Kaufman
America.gov Staff Writer

Washington — The Obama administration praised the Ukrainian government’s decision to get rid of its supply of highly enriched uranium (HEU) by 2012, coming as 46 nations gather in Washington for a two-day summit aimed at securing nuclear material from terrorists and non-state organizations.

White House press secretary Robert Gibbs said April 12 that Ukraine’s decision demonstrates the county’s “continued leadership in nonproliferation.” Ukraine’s stockpile of HEU, which Gibbs estimated to be at least 90 kilograms, is “enough to construct several nuclear weapons.”

While the final disposition of Ukraine’s HEU is yet to be determined, Gibbs said the United States “will provide some degree of both technical and financial assistance to ensure that it happens.” He said Russia is “one of the likely destinations” for the material.

The announcement came after Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych met with President Obama ahead of the April 12–13 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.

In a joint statement, the two leaders reaffirmed a shared vision of a world without nuclear weapons and pledged to cooperate in preventing proliferation and helping to secure vulnerable nuclear materials.

“President Obama praised Ukraine’s decision as a historic step and a reaffirmation of Ukraine’s leadership in nuclear security and nonproliferation,” the statement said.

Both countries are exploring areas of cooperation to develop Ukraine’s nuclear research capabilities and to diversify its power supply. The statement said they will continue working together to safeguard the Chernobyl nuclear reactor site and restore it to a safe condition following the 1986 accident. According to the joint statement, the United States so far has contributed almost $250 million toward that effort.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union in 1991, Ukraine joined with Kazakhstan and Belarus in agreeing to eliminate the nuclear weapons left in their countries and join the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in 1994.

“From 1994 to 1996, Ukraine eliminated all of the ICBM [intercontinental ballistic missile] silos, and some 5,000 nuclear munitions, including 2,000 strategic-range munitions, long-range cruise missiles and strategic bombers remaining on its territory, giving impetus to the START Treaty,” an April 12 fact sheet provided by the White House said.

Under its agreement to get rid of its HEU, the fact sheet said, Ukraine will convert its civilian nuclear research programs to operate with low-enriched uranium fuel, which cannot be used for nuclear weapons.

BIDEN NOTES ROLE OF INDUSTRY

Vice President Biden hosted foreign leaders and dignitaries from Chile, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Algeria, Egypt, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Morocco, Vietnam and Nigeria April 12.

Biden described them as countries that are seeking to develop peaceful nuclear energy sectors and said, “We stand ready to support you, to share our experience with you.”

To control and safeguard nuclear materials, the vice president said, the United States recognizes that industry shares a responsibility with governments, since more than half of the world’s dangerous nuclear materials are privately owned.

“It requires good regulations and public-private partnerships to get it right,” Biden said. “We will work with them, as we will work with you, to address our common concerns.”

The vice president said all nations share an interest in gaining control over the world’s hundreds of tons of nuclear material, located in more than 40 countries.

“Just 50 pounds of high-purity uranium, smaller than a soccer ball, could destroy the downtown of all our capital cities and kill tens if not hundreds of thousands of individuals,” Biden said. “This is the horrific threat that we all face together, and one that we are determined we will defeat together.”

(This is a product of the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://www.america.gov)

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