To create a safer future, dismantle nuclear arsenals and foster openness, trust

By , Office of Science and Technology Policy.

NOTHING could be more central to our national security than making sure that nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them do not fall into the hands of hostile states or terrorist groups. With thousands of nuclear weapons and hundreds of tons of weapons-usable materials built up over four decades of cold-war bomb building, the United States and Russia bear a special responsibility for solving this global problem. At their September summit, President Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin agreed on new steps in five areas.

First, we are dismantling nuclear arsenals. The US has cut its strategic nuclear forces by 50 percent and its tactical nuclear forces by 90 percent. We are spending hundreds of millions of dollars to help states of the former Soviet Union blow up missile silos, dismantle nuclear submarines, and ship warheads back to the dismantlement sites. Some 360 nuclear warheads have been shipped from Ukraine to Russia for dismantlement - much faster than the agreed rate. The two presidents agreed to begin taking warheads off the missiles limited by the START II treaty as soon as the treaty is ratified, and to discuss deeper reductions.

Second, we are securing nuclear materials. Last month, the first joint US-Russian assessment of security for weapons-usable materials was conducted at a massive plutonium storage facility in Siberia. That effort, which follows a Russian visit to a comparable US plutonium storage site, will initiate a program to cooperate with Russia in finding and addressing whatever urgent security problems exist in our nuclear complexes. We also initiated a lab-to-lab program. Scientists who once designed bombs to target against each other are working shoulder-to-shoulder to ensure control of nuclear materials. By February, new safeguard systems will be in place at Russia's first nuclear-weapons laboratory and at its largest independent nuclear institute. The US, Russia, and other countries are also working to stop the deadly traffic in nuclear materials - expanding cooperation in law enforcement, intelligence, customs, and export controls.

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Third, we are building confidence through openness. By December, the US and Russia should tell each other how many nuclear weapons they have, how large their stocks of bomb materials are, and what they are doing to ensure their safety and security. We also plan unprecedented inspections of plutonium components removed from nuclear weapons.

Fourth, we are halting further accumulation of excess stocks of these nuclear bomb materials. In June, the US and Russia signed an agreement ending their production of plutonium for weapons forever, and pledging that Russia will shut down its remaining plutonium production reactors by the year 2000. We are working hard to replace those reactors with alternate sources of heat and electricity.

Finally, we are working to get rid of these huge excess stocks of bomb materials, so we won't have to guard them forever. We are buying 500 tons of Russian bomb-grade uranium, blended down to non-weapons-usable, low-enriched reactor fuel, for sale on the commercial market. For plutonium, which cannot be blended in the same way, we have established a US-Russian working group to examine the options and reach a solution.

None of this will be easy. The legacy of mistrust lingers, and each new nuclear site, each piece of once-secret information, requires painstaking work. We spent decades building up bombs and bomb materials. Solving the problems will take time, money, and work to build mutual trust.

But we are committed to getting the job done. The seizure of 300 grams of plutonium in Germany, and similar seizures of kilograms of bomb materials in Russia, reinforced our view that action is needed now. Our vision is of the US and Russia dismantling thousands of nuclear weapons rather than building more, getting rid of nuclear-weapons materials rather than producing ever larger stockpiles, cleaning up rather than further fouling our nuclear sites, fostering openness and trust rather than living with suspicion and fear. That is the nuclear future our children deserve.

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