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Safeguarding Weapons Grade Uranium

"We've made real progress in building a safer world," said President Obama at the Summit's close.

"It is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security -- to our collective security," said U.S. President Barack Obama in his remarks at the opening of the Nuclear Summit, held in Washington in mid-April:

"Nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations. Only small amounts of plutonium or highly enriched uranium if formed into a weapon could kill and injure hundreds of thousands of innocent people. Terrorist networks such as Al Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it. Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world -- causing extraordinary loss of life, and striking a major blow to global peace and stability."

The challenge, therefore, is to ensure that terrorists never gain access to plutonium or highly-enriched uranium – the essential ingredients of a nuclear weapon. But how do we secure the plutonium and highly enriched uranium that exist in dozens of countries with a variety of peaceful as well as military uses?

To a number of countries whose representatives took part in the Summit, the answer was simple: get rid of their excess stockpiles of nuclear weapons usable material. And so, even before the summit began, Ukraine pledged to get rid of its entire supply, roughly 160 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, by the next Summit -— half of it by year's end. Canada stated it would return its large research reactor’s highly enriched uranium spent nuclear fuel to the United States, and while Mexico promised to give up all of its highly enriched uranium stores, Chile announced that it had already done so.

Others, such as Argentina and Pakistan, pledged to strengthen security to discourage smuggling. Russia said it would shut down its last weapons-grade plutonium production reactor, and the United States and Russia agreed to get rid of 34 metric tons each of excess weapons-grade plutonium.

"We've made real progress in building a safer world," said President Obama at the Summit's close. "Because of the steps we've taken -- as individual nations and as an international community -- . . . .the world will be more secure."