ACTION ALERT: Preventing Nuclear Terrorism

June 16th, 2004 - by admin

Union of Concerned Scientists – 2004-06-16 12:55:02

(June 16, 2004) — The gravest security threat the United States faces today is the possibility of terrorists detonating a nuclear weapon in a major city — likely causing hundreds of thousands of deaths. To prevent this threat, the US must prevent terrorists from obtaining the materials necessary to make a nuclear weapon.

The Bush administration and Congress have not paid sufficient attention to this serious problem. Last week, Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham announced a new initiative outlining positive steps to address this issue, but concrete actions need to be taken now. Tell the Bush administration to make securing loose nuclear materials its top priority in the war on terrorism.

UCS’s Global Security Program has initiated a Preventing Nuclear Terrorism Campaign. Of all the terrorist threats facing the United States and the world, perhaps the gravest is the possibility of terrorists obtaining a nuclear weapon and detonating it in a city.

If a terrorist group exploded just one nuclear weapon, hundreds of thousands of people could die. Because there is no effective protection against a nuclear blast, the only real solution is to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons and fissile materials in the first place.

Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is especially attractive to terrorist groups because it can be used directly to make a simple nuclear weapon. This is the crucial time to urge the administration to match action with rhetoric and push urgent HEU priorities to prevent nuclear terrorism.

Letter to the Secretary of Energy

The Honorable Spencer Abraham
Secretary of Energy

Dear Secretary Abraham,

I am writing to you today to thank you for establishing the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, and I urge you to make it a top priority. Your new initiative indicates that the Energy Department will take actions neccesary to prevent terrorists from acquiring fissile materials needed for a nuclear weapon.

Highly enriched uranium (HEU) is particularly attractive to terrorist groups because it can be used directly to make a simple nuclear weapon. Thus, as you implement this initiative, we urge you to take priority actions to ensure HEU “cleanout” from vulnerable sites around the world and to accelerate the down-blending of enormous Russian and US stockpiles of HEU. Specifically, I urge you to do the following:

* Request adequate funding to implement HEU cleanout as quickly as practical–even faster than your 2010 timeline. Also, ensure that U.S. and US-supplied research reactors using HEU fuel are included in the cleanout, as these sites are also vulnerable.

* Request more funds to purchase down-blended HEU from Russia for future sale to the nuclear power industry (as market conditions allow) and begin work to reach a second agreement for Russia and the United States to down-blend and store some of its additional HEU. (Each country has more than 550 metric tons of HEU.)

Prioritizing these actions will ensure that concrete progress is made toward preventing nuclear terrorism. As you said in your speech announcing the initiative, “The responsibility falls to us … to take necessary action to prevent the horrors of 9/11 being replayed, but on a nuclear scale.” Thank you again for this initiative; now I hope you will take steps to make it the highest priority for the security of our country.

Sincerely, (your name)

If you have general questions, comments or concerns about this action, send email to —