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Friday, December 2nd, 2022

Nuclear Threat Initiative highlights separated plutonium security risks

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A new paper from the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) provided recommendations for mitigating risks related to separated plutonium.

As compared to highly enriched uranium (HEU), separated plutonium has not received enough attention as a security risk, NTI Counselor John Carlson said in the paper, titled “Mitigating Security Risks from Separated Plutonium: Some Near-Term Steps.”

Eight countries currently hold more than 375 metric tons of separated plutonium, which is produced by reprocessing irradiated nuclear fuel.

The paper recommends minimizing stocks and specific actions in production, storage and use of the material.

“Even small quantities [of plutonium] could be of interest to terrorists if they see opportunities for acquiring plutonium in a number of locations or for use in a radiological dispersal device,” Carlson said.

The paper recommends that INFCIRC/549 participants, other interested states, and the IAEA strengthen the INFCIRC/549 arrangement so that it can be used as a mechanism for consultation and coordination on minimizing stocks, eliminating non-essential holdings, developing a code of conduct, promoting best practices and other risk mitigation actions.

In the meantime, states should commit to arresting growth in separated plutonium stocks, the paper said.