Issue Date: November 29, 2004
Problems found in recovery of nuclear materials
Some 12 countries that have U.S.-supplied bomb-grade highly enriched uranium (HEU) have no plans to return it, notes a report by the Government Accountability Office (formerly the General Accounting Office). The U.S. provided the material to 34 countries for use in research reactors over the past 50 years. So far, only 11 have returned all the nuclear material, 11 have returned some of it, and the rest have no plans to return any. The Department of Energy has recovered about 914 kg of HEU fuel, enough to build some 20 nuclear weapons, but the report says the U.S. has distributed some 5,000 kg of HEU as well as 15,000 kg of low enriched uranium (LEU). LEU is not a weapons threat, but it poses disposal problems for poorer nations. Countries holding U.S.-origin HEU without plans to return it include Indonesia, Israel, Turkey, Jamaica, Iran, and Pakistan. GAO recommends that DOE consider offering greater incentives to foreign research reactor owners to encourage them to return the HEU. The U.S. should also consider increasing the fees it charges richer nations for U.S. disposal of LEU to help recover the cost of the HEU incentive recovery program. The report (GAO-05-57) is available at http://www.gao.gov.
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