From High to Low

The United States is witnessing “unprecedented interest and cooperation” across world governments in preventing the use of weapons of mass destruction, said Thomas Countryman, assistant secretary of state for international security and nonproliferation. For example, since a nuclear summit in Washington, D.C., in April 2010 when world leaders agreed to lock down vulnerable nuclear material within four years and to prevent nuclear smuggling, the United States and Russia have converted enough highly enriched uranium to “harmless” low enriched uranium that otherwise could have been used to make 3,000 nuclear weapons, he said in a speech in San Francisco on Oct. 26. “We have made considerable advances since this inaugural summit,” said Countryman. By the time of a second summit, this time in Seoul, the following March, already some 480 kilograms of HEU—”enough material to produce about 19 nuclear weapons”—had been removed from eight countries for safe disposal, he said. That included Mexico and Ukraine totally cleaning out their HEU stockpiles, he said. “Two years from now, when world leaders gather in the Netherlands for a third summit, we will see even more progress towards securing nuclear materials and denying them to terrorists,” said Countryman.