More on Uzbek Uranium

by Laurence on 9/14/2004

From the Buffalo News

Officials have been particularly worried about the material in Uzbekistan because of the country’s proximity to Afghanistan and to Islamic groups tied to al-Qaida. Some of the material, if obtained by terrorists, could be used to fashion a crude nuclear device.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said in a statement that the repatriation to Russia of the HEU in Uzbekistan was “an important milestone in our campaign to reduce this dangerous material worldwide.” He said Uzbekistan also had agreed to modify its Russian-designed research reactor to use low-enriched uranium.

Nuclear nonproliferation advocates said plans to retrieve the HEU from Uzbekistan had been in the works for several years but had been met with roadblocks both in Russia and in Uzbekistan.

“It’s terrific that it has finally occurred,” said Matthew Bunn, an expert on nuclear nonproliferation issues at Harvard University.

While HEU is not very helpful for making a so-called “dirty bomb” – a device that would use a conventional explosive to spread radioactive particles – “it is the easiest material for a terrorists to use to make a real nuclear explosion,” said Bunn.

Experts have said about 26 pounds of HEU would be needed to build a crude nuclear device.

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