White House Correspondent
WASHINGTON – Ukraine has announced that it will remove all highly-enriched uranium by 2012. The former Soviet republic has at least 90 kilograms of the material, which could be used to produce nuclear weapons. The announcement comes in the midst of a 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.
John Brennan, the Assistant to the President for Counterterrorism and Homeland Security, made the announcement during the White House Daily Press Briefing. According to him and White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs, the material will most likely be held in the United States. Details, however, are still being worked out.
At least 90 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium are currently held by the Ukraine in facilities like the Kiev Institute for Nuclear Research and the Sevastopol Institute of Nuclear Energy and Industry. President Obama met with President Victor Yanukovich of the Ukraine earlier today to discuss the planned transfer.
Last month Chile moved its 18 kilograms of highly-enriched uranium to the United States under a top-secret transfer. The agreement with Chile was part of a long-standing US offer to trade for highly-enriched uranium and plutonium. Highly-enriched uranium and plutonium can be used to make nuclear weapons or so-called dirty bombs.
The Nuclear Security Summit is designed to head-start a global movement to secure vulnerable nuclear materials and prevent terrorist organizations from obtaining nuclear capabilities. US intelligence sources report that al-Qaeda and other terrorists are actively seeking nuclear materials in order to create an improvised nuclear device.
“The single biggest threat to U.S. security, both short term, medium term and long term, would be the possibility of a terrorist organization obtaining a nuclear weapon,” President Obama said yesterday. ”This is something that could change the security landscape of this country and around the world for years to come. If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically, and from a security perspective would be devastating. And we know that organizations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using.