A Path to Nuclear Disarmament

On Wednesday, 28 October 2009, the International Panel on Fissile Materials (IPFM), presented Global Fissile Material Report 2009: A Path to Nuclear Disarmament at the United Nations General Assembly’s First Committee, which is responsible for international peace and security.

Global Fissile Material Report 2009 charts some of the key technical and policy steps for securing verifiable world-wide nuclear disarmament and eliminating the world’s huge stockpiles of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, the key materials for making nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament has returned to the center of international debate following President Barack Obama’s April 2009 speech in Prague, in which he pledged “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” In September 2009, the United Nations Security Council, which includes the five major nuclear weapon states, unanimously agreed “to create the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons.”

Global Fissile Material Report 2009 discusses how nuclear-armed states could declare their stockpiles of nuclear weapons, plutonium and highly enriched uranium, and how these declarations might be verified using the methods and tools being developed for what is now called “nuclear archaeology.”

The report includes IPFM’s annual assessment of worldwide stocks, production, and disposition of highly enriched uranium and plutonium, and current efforts to eliminate these materials. There are nine nuclear-armed states and over 20,000 nuclear weapons today. The report includes for the first time an estimate of the number and locations of nuclear weapons sites worldwide, listed by country.

The IPFM estimates that the current global stockpile of highly enriched uranium is about 1600 metric tons. There are about 500 tons of separated plutonium, divided almost equally between weapon and civilian stocks, but it is all weapon-usable. The global stockpiles of plutonium and highly enriched uranium together are sufficient for over one hundred thousand nuclear weapons. The report lists the location, size and safeguards status of operating, under construction and planned fissile material production facilities around the world.

The report considers options for monitoring nuclear warhead dismantlement and the disposition of the fissile materials they contain as well as other stockpiles of fissile materials; verifiably ending the production of fissile materials for weapons, through a Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (a topic treated in detail in Global Fissile Material Report 2008); the potential roles of nuclear fuel-cycle facilities in enabling nuclear breakout in a disarmed world; and the potential contributions of societal or citizen verification to making it impossible to conceal illicit nuclear-weapon-related activities.

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