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U.S. Plans More Money for Nuke Protection
January 29, 2003

WASHINGTON (AP) - The Bush administration will propose a 30 percent increase to $1.3 billion next year for programs aimed at keeping nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists, officials said Wednesday.

The proposal, much of it to help Russia secure its nuclear material, represents the second year of increased spending for nuclear nonproliferation after the Bush administration - before the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks - sought to scale back the programs.

Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham broadly outlined the additional spending in a speech Wednesday. It will be part of the proposed budget President Bush will send to Congress next week for the fiscal year beginning Oct. 1.

``We intend to be aggressive'' on nuclear nonproliferation, Abraham told members of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. The proposed budget, he said, will ``contain the largest request for nonproliferation programs in U.S. history.''

The government currently is spending about $1 billion on these programs to help Russia secure its nuclear materials and other nuclear nonproliferation efforts. More than $7 billion has been spent on the effort over the past decade.

Earlier this month, a report developed by 15 international organizations and financed by the Washington-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, called nuclear proliferation ``the gravest danger in the world today'' and said efforts to deal with it have fallen short.

For example, the report said, less than half of Russia's weapons-usable nuclear material identified by the Energy Department is considered to be in secure locations. And virtually none of its plutonium and only one-seventh of its highly enriched uranium so far has been rendered unusable for weapons use, should terrorists or rogue states obtain it.

Robert Einhorn, a former Clinton administration nuclear arms specialist now at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a co-author of the report, said he had not yet analyzed the proposed spending increase to determine its likely impact.

Abraham said the proposal for fiscal 2004 will let the government expand programs to help secure Russia's 600 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material.

``We expect to complete most of the work (in securing these materials) over the next few years, in many cases ahead of schedule,'' said Abraham.

The secretary said the proposal will include $110 million for improving nuclear material detection, including programs to monitor border checkpoints and major shipping ports worldwide, focusing on so-called ``megaports'' through which 90 percent of container ship traffic flows.

Also, said Abraham, ``we must reduce the total amount of excess nuclear material and end its production.''

To do this, he said, additional money will be earmarked to help Russia:

Build plutonium disposition plants.

Shut down its plutonium-making reactors.

Improve border security to reduce the risk of illicit nuclear trafficking.

Help secure 1,200 Russian Navy warheads.

Other funds would help secure some of Russia's numerous non-weapons radiological sources that terrorists could use to make ``dirty bombs.''

The proposed budget ``will allow for the securing of an additional 18 sites in Russia where this material is stored, as well as for locating, consolidating and securing an additional 225 orphan or surplus radioactive sources in the former Soviet Union,'' said Abraham.

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