Ukraine to give up Its Highly Enriched Uranium

UKRAINE TO GIVE UP ITS HIGHLY ENRICHED URANIUM…. The Obama administration begins its Nuclear Security Summit today in Washington, a meeting described as “the largest gathering of world leaders arranged by a U.S. president since FDR set up the 1945 meeting leading to the United Nations.” The question, though, has been whether the summit will produce tangible results and/or commitments on counter-proliferation.

It appears that at least one important breakthrough has already occurred.

President Viktor Yanukovich of Ukraine agreed to give up all of his country’s stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU), White House press secretary Robert Gibbs announced Monday after President Obama’s first ever meeting with Yanukovich at the Nuclear Security Summit.

Ukraine will also convert its nuclear reactors that use HEU to ones that will use low-enriched uranium.

HEU and weapons-grade plutonium could be used to make a weapon. The stated purpose of the summit is to prevent these materials — roughly 2,100 tons of which exist throughout the globe — from getting into the wrong hands.

After the USSR collapsed, suddenly-independent Ukraine suddenly possessed the third largest nuclear arsenal in the world. Eventually Ukraine (as well as Belarus and Kazakhstan) returned to Russia the nuclear weapons and delivery systems and signed the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as a non-nuclear state.

Ukraine also inherited quite a bit of fissile material that could be used for a nuclear weapon.

Robert Gibbs told reporters the agreement with Ukrainian officials is “something that the United States has tried to make happen for more than 10 years. The material is enough to construct several nuclear weapons.”

Spencer Ackerman added, “Ukraine is a really important country for nuclear proliferation purposes. Home to Chernobyl, the world’s foremost symbol of nuclear insecurity, it’s one of the countries that the Nunn-Lugar nuclear security program targeted for finance and technical assistance on safeguarding its Soviet-legacy nuclear materials.”