Quietly executing a national security triumph

QUIETLY EXECUTING A NATIONAL SECURITY TRIUMPH…. One of the year’s biggest national security developments actually gets overlooked. In April, at the kickoff of the Nuclear Security Summit, the Obama administration reached an agreement with the Ukrainian government on the country giving up its entire stockpile of highly enriched uranium, inherited after the fall of the Soviet Union.

For those concerned about the security of the most dangerous material on the planet, this was quite a breakthrough. What we didn’t know until last night is that the process of moving more than 110 pounds of highly enriched uranium — enough to make two nuclear bombs — was quietly completed this week.

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It sounds like something out of a spy thriller, but this was, by all accounts, an extremely complicated, extremely dangerous, process involving five flights in four countries and 21 specially designed casks carrying previously unsecured uranium to a secure facility. Andrew Bieniawski, the U.S. agency’s associate deputy administrator for global threat reduction, said, “This may have been the most complicated operation NNSA has done in recent years.”

The result, of course, is a safer world. If you watch one clip today, make it this one from last night, in which Rachel Maddow interviewed Thomas D’Agostino, head of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.

Also note, President Obama established a goal early on of securing all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years — a task that encompasses locking down materials in 35 countries. Less than two years later, the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration has completed its work in 19 of those countries, and D’Agostino believes the agency is on track to meet the White House’s deadline.

The political world covers quite a bit of ground, but arguably nothing is quite as important to global security as this. The developments in Ukraine are a triumph to be celebrated.