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Nuclear Nonproliferation

One of the most serious threats facing the United States and other countries is the possibility that a nuclear weapon, nuclear weapon-usable materials, or certain high-risk radiological sources could be stolen from poorly secured stockpiles or facilities in various locations around the world. To address these other threats, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration implements nuclear nonproliferation programs worldwide.

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The National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy, has more than 20 programs that are intended to, among other things, secure nuclear weapons and materials, and high-risk radiological sources; reduce the risks of nuclear smuggling; support research and development of new nonproliferation technologies; and dispose of excess weapon-usable nuclear material and radiological sources. Table 1 shows the range of NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation programs.

Table 1: NNSA Nuclear Nonproliferation Operating Programs and Major Program and Subprogram Functions and Activities, by Nonproliferation Office

Program office


Major program and subprogram functions and activities

Office of Global Threat Reduction

Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI)

GTRI subprograms work in the United States and internationally to convert research reactors and medical isotope production processes from use of HEU, remove and dispose of excess nuclear and “orphaned” radiologicalmaterials, and protect high-priority nuclear and high-risk radiological sources from theft.

Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Research and Development (R&D)

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D program

Nonproliferation and Verification R&D subprograms support long-term basic and applied research, development, and testing of new technologies to improve U.S. capabilities to detect and monitor nuclear weapons production, proliferation of nuclear weapon-usable materials, and nuclear explosions worldwide.

Office of Nonproliferation and International Security

Nonproliferation and International Security program

Nonproliferation and International Security subprograms provide a range of policy and technical support to implement and monitor WMD reductions; revitalize the safeguards technology and human capital base at the U.S. national laboratories to help strengthen the international safeguards system; strengthen nuclear material security and export control systems; transition WMD expertise and infrastructure in partner countries to peaceful purposes; and improve international nuclear nonproliferation regimes, agreements, and arrangements.

Office of International Material Protection and Cooperation

 Material Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program

Second Line of Defense (SLD) program

The MPC&A program works to improve the security of nuclear weapons and materials at sites in Russia and at nuclear material sites in other countries; consolidate and convert weapon-usable nuclear material stocks; and enable Russia and other countries to sustain MPC&A upgrades over the long term without continued U.S. support.  The SLD program seeks to strengthen the capability of foreign governments to deter, detect, and interdict illicit nuclear and radioactive material trafficking.  The SLD program includes an SLD “core” program that installs radiation detection equipment at key foreign land borders, airports, and ports, and a Megaports Initiative that is designed to enhance radiation screening of cargo containers at major foreign seaports.

Office of Fissile Materials Disposition

U.S. Surplus Materials Disposition program

Russian Surplus Materials Disposition program

The U.S. Surplus Materials Disposition program—also referred to as the U.S. Surplus Fissile Materials Disposition program—supports the downblending of highly enriched uranium (HEU) that is excess to U.S. defense needs and efforts to fabricate 34 metric tons of U.S. excess plutonium into mixed oxide fuel, which will be irradiated in commercial reactors.  The Russian Surplus Materials Disposition program—also referred to as the Russian Surplus Fissile Materials Disposition program or the Russian plutonium disposition program—is planning to assist Russia in modifying reactors in that country, which will dispose of an equivalent amount of Russian weapon-grade plutonium.

Source:  NNSA.

Looking for our recommendations? Click on any report to find each associated recommendation and its current implementation status.

Combating Nuclear Smuggling:

Megaports Initiative Faces Funding and Sustainability Challenges
Published: Oct 31, 2012. Publicly Released: Nov 28, 2012.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Further Actions Needed by U.S. Agencies to Secure Vulnerable Nuclear and Radiological Materials
Published: Mar 14, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 2012.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Action Needed to Address NNSA's Program Management and Coordination Challenges
Published: Dec 14, 2011. Publicly Released: Dec 14, 2011.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

More Reports

Government Efficiency and Effectiveness:

Inconsistent Definitions and Information Limit the Usefulness of Federal Program Inventories
Published: Oct 31, 2014. Publicly Released: Oct 31, 2014.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Additional Actions Needed to Increase the Security of U.S. Industrial Radiological Sources
Published: Jun 12, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 2014.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Additional Actions Needed to Increase the Security of U.S. Industrial Radiological Sources
Published: Jun 6, 2014. Publicly Released: Jun 12, 2014.

National Nuclear Security Administration:

Agency Report to Congress on Potential Efficiencies Does Not Include Key Information
Published: May 15, 2014. Publicly Released: May 15, 2014.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Stronger Planning and Evaluation Needed for Radiological Security Zone Pilot Project
Published: Mar 6, 2014. Publicly Released: Mar 6, 2014.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

IAEA Has Made Progress in Implementing Critical Programs but Continues to Face Challenges
Published: May 16, 2013. Publicly Released: Jun 17, 2013.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Additional Actions Needed to Improve Security of Radiological Sources at U.S. Medical Facilities
Published: Sep 10, 2012. Publicly Released: Sep 10, 2012.

Strategic Weapons:

Changes in the Nuclear Weapons Targeting Process Since 1991
Published: Jul 31, 2012. Publicly Released: Jul 31, 2012.

Modernizing the Nuclear Security Enterprise:

New Plutonium Research Facility at Los Alamos May Not Meet All Mission Needs
Published: Mar 26, 2012. Publicly Released: Mar 26, 2012.

Nuclear Nonproliferation:

More Progress Needed in Implementing Recommendations for IAEA's Technical Cooperation Program
Published: Mar 17, 2011. Publicly Released: Mar 17, 2011.
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