Over time, and without our decisive intervention, al Qaeda could become the world’s 10th nuclear power. The terrorist organization has made several attempts to acquire uranium that could be used to make a crude nuclear device, and documents discovered at an al Qaeda safe house in 2001 showed an understanding of nuclear weapons design. The hardest part for the terrorists is getting the plutonium or highly enriched uranium necessary to build a bomb. Making that impossible should be our goal.
At their 2002 summit the G-8 leaders launched a Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, in which they pledged $20 billion — $10 billion from the United States, $10 billion from others — over 10 years to reduce the risk of catastrophic terrorism. Two years after this global security breakthrough, they are $3 billion short of their pledges, and only a tiny fraction of the $17 billion pledged has been appropriated for programs. Disputes between Russia and donor countries over tax issues, liability questions and site access have slowed implementation.
As a result, less than one-quarter of Russia’s nuclear bomb-making materials — hundreds of metric tons of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) — has been adequately secured against theft or diversion. Globally, there are still more than 130 nuclear research reactors and other facilities in 40 countries using or storing weapons-usable HEU, and many of these facilities have only the most rudimentary security measures.