Key Issues > Nuclear Nonproliferation
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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, implements a range of nuclear nonproliferation programs around the world through its Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation.  Among other things, these programs—with a combined annual budget of approximately $2 billion—work to: secure nuclear and radiological materials worldwide; reduce the risks of nuclear smuggling and the spread of materials, technology, and expertise related to weapons of mass destruction; support research and development of technologies to detect nuclear proliferation; and dispose of excess weapon-usable nuclear materials and radiological sources.  Table 1 describes NNSA’s nuclear nonproliferation programs and major program activities.  In addition to NNSA, other federal agencies support similar nuclear nonproliferation activities and efforts to counter nuclear smuggling, including the Department of Homeland Security through the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office; the Department of Defense through the Cooperative Threat Reduction Program and Defense Threat Reduction Agency; and the Department of State through various programs and activities under its International Security and Nonproliferation Bureau.

Table 1: NNSA’s Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs and Major Program Functions


Major Program Functions

Material Management and Minimization

This program includes efforts to convert domestic and international civilian research reactors and similar facilities to non-weapon-usable nuclear materials; remove, consolidate, and dispose of excess nuclear material from civilian sites worldwide; and dispose of surplus weapon-grade plutonium in the United States and Russia.

Global Material Security

This program includes several subprograms that work with partner countries to improve the security of nuclear materials in place and during transport; secure radiological materials at their source and recover orphaned and disused radiological sources, both domestically and abroad; and cooperate with foreign governments to improve their abilities to deter, detect, and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials

Nonproliferation and Arms Control

Subprograms under this program provide a range of nonproliferation policy and technical support, including supporting the negotiation, implementation, and monitoring of nonproliferation and arms control treaties; working with foreign partners to strengthen their export control systems; and sustaining the international nuclear safeguards regime.

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation R&D

This program includes a subprogram that develops technologies to detect foreign nuclear weapons programs and support arms control treaty verification, and a subprogram that develops and builds space-based sensors for nuclear test treaty monitoring and which conducts R&D to advance nuclear detonation forensic capabilities.

Nonproliferation Construction

This program oversees construction of key U.S. facilities that will enable the United States to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium.

Source:  NNSA.

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