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Disarmament Diplomacy

Issue No. 14, April 1997

New Report on World Weapons-Grade Fissile Stocks

A major study on global stocks of weapons-grade fissile materials was released in London on 13 March. The report - Plutonium and Highly-Enriched Uranium 1996: World Inventories, Capabilities and Policies - was written by David Albright (Institute for Science and International Security, US), Frans Berkhout (University of Sussex, UK) and William Walker (University of St. Andrews, UK). It estimates global weapons-grade stocks of almost 2,000 tons - 1,750 tons of highly-enriched uranium and 230 tons of plutonium. According to the report, this equates to a huge surplus, with the total of such material required by the nuclear arsenals of all five nuclear-weapon States being no more than 400 tons. Naturally alarmed at the situation, the authors note:

"There is a common perception that, with the end of the Cold War, the dangers of nuclear weapon materials have decreased. But in many ways the problems of control...have grown more serious... Less than 1% of the material produced for military purposes is currently under any form of international verification... This lack of verification endangers security by making inventories more susceptible to diversion and theft."

Report: Study - weapons poorly maintained, AP International News Wire, 13 March.

© 1998 The Acronym Institute.

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