Study: Nuke Monitoring Inadequate

LONDON -- Tons of weapons-grade plutonium and uranium produced over the last 50 years are inadequately monitored, risking misuse by rogue states and terrorists, according to a three-year study published Thursday.


The three nuclear experts who co-wrote the study urged U.S. President Clinton and President Boris Yeltsin to launch an international initiative to strengthen controls on weapons-grade plutonium and uranium.


"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,'' the study said.


The study was written by David Albright, president of the Washington-based Institute for Science and International Security; Frans Berkhout of the Science Policy Research Unit at Sussex University in England, and Professor William Walker of the University of St. Andrews in Scotland.


Their survey found that 1,750 tons of highly enriched uranium and 230 tons of plutonium have been produced for military purposes.


The authors estimate that less than 400 tons are now required to sustain the nuclear arsenals of the five declared nuclear powers -- the United States, Russia, Britain, France and China.


That means 1,600 tons can be counted as excess, they said.


"Less than 1 percent of the material produced for military purposes is currently under any form of international verification,'' the authors noted. "This lack of verification endangers security by making inventories more susceptible to diversion and theft.''


The study notes that Iraq retains extensive expertise and ambition to reconstitute its nuclear program.


North Korea's stock of plutonium remains unknown, which poses a threat to implementation of the U.S.-brokered agreement to freeze the country's nuclear program, the study said.


Although the five nuclear powers have ended production of weapons-grade material, the study noted that production is continuing in Israel and India.