Securing Russia's HEU stocks

Oleg Bukharin, "Securing Russia's HEU stocks," Science & Global Security, 7, no. 3, (1998): 311-331.
Production and use of HEU and plutonium are inherently dangerous due to the possibility of their diversion to terrorist groups or rogue nations. Of the two, HEU might be of greater concern. First, HEU is used in a wide range of applications and is therefore more readily available. Second, in many cases, HEU might be more vulnerable to diversion. Unirradiated HEU does not require containment and operating personnel often have a legitimate and prolonged direct access to the material. It is also less radioactive and therefore is harder to detect by conventional passive radiation-detection techniques that are employed at personnel and vehicle portals at nuclear facilities. Third, although the arsenals of the existing nuclear powers are built around plutonium, HEU is likely to be a material of choice for a less sophisticated bombmaker.1 HEU processing is somewhat easier and it is a relatively minor health hazard. It also has a much lower rate of spontaneous fission, a fact that makes the weapon design job somewhat easier.2 HEU operations require stringent safeguards and security. The risk of diversion also could be reduced by minimizing (a) the number of locations where HEU is stored or processed, (b) HEU throughput at processing facilities, and (c) HEU transportation.

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