The History:

Beginning in 1991, the United States and Russia launched a multilateral initiative to cooperatively denuclearize Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Ukraine, to disassemble strategic warheads deemed excess to Russian security, to secure "loose" nuclear materials throughout the former Soviet Union, to dramatically reduce unsecured Russian stockpiles of chemical agents, and to redirect former nuclear, chemical and biological weapons scientists to peaceful pursuits.


The Threat:

The most pressing threat is found in the remnants of a failed WMD-armed Soviet empire, the territory of which now comprises fifteen independent states spanning twelve time zones. The main threat emanates from Russia, which maintains an arsenal of an estimated 15,000 nuclear warheads, and has an estimated 186 metric tons of plutonium and 1,025 metric tons of highly enriched uranium-enough to build approximately 64,000 warheads.


A recent CIA report faulted the security of Russian nuclear arsenal facilities, noting that "undetected smuggling has occurred." In addition, the numbers, locations and security of Russia's thousands of tactical nuclear weapons are unknown, as these weapons are not governed by any treaty. These weapons, because of their smaller size and greater portability, are highly desirable to terrorist groups or states. In October 2001, the U.S. government became concerned that al Qaeda had smuggled a 10-kiloton nuclear warhead into New York City. If placed in lower Manhattan, such a device would likely kill 250,000 people, seriously injure tens of thousands more, and render the entire area uninhabitable for decades to come. The U.S. government treated this threat as highly credible partly because a Russian nuclear commander had recently reported that he could not account for a 10-kilton warhead ostensibly under his control.

The Response:

Since 1992, the Department of Defense, the Department of Energy and the State Department have made impressive headway in eliminating these threats, but much more remains to be done. Below we offer a quick overview of the progress made by the different US agencies involved in addressing this threat.


Department of Defense

Cooperative Threat Reduction (Nunn-Lugar) Program


7,292 of 13,300 nuclear warheads deactivated
720 of 1,473 intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) destroyed
496 of 831 intercontinental ballistic missiles silos eliminated
131 of 442 mobile intercontinental ballistic missiles launchers destroyed
155 of 233 strategic bombers eliminated
906 of 906 nuclear air-to-surface missiles (ASMs) destroyed
456 of 728 submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) launchers eliminated
631 of 936 submarine launched ballistic missiles eliminated
31 of 48 ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) destroyed
194 of 194 nuclear test tunnels/holes sealed
399 of 620 nuclear weapons transport train shipments
17 of 24 nuclear weapons storage site security upgrades
15 of 55 biological monitoring stations built and equipped
99.7% of the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility (CWDF) is designed
52.5% of the Chemical Weapons Destruction Facility is constructed
289 former weapons scientists engaged in Cooperative Biological Research


Department of Energy

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (NA-20) Programs

39 of 39 Navy nuclear warhead sites with completed security upgrades
11 of 11 Naval sites storing nuclear fuel and other materials secured
25 of 25 Strategic Rocket Forces (SRF) sites with security upgrades
19 of 31 civilian nuclear sites with completed security upgrades
193 of 225 Russian buildings containing nuclear material secured
11 of 17 metric tons of highly enriched uranium converted to low enriched uranium under the Material Consolidation

and Conversion program

160 of 350 strategic border crossing sites in Russia outfitted with radiation detection equipment
11,000+ export control specialists trained on WMD detection
23 of 75 Megaports equipped with radiation detection equipment
346 of 500 metric tons of highly enriched uranium rendered useless for weapons under the HEU purchase agreement
563 of 3,300 high priority radiological sites secured around the world
61 of 129 reactors using highly enriched uranium converted to use low enriched uranium
824 kilograms of Russian-origin highly enriched uranium repatriated to Russia
1,195 kilograms of US-origin highly enriched uranium repatriated to the US
4,400 new peaceful, civilian jobs have been created through cooperative programs


Department of State

Nonproliferation Programs

69,218 employees of former weapons institutes engaged by the the International Science and Technology Center
13,000 former weapons experts engaged by the Science and Technology Center of Ukraine
35 former bioweapons facilities received/receiving training on intellectual property, international regulatory standards, and commercialization through the BioIndustry Initiative
11 countries completed Export Control and Related Border Security (EXBS) training

--Last Updated October 2008--