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Testimony on "NNSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request for Nuclear Nonproliferation" before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommitte

April 30, 2008

Testimony on "NNSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request for Nuclear Nonproliferation" before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development SubcommitteTestimony on "NNSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request for Nuclear Nonproliferation" before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee
Deputy Administrator William Tobey~April 30, 2008

Testimony on "NNSA's Fiscal Year 2009 Budget Request for Nuclear Nonproliferation" before the Senate Appropriations Energy and Water Development SubcommitteeDeputy Administrator William Tobey

Thank you for the opportunity to discuss the President’s FY 2009 Budget Request for the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA).  I want to thank all of the Members for their strong support for our vital national security missions.

In the eighth year of this Administration, with the support of Congress, NNSA has achieved a level of stability that is required for accomplishing our long-term missions.  Our fundamental national security responsibilities for the United States include:

  • assuring the safety, security and reliability of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile while at the same time considering options for transforming the stockpile and the complex infrastructure that supports it;
  • reducing the threat posed by proliferation of nuclear weapons, material and expertise; and
  • providing reliable and safe nuclear reactor propulsion systems for the U.S. Navy.

NNSA is examining how to proceed into the future to address evolving national security needs in a manner that anticipates significant changes in how we manage our national security programs, our assets and our people.  To that end, the FY 2009 Budget Request for $9.1 billion, a decrease of $35 million from the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act, supports NNSA’s crucial national security mission.  My testimony today will focus on NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation budget request for fiscal year 2009.

Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation

The possibility that rogue states or terrorists might acquire nuclear and other weapons of mass destruction (WMD) and their related technologies, equipment and expertise, poses one of the most serious threats to the United States and international security.  The continued pursuit of nuclear weapons by terrorists and states of concern underscores the urgency of NNSA’s efforts to secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material, to detect and interdict nuclear and radiological materials and WMD-related equipment, to halt the production of fissile material for weapons, to dispose of surplus weapons-usable material, and to contain the proliferation of WMD technical expertise.  The FY 2009 Budget Request will enable NNSA to continue these critical activities that support threat reduction initiatives vital to U.S. national security.

Preventing access to nuclear weapons and fissile material has many dimensions.  Our highest priority is to keep these dangerous materials out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous actors.  Absent access to a sufficient quantity of essential fissile materials, there can be no nuclear weapon.  The most direct way to prevent acquisition of nuclear weapons is by denying access to fissile material.  Historically, much of our materials security emphasis focused on Russia because that is where most of the poorly secured material was located.  We have made remarkable progress cooperating with Russia to strengthen protection, control, and accounting of its nuclear weapons and materials.  We recently completed security upgrades at 25 Russian Strategic Rocket Force sites and will meet our commitment to conclude agreed-to security upgrade activities at Russian nuclear sites by the end of this year, as provided for under the Bratislava Joint Statement signed by Presidents Bush and Putin.  Although these direct upgrade efforts are largely drawing to a close after over a decade of work, we will continue security upgrade work at some sites added to our work scope after the Bratislava summit, and will continue to work cooperatively with Russia to ensure the long-term sustainability of the systems and procedures already implemented.  We recently reached agreement with Russia on a sustainability plan that identifies the requirements for long-term Russian maintenance and infrastructure of security upgrades under our cooperative program.

However, not all nuclear material of proliferation concern is located in Russia.  We are also working with other partners to secure weapons-usable nuclear materials in other parts of the world, and to strengthen security at civil nuclear and radiological facilities.  One area of particular concern is research reactors, which often use highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel otherwise suitable for bombs.  Our Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) converts research reactors around the world from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel.  The GTRI program, and its antecedents, have removed approximately 68 nuclear bombs’ worth of highly enriched uranium and secured more than 600 radiological sites around the world, collectively containing over 9 million curies, enough radiation for approximately 8,500 dirty bombs.  In the United States the GTRI program has removed over 16,000 at-risk radiological sources, totaling more than 175,000 curies—enough for more than 370 dirty bombs.

An additional nuclear security challenge concerns the effectiveness and credibility of international nuclear safeguards.  Against the backdrop of growing nuclear energy demand, concerns over the diffusion of sensitive nuclear technologies, and the challenges posed by Iran and North Korea, international safeguards are coming under increasing strain.  To address this challenge, NNSA has launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI), which will ensure U.S. leadership and investment in our technologies and experts in the service of nuclear nonproliferation.  Enhanced and revitalized international safeguards will also help ensure the sustainability of the gains made by our associated threat reduction efforts.

Additionally, in FY2009, we will continue to lead the U.S. Government efforts to oversee the disablement and dismantlement of North Korea’s nuclear program.  However, in order to continue our support for these critical disablement and dismantlement activities, we will require a waiver of the Glenn Amendment restrictions that were triggered by North Korea’s 2006 nuclear test, as well as more substantial funding.  The Glenn Amendment prohibits the Department of Energy, which would otherwise fund denuclearization activities, from providing any financial assistance to North Korea.  Without this waiver, the Department will be unable to complete Phase Three denuclearization activities.  NNSA and the Administration have been working to insert language into the FY 2008 Iraq War Supplemental, or any other appropriate legislative vehicle, to provide such a waiver.

We are also taking aggressive steps to interdict illicit transfers of weapons-usable nuclear materials and equipment, and to prevent dissemination of related sensitive nuclear technology via strengthened export controls and cooperation.  We currently provide export control and commodity identification training to over 50 countries across the globe, in order to improve nations’ capabilities to deter and interdict illicit WMD-related technology transfers.  As an important complement to physical security improvements, the Second Line of Defense Program enhances our foreign partners’ ability to interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear materials through the deployment of radiation detection systems at high-risk land-border crossings, airports and seaports.  These efforts increase the likelihood of interdicting illicit nuclear materials entering or leaving the country.  To date, 117 Russian border crossings have been equipped with radiation detection equipment under this program.

As part of the Second Line of Defense, the Megaports Initiative, established in 2003, responds to concerns that terrorists could use the global maritime shipping network to smuggle fissile materials or warheads.  By installing radiation detection systems at major seaports throughout the world, this initiative strengthens the detection and interdiction capabilities of our partner countries.  At the end of 2007, the Megaports program was operational in 12 countries and being implemented at 17 additional ports.  In addition, we continue to carry out nonproliferation research and development activities, developing, demonstrating and delivering novel nuclear material and nuclear detonation detection technologies for nonproliferation and homeland security applications.

Since the end of the Cold War, the nation’s adversaries have been quick to adapt to technological improvements.  Staying ahead of the R&D curve is critically important to keeping our nation safe and secure.  As the principal federal sponsor of long-term nuclear nonproliferation-related research and development, NNSA focuses its R&D investments on leading-edge, early stage basic and applied R&D programs, including testing and evaluation, which lead to prototype development and improvements in nuclear detection and characterization systems.  By concentrating on these key R&D components, NNSA helps strengthen the U.S. response to current and projected WMD threats.

These critical steps are only part of a comprehensive nonproliferation program.  In addition to these efforts to secure, detect, and interdict weapons-usable materials, we also work to eliminate weapons-usable material.  Indeed, there remains enough fissile material in the world today for tens of thousands of weapons.  An integral part of our strategy, therefore, has been to encourage other states to stop producing materials for nuclear weapons, as the United States itself did many years ago.  For example, Russia still produces weapons-grade plutonium, not because it needs it for weapons, but because the reactors that produce it also supply heat and electricity to local communities.  We are helping to replace these non-commercial style reactors with fossil fuel plants, thereby eliminating their production of plutonium.  We had the goal this year of shutting down two of the remaining three plutonium-producing reactors in Russia permanently.  Last week we announced the elimination of the production of nuclear weapons-grade plutonium at the Seversk site. This is a historic nonproliferation milestone.  The third at Zheleznogorsk will shut down in December 2010, if not, as we hope, sooner.

As previously indicated, there are a number of effective synergies between NNSA’s defense activities and our nuclear nonproliferation objectives.  For example, we are disposing of the substantial quantities of surplus weapons grade HEU that has resulted from the thousands of warheads we have dismantled, by downblending it to lower enrichment levels suitable for use in commercial reactors.  This past February marked the 15th anniversary of the U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement—one of the most successful nonproliferation programs ever conceived.  Under the HEU Purchase Agreement, over 322 metric tons of uranium from Russia’s dismantled nuclear weapons—enough material for more than 12,000 nuclear weapons—has been downblended for use in commercial power reactors in the United States.  Nuclear power generates twenty percent of all American electricity, and half of that is generated by fuel derived from Russian HEU.  As a result, one-tenth of U.S. electricity is made possible by material removed from former Soviet nuclear weapons. 
Similarly, disposition of surplus U.S. HEU through downblending to low-enriched uranium has been proceeding for nearly a decade and progress is continuing.  As of the end of December 2007, approximately 92 metric tons of HEU, equivalent to over 3,500 nuclear weapons, have been downblended and converted to power or research reactor fuel, and an additional 13 metric tons have been delivered to disposition facilities for near-term downblending.  This HEU disposition progress has already contributed substantially to nuclear material consolidation efforts in the Department of Energy complex, eliminating the necessity for high security storage at two sites, and greatly reducing it at several others.

In addition to the efforts on HEU, the United States and Russia have each committed to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium.   In November 2007, we signed a joint statement with Russia that represents a technically and financially credible plan to dispose of 34 metric tons of Russia’s surplus plutonium in fast reactors.  Under this approach, Russia will pay for the majority of costs and begin disposing of its surplus plutonium in the 2012 timeframe.  Last year, the Department of Energy began construction of a Mixed Oxide Fuel Fabrication Facility at the Savannah River Site.  The facility originally planned to dispose of 34 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium by converting it into mixed oxide (MOX) fuel to be irradiated in commercial nuclear reactors, producing electricity and rendering the plutonium undesirable for weapons use.  Last September, at the IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Secretary Bodman announced that an additional 9 metric tons of plutonium, enough to make approximately 1,100 nuclear weapons would be removed from such use and eliminated by conversion to mixed oxide fuel.  The MOX facility is a critical component of the Department’s surplus plutonium consolidation efforts and is essential to the goal of transforming the complex.

Our efforts at home are not enough, in and of themselves.  We need cooperation from our international partners as well, and if we are to encourage responsible international actions, the United States must set the example.  We have dramatically improved physical security of U.S. nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials in the years since the September 11th attacks.  We have made substantial reductions in our stockpile and made additional plutonium available for conversion into civilian reactor fuel.  Additionally our Complex Transformation will further reduce the number of sites and locations where we store special nuclear materials, providing for improved security of these materials. 

The risk of nuclear terrorism is not limited to the United States.  The success of our efforts to deny access to nuclear weapons and material is very much dependent on whether our foreign partners similarly recognize the threat and help us to combat it.  To this end, we undertake efforts to strengthen the nonproliferation regime and expand international nonproliferation efforts.  We continue to provide technical and policy support to U.S. efforts within the nonproliferation regime, including support to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty, the Nuclear Suppliers Group, the International Atomic Energy Agency and a wide range of U.S. diplomatic initiatives, including the efforts in North Korea.  We also have strengthened international collaboration and dialogue on nonproliferation efforts, including developing an international mechanism through which seven countries have pledged some $45 million in contributions to our nonproliferation programs.  

In July 2006, Presidents Bush and Putin announced the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism to strengthen cooperation worldwide on nuclear materials security and to prevent terrorist acts involving nuclear or radioactive substances.  By the end of 2007, 64 nations had joined this Global Initiative, and a number of subject matter expert conferences and training activities have been conducted.  Most recently in December 2007, representatives from 15 nations participated in Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Radiation Emergency Response workshop held in China by the NNSA.  Paired with UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and working closely with our overseas partners, we now have both the legal mandate and the practical means necessary for concrete actions to secure nuclear material against the threat of diversion.

FY09 Budget Request Programmatic Detail

The President’s FY 2009 Budget Request for NNSA totals $9.1 billion, a decrease of $35.0 million or 0.4 percent less than the FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations level.  We are managing our program activities within a disciplined five-year budget and planning envelope, and are successfully balancing the Administration’s high priority initiatives to reduce global nuclear danger as well as future planning for the Nation’s nuclear weapons complex within an overall modest growth rate.

The NNSA budget justification contains information for five years as required by Sec. 3253 of P.L. 106 065, the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2000.  This section, entitled Future-Years Nuclear Security Program, requires the Administrator to submit to Congress each year the estimated expenditures necessary to support the programs, projects and activities of the NNSA for a five-year fiscal period, in a level of detail comparable to that contained in the budget. 

The FY 2009-2013 Future Years Nuclear Security Program -- FYNSP -- projects $47.7 billion for NNSA programs though 2013.  This is a decrease of about $2.3 billion over last year's projections.  The FY 2009 request is slightly smaller than last year’s projection; however, the outyears increase starting in FY 2010.


The Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation Program mission is to detect, prevent, and reverse the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction (WMD).  Our nonproliferation programs address the threat that hostile nations or terrorist groups may acquire weapons-usable material, equipment or technology, or WMD capabilities.  The Administration’s FY 2009 request totals $1.247 billion for this program, reflecting a return to measured growth from the FY 2007 appropriation level, but a decrease from the final FY 2008 appropriation, which included a large Congressional plus-up over the President’s request.  The decrease also reflects Congressional action to transfer funding for some construction projects to other budget accounts, and the anticipated decrease of other major construction activities under the Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production Program in 2008, following completion of major elements of that program’s work scope.

Global Threat Reduction Initiative

The FY 2009 Request of $220 million for the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) is an increase of $27 million over the FY 2008 operating plan.  This funding will support GTRI’s mission to reduce and protect vulnerable nuclear and radiological materials at civilian sites worldwide by converting reactors from HEU to LEU, removing excess nuclear/radiological materials, and protecting high priority nuclear/radiological material from theft and sabotage.  Specific increases in the GTRI budget reflect an acceleration of (1) Bratislava efforts to repatriate Russian-origin HEU and convert HEU reactors to LEU; (2) efforts to develop a new ultra-high density LEU fuel needed to convert 28 high performance reactors around the world; (3) the removal of nuclear materials not covered under other existing programs; and (4) security upgrades on high priority HEU and radioactive materials located in the United States.

International Material Protection and Cooperation

NNSA’s International Material Protection and Cooperation FY 2009 Budget Request of $429.7 million represents a decrease of $194.8 million from the FY 2008 appropriated level.  This large decrease reflects: (1) the anticipated completion of major elements of nuclear security upgrade work performed under the Bratislava Agreement; (2) completion of the majority of nuclear security upgrades in countries outside of Russia; and (3) large Congressional increases for this work over the President’s FY 2008 budget request.    During the past 15 years, the Material Protection Control and Accounting (MPC&A) program has secured 85 percent of Russian nuclear weapons sites of concern, and work is underway to complete this work by the end of FY 2008.  To maintain this progress, MPC&A and Rosatom have developed a new joint plan identifying elements required for Rosatom’s long-term sustainability of U.S.-installed security enhancements.  In FY 2009, international material protection activities will focus on the continued enhancement of Russia’s capability to operate and maintain U.S.-funded security improvements in the long-term.  The MPC&A Program is also focused on reducing proliferation risks by converting Russian HEU to LEU and by consolidating weapons-usable nuclear material into fewer, more secure locations.  In FY 2009, we will eliminate an additional 1.4 metric tons of Russian HEU for a cumulative total of 12.4 metric tons.  

Our Second Line of Defense (SLD) Program installs radiation detection equipment at key transit and border crossings, airports and major seaports to deter, detect and interdict illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials.  The SLD Core Program, which installs radiation detection equipment at borders, airports, and strategic feeder ports, has equipped 117 sites in Russia. The U.S. and Russia have agreed to jointly fund work to equip all of Russia’s border crossings with radiation detection equipment by the end of 2011, six years ahead of schedule.  The Core Program has also equipped 33 sites outside of Russia with radiation detection systems.  The SLD Megaports Initiative has deployed radiation detection and cargo scanning equipment at 12 ports to date in the Netherlands, Greece, Bahamas, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Spain, the Philippines, Belgium, Honduras, Pakistan, the United Kingdom, and Israel.  Various stages of implementation are underway at ports in 16 other locations. 

During FY 2009, the SLD Core Program is planning to complete an additional 49 sites.  The SLD Megaports Initiative plans to complete work at nine key ports in FY 2009 in Israel, Jordan, Spain, Mexico, China, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, and Taiwan.  We will continue progress on separate ports in Spain and Mexico, and will initiate new work in FY 2009 at ports in Argentina, Brazil, and Malaysia.  The Megaports program is also pursuing outreach activities in northeastern Africa and other key regions of concern.  FY 2009 funding will also support the procurement of Advanced Spectroscopic Portals (ASP) and mobile detection systems, including Mobile Radiation Detection & Identification Systems (MRDIS) and Radiation Detection Straddle Carriers (RDSC). The Megaports Initiative also works closely with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Bureau of U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) by making technical resources available to complement the Container Security Initiative (CSI) and the Secure Freight Initiative (SFI) at international ports.  Under SFI, all U.S.-bound containers are being scanned at three ports in Pakistan, Honduras, and the United Kingdom, fulfilling the 2006 SAFE Ports Act to couple non-intrusive imaging equipment and radiation detection equipment in order to demonstrate the effectiveness of 100 percent scanning of U.S.-bound containers.  SLD Megaports has also partnered with CBP at four, limited capacity SFI locations in Hong Kong, Oman, Korea, and Singapore.  The Megaports Initiative is installing radiation detection equipment at all CSI ports and has worked with CBP to pursue, where feasible, joint agreements with host nations to implement both the Megaports and SFI programs.

Nonproliferation and International Security

The Nonproliferation and International Security (NIS) mission is to prevent, mitigate, and reverse WMD proliferation by providing policy and technical support to strengthen international nonproliferation regimes, institutions, and arrangements; promote foreign compliance with nonproliferation norms and commitments; and eliminate or reduce proliferation programs and stockpiles.  Major NIS strategic priorities in FY 2009 include supporting the safe and secure expansion of nuclear energy use and disablement, dismantlement, and verification of nuclear programs in North Korea.  NIS will also support the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI) to strengthen international safeguards, revitalize the U.S. technical and human resource base that supports them, and develop the tools, approaches, and authorities needed by the International Atomic Energy Agency to fulfill its mandate far into the future. 

In FY 2009, NIS also will confirm the permanent elimination from the Russian weapons stockpile of 30 metric tons of HEU; control the export of items and technology useful for WMD programs; continue an augmented export control cooperation program involving emerging suppliers and high-traffic transit states; break up proliferation networks and improve multilateral export control guidelines; develop and implement policy in support of global nonproliferation regimes; train 2,500 international and domestic experts in nonproliferation; provide technical expertise to the USG to support various WMD interdiction activities; develop and implement transparency measures to ensure that nuclear materials are secure; transition 300 Russian and FSU WMD experts to long-term private sector jobs; and make the preparations necessary for the USG’s $50 million contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency for the establishment of the International Nuclear Fuel Bank – an international effort to establish a back-up nuclear fuel supply for peaceful uses.

Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production

Turning to programs that focus on halting the production of nuclear materials, the Elimination of Weapons Grade Plutonium Production (EWGPP) Program is working towards completing the permanent shutdown of the three remaining weapons-grade plutonium production reactors in Seversk and Zheleznogorsk, Russia.  The FY 2009 Budget request of $141 million reflects a decrease of $38 million from the FY 2008 level due to the successful shutdown at Seversk last week.  The budget profile provides the funding required to replace the heat and electricity these reactors would otherwise supply to local communities with energy generated by fossil fuel, permitting the Russians to permanently shut down these reactors.  The reactor at Zheleznogorsk will be shut down by December 2010, if not sooner.  This construction activity thus leads to the elimination of more than one metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium production per year.  
Fissile Materials Disposition

The Fissile Materials Disposition program request for FY 2009 is $41.8 million.  The program retains three principal elements: efforts to dispose of U.S. highly enriched uranium (HEU) declared surplus to defense needs primarily by down-blending it into low enriched uranium; technical analyses and support to negotiations involving the United States, Russia, and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on monitoring and inspection procedures under the 2000 U.S.-Russia plutonium disposition agreement; and limited support for the early disposition of Russia's plutonium in that country’s BN-600 fast reactor including U.S. technical support for work in Russia for disposition of Russian weapon-grade plutonium in fast reactors generally.

The FY 2008 Consolidated Appropriations Act (P.L. 110-161) appropriated funding for the Mixed Oxide Fuel (MOX) Fabrication Facility Project in South Carolina in the Department of Energy’s Office of Nuclear Energy account and funding for the related Pit Disassembly and Conversion Facility/Waste Solidification Building projects in the NNSA Weapons Activities account.  These projects remain important components of the nation’s nuclear nonproliferation efforts.  In total, the funding commitment to the Department of Energy’s nonproliferation activities is $1.853 billion in 2009.  The MOX project is a key component of the U.S. strategy for plutonium disposition.  It is the centerpiece of a comprehensive approach for disposing of surplus weapons-usable plutonium by fabricating it into mixed-oxide fuel for irradiation in existing nuclear reactors.  This meets key national security and nonproliferation objectives by converting the plutonium into forms not readily usable for weapons and supports efforts to consolidate nuclear materials throughout the weapons complex.

In addition to its role in the disposition of excess nuclear materials at home, the U. S. views the MOX project as a key component of U.S. global nuclear nonproliferation efforts in which fissile material disposition is the final step in a balanced nuclear nonproliferation strategy aimed at employing measures necessary to detect, secure, and dispose of dangerous nuclear material.  In 2007, the U.S. and Russian governments agreed on a framework for a technically and financially credible Russian plutonium disposition program based on the irradiation of plutonium as MOX fuel in fast reactors.  When all required steps have taken for implementation, it will enable the U.S. and Russia to meet their commitments under a 2000 agreement to dispose of a combined total of 68 metric tons of surplus weapon-grade plutonium—enough material for approximately over 8,000 nuclear weapons.

This budget request also seeks funding to dispose of surplus U.S. HEU, including downblending 17.4 metric tons of HEU to establish the Reliable Fuel Supply, which would be available to countries with good nonproliferation credentials that face a disruption in supply that cannot be corrected through normal commercial means.  This initiative marks an important first step creating a reliable nuclear fuel mechanism that could provide countries a strong incentive to refrain from acquiring their own enrichment and reprocessing capabilities.

Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development

The FY 2009 budget requests $275 million for Nonproliferation and Verification Research and Development.  This effort encompasses two primary programs that make unique contributions to national security by conducting research and development into new technical capabilities to detect illicit foreign production, diversion or detonation of nuclear materials.  The Proliferation Detection Program conducts research across a spectrum of technical disciplines that supports the NNSA mission, national and homeland security agencies and the counterterrorism community.  Specifically, this program develops the tools, technologies, techniques, and expertise required for the identification, location, and analysis of facilities, materials, and processes of undeclared and proliferant nuclear programs.  The Nuclear Detonation Detection Program produces the nation’s space-based operational sensors that monitor the entire planet to detect and report surface, atmospheric, or space nuclear detonations.  This program also produces and updates regional geophysical datasets that enable and enhance operation of the nation’s seismic nuclear detonation detection network.

For more information regarding NNSA's FY 2009 budget, see FY 2009 Budget Tables (PDF)