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Preventing Proliferation of Nuclear Materials and Technology

January 31, 2011

NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation (DNN) Program plays a critical role in the nation’s defense by preventing the spread of nuclear weapons and related materials, technologies and know-how. Leveraging the expertise and detection equipment developed as a result of a 60-year investment in nuclear security, DNN works with international partners and in more than 100 countries to detect and deter smuggling of nuclear material and to stop the illicit transfer of equipment related to weapons of mass destruction; secure vulnerable nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material; strengthen international nonproliferation efforts; advance technology through research and development; and dispose of surplus weapons-usable nuclear material. 


Securing Nuclear and Radiological Material Worldwide


DNN plays a central role in helping the world’s most dangerous materials out of the hands of the world’s most dangerous people by securing nuclear weapons and nuclear and radiological materials at their source, and improving security practices around the world.


  • Upgrading security at nuclear facilities in Russia and exchanging security best-practices.
  • Securing buildings containing high-priority nuclear and radiological materials in the U.S. and in 94 countries.
  • Achieving permanent threat reduction by removing more than 3,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and Plutonium from 42 countries and converting to use low-enriched uranium or verifying the shutdown of 73 research reactors. 
  • Working with partner countries to strengthen nuclear security regulatory and inspection regimes and improve nuclear security training.
  • Training more than 3,200 domestic and foreign officials responsible for the physical protection of nuclear and radiological material and facilities. 
  • Leading U.S. efforts to update international physical security standards in the IAEA’s “The Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities,” (INFCIRC/225).

Preventing Nuclear Smuggling


DNN works around the world in more than 100 countries to prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and radiological materials by securing international land borders, seaports and airports; training customs and border officials and other frontline enforcement agencies; and strengthening international export control regimes. 


  • Equipping more than 370 Russian border crossings with radiation detection equipment and deploying radiation detection technologies to additional seaports, airports and border crossings outside of Russia.
  • Deploying advanced radiation detection technology to screen U.S.-bound cargo at 34 Megaports around the world, with work underway at an additional 16 Megaports.
  • Training radiation detection equipment operators and helping to transition sites to full host country responsibility.
  • Providing mobile nuclear detection equipment and training to internal law enforcement personnel, such as police or Ministry of Interior forces, in cooperation with the FBI.
  • Strengthening global export controls and licensing through training, including conducting 485 training sessions with more than 15,000 foreign personnel to combat the illicit smuggling of dual-use commodities.
  • Yearly reviewing thousands of export license requests for proliferation risks in international nuclear technology transfers.

Strengthening International Nonproliferation Efforts


NNSA prevents the proliferation of WMD by strengthening the nonproliferation, nuclear security, and arms control regimes. DNN provides leadership in formulating and implementing governmental nonproliferation strategies and deploying a variety of technically-based national security programs.


  • Preventing the diversion or theft of nuclear materials and sabotage of nuclear facilities through programs that strengthen international safeguards and the security of nuclear materials and facilities worldwide.
  • Strengthening national and regional capacities in areas such as WMD-related commodity identification training, export control licensing, border security, and nuclear forensics.
  • Negotiating, monitoring, and verifying compliance with international nonproliferation and arms control treaties and agreements.
  • Providing technical and scientific expertise to assist with developing and implementing nonproliferation and arms control policy to reduce WMD risk.

Advancing Technology through Research and Development


Research and development of cutting edge technology remains a priority for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. To be successful in all of its mission areas, DNN needs the best technology available. Nuclear nonproliferation research and development conducts long-term basic and applied research, development, testing, and evaluation of new nuclear nonproliferation, counterproliferation, and counterterrorism technologies.

  • Designing and building sensors to monitor Earth’s surface, atmosphere and space for nuclear tests.
  • Developing technology to detect diversion of declared nuclear material and undeclared production or processing of nuclear material.
  • Developing new techniques and technologies to support international nuclear safeguards.
  • Developing new radiation detection, seismic and radionuclide technologies to support treaty verification and monitoring requirements.

Disposing of Surplus Fissile Materials

NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation is leading the effort to permanently dispose of surplus fissile material, both HEU and plutonium. Disposing of excess nuclear weapons materials has been a U.S. national security & nonproliferation objective since 1994 and has been endorsed by every President and Congress since that time.

  • Monitoring the downblending of 500 metric tons of Russian HEU into LEU for peaceful nuclear energy use, producing approximately 10 percent of U.S. electrical power.
  • Downblending more than 130 metric tons of domestic HEU to LEU for peaceful use as nuclear reactor fuel.
  • Downblending more than 13 metric tons of Russian excess HEU (not from weapons) through 2010.
  • Completing the shut-down of the three final weapon-grade plutonium production reactors in Russia.
  • Working with Russia to dispose of a combined 68 metric tons of U.S. and --Russian weapon-grade plutonium, enough for 17,000 nuclear weapons.
  • Building three major facilities at the Department of Energy’s Savannah River Site in South Carolina to meet the U.S. commitment to dispose of surplus weapon-grade plutonium.