The Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s First Two Years

The Global Threat Reduction Initiative’s First Two Years

On May 26, 2004, the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) launched the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), a collaborative program aimed at securing vast stocks of dangerous nuclear material scattered around the globe. The program, run by a semi-autonomous agency within the DOE known as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has two central elements: repatriating or otherwise securing nuclear fuel; and converting reactors to use new, more proliferation-resistant technology. The program has seen some success and has even received more funding than expected, but so far progress has been slower than initially hoped.

Programs like GTRI (others include the Group of Eight's Global Partnership, for example) became necessary because of historical efforts to promote the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. One of the first such efforts was Eisenhower's Atoms for Peace program, which was initiated in 1954. The program involved assisting states without nuclear weapons in developing peaceful, scientific nuclear programs. The hope was that the military uses of nuclear technology could be sidelined. By necessity, this involved transferring potentially sensitive information and material.

The attempt to emphasize peaceful uses of nuclear technology was later enshrined in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and in agreements like the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). The mission of the IAEA is to "accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world," while the bargain at the heart of the NPT allowed the existing nuclear powers to keep their weapons (albeit with a promise to eventually give them up) in exchange for helping other states with peaceful nuclear technology.

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