Key findings

  • The world has accumulated a large stockpile of plutonium, a nuclear explosive that could potentially be stolen by terrorists or used against the United States by its enemies.
  • The nation’s most costly, single effort to rein in that threat has become hobbled by bloated budgets, blown deadlines, and diminished expectations.
  • A U.S.-Russian deal at the heart of this effort, calling for the permanent disposal of 68 tons of plutonium, was drastically altered with little public attention, and now has different goals.
  • In a decade of negotiations, the Russian government – which never shared U.S. ambitions for the program – got the better of the United States, and may wind up using the program to make more plutonium than it eliminates.
  • The consequence has been to transform a major U.S. nonproliferation effort into one that raises proliferation concerns.