Remarks by Energy Secretary Samuel Bodman Before the Nuclear Threat Initiative

April 4, 2005

Thank you. It is a pleasure and honor to be here tonight. The Nuclear Threat Initiative makes an important contribution in raising public awareness about the threats posed by the proliferation of nuclear materials, technology, and expertise. But NTI does more than raise awareness; it takes concrete action. The Department of Energy is proud of our relationship with NTI and looks forward to continued cooperation in the future.

I thought it would be useful for me to come here tonight not just to get to know all of you, but to provide a sense of the Administration's overall direction on nonproliferation matters. When the President asked me to serve in this position, he made clear that he expected his Energy Secretary to have no higher priority than the safety and security of the American people, particularly with regard to our nuclear responsibilities. He stressed the need to work closely with Russia and other nations to secure nuclear and radiological materials, both in this country and around the world.

These are responsibilities I firmly embrace.

Among the first things I did after being sworn in as Secretary of Energy was lead an interagency team to a meeting in Paris with a Russian interagency team. The President asked that I undertake this mission to discuss new security initiatives in preparation for the Bratislava summit. I was particularly anxious to do so because the leader of the Russian team was Director Alexsander Rumyantsev of the Federal Agency for Atomic Energy, or Rosatom. Developing a solid working relationship with him, I thought, would be critical to our nations' shared efforts to curtail the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction.

The key word in that sentence is "shared," because nonproliferation is not merely an American concern. Nor, for that matter, is it only to be shared by Russia and the U.S. … though our two nations certainly bear unique responsibilities in these areas.

The simple fact is that preventing and countering the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, dangerous materials, and nuclear expertise is the shared objective of every member of the civilized world community. And that is because the central challenge of our age is to stop terrorists and rogue states from acquiring the materials to sow death and destruction on an unimaginable scale.

As horrific as 9/11 was, there can be no doubt that the ambitions of terrorists run deeper than crashing planes into buildings. Our challenge is to stop those who want nothing less than to destroy entire cities …entire nations … indeed, to destroy civilization itself.

That challenge is ever more complicated with the atomic genie out of the bottle, so to speak. Nuclear know-how isn't confined to just the experts at Los Alamos or Russia's nuclear labs. Information to make the most rudimentary nuclear weapon is widely available. Because of this, our defense against nuclear terrorism depends on keeping fissionable materials out of the hands of terrorists. No materials, no bomb - it's that simple.

Unfortunately, the universe of available materials around the globe that could be used in a nuclear weapon is not as secure as we would hope. Nor are those materials that might be used for a radiological dispersal device, or dirty bomb. Such radiological materials are less dangerous than nuclear weapons, yes, but dangerous still, and widely accessible in too many locations around the globe.

In the months and years after 9/11, the Bush Administration began taking a number of critical steps to address the challenges of a new era:

We dramatically increased resources to prevent terrorists or states that sponsor them from acquiring weapons of mass destruction. Through the G-8 Global Partnership, we have committed to raise up to $20 billion over ten years toward this effort. The United States pledged to contribute half of this target. We intensified our cooperation with Russia and others to secure nuclear and radiological materials and nuclear weapons. Energy and Defense Department programs have, for example, upgraded security for 75 percent of sites in Russia containing nuclear material, secured 87 percent of Russian Navy nuclear weapons and fuel sites, and eliminated hundreds of Soviet-era strategic nuclear missiles, bombers, and missile silos. We expanded international partnerships outside of Russia to control nuclear exports, upgrade security of nuclear facilities, and secure borders. And we shined the international spotlight on the dangers of nuclear terror, launching the Global Threat Reduction Initiative. Under GTRI we will work with Russia and other nations to identify, secure, or remove vulnerable nuclear and other radiological materials and equipment around the world. These are mammoth accomplishments, reflecting the idea that one of the best ways to protect the United States is to secure or interdict nuclear materials and weapons as far from U.S. shores as possible.

They represent the President's intensely held commitment to protecting the American people.

They have made America and the world safer.

But not for one minute does anyone in the Administration - at my department, at the NSC, the Pentagon, or the Department of Homeland Security - believe that they have made us safe enough.

That is the sad reality of the post-9/11 world. There will never be any such thing as "safe enough." An act of nuclear terrorism is not necessarily inevitable, as Senator Nunn pointed out in his address at the IAEA three weeks ago. But it could become increasingly likely unless we constantly strengthen our resolve … continually redouble our efforts … and never lose sight of our goals.

In our case, that means further expanding our efforts to secure high-risk materials. In particular, intensifying cooperation with Russia - given the vast stores of weapons-suitable material throughout its immense nuclear complex - must be a first-order priority. As you know, there have been access issues that have slowed progress in securing Russian sites.

The recent meeting February in Bratislava between President Bush and President Putin leaves me optimistic that these issues are on the way to being resolved.

In Bratislava, Presidents Bush and Putin firmly committed to expanding and deepening cooperation on nuclear security… with the goal of enhancing the security of nuclear facilities in our two countries as well as around the globe.

The statement they made proposed a number of items to bolster cooperation in securing Russian and global stockpiles of nuclear and radiological materials … protecting nuclear facilities … promoting nuclear security best practices … converting HEU-using reactors … and responding to nuclear or radiological emergencies. To ensure that these activities have the high-level attention they deserve, Presidents Bush and Putin requested that Director Rumyantsev and I co-chair a Senior Interagency Group, which is to report back to the Presidents in three months. I fully intend to meet that deadline.

Perhaps equally important, the Bratislava meetings represent a new benchmark in the growing U.S.-Russian relationship. Since the end of the Cold War, our relationship with Moscow on critical nonproliferation matters has sometimes been seen as a donor-recipient type of association - with the United States viewed as the senior partner.

Perhaps that was unavoidable in the Russian Federation's nascent years, with an entire region trying to sort out its post-Soviet future. But it nonetheless was the case. After Bratislava, I think it is fair to say we are now engaged in much more of a strategic cooperative partnership, one that reflects the distance we have traveled since the Cold War's end.

The two Presidents' actions at Bratislava will invigorate efforts to minimize and eventually eliminate the use of high-enriched uranium in research reactors worldwide. It will promote the goals of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which obligates states to secure at-risk materials and enact strict export controls.

And I am hopeful it will help resolve the liability issues that have delayed construction of MOX facilities in Russia and the United States to dispose of military plutonium. We need to bring these negotiations to a close promptly and move forward to eliminate excess weapons-grade plutonium.

Moreover, the Bush-Putin Joint Statement on Nuclear Security comes at a time when many other countries are recognizing the requirements for improved nuclear security. It was encouraging to hear that this was an underlying theme at the recently concluded IAEA Conference on Nuclear Security in London.

As your organization knows full well, the burden for curtailing the proliferation of nuclear materials, technologies, and expertise cannot be borne alone by the United States and Russia. As we look ahead, it is this principle that will inform our nonproliferation cooperation with partners worldwide.

It must, because diplomatic hurdles are the most formidable obstacles we face in terms of accelerating our nonproliferation programs. The reality of such programs is that they require other sovereign governments to grant foreigners access to their most sensitive sites and materials. But we have come far in a few short years. Director Rumyantsev told me in February that just ten years ago, even he was barred from visiting certain closed cities where today we are working in partnership to prevent terrorists or states that support them from acquiring nuclear or other weapons of terror.

To achieve our nonproliferation goals, relationships must be fostered and maintained. Sometimes they will involve collaboration with third-party contacts, a prime example of which was the collaboration with the Nuclear Threat Initiative in the return to Russia of the high enriched uranium fuel from the former Yugoslavia.

We also face technological and funding hurdles, but I am confident these are on the way to being overcome. Our scientists continue to make the necessary progress that will enable us to complete reactor core conversions here and abroad. We are moving to permanently shut down the last three operating plutonium production reactors in Russia. And we are seeing other nations contribute a larger share of the funds necessary to successfully combat proliferation, reflecting a growing consensus it is a shared responsibility.

There is far more to be done, of course. We must work to ensure that the Nonproliferation Treaty, IAEA safeguards, and international export controls are strengthened, complied with, and fully enforced. We must also ensure that an expected expansion of nuclear energy use does not lead to the further spread of enrichment and reprocessing capabilities and equipment… which can be used to fashion materials suitable for reactor fuel or atomic bombs. We see no justification for Iran - or others with plans for one or two nuclear reactors - to pursue costly uranium enrichment programs. And we stand ready, as President Bush proposed last year, to consider ways of assuring long-term fuel supply, at reasonable cost, to states that forego enrichment and reprocessing.

This is a full agenda, and one that we will promote decisively and forcefully.

Ladies and gentlemen, I want to thank you for the opportunity to be here tonight. As much as anyone, you know the challenge the world faces. You are aware of the stakes. You understand that the safety of the United States - indeed, of civilization - can only be earned through relentless application of will and resolve.

As we enter the second half of the first nuclear century, I am reminded of President Dwight Eisenhower's call in 1953 to use "the miraculous inventiveness of man" to harness nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.

In his famous "Atoms for Peace" speech, Eisenhower foresaw nuclear energy's ability to "serve the needs of agriculture, medicine and other peaceful activities," and "provide abundant electrical energy in the power-starved areas of the world."

Eisenhower called upon the nations of the world to work together "to help solve the fearful atomic dilemma" by channeling our newfound nuclear know-how toward the pursuits of peace … rather than toward weapons of war.

Two months into my term as Energy Secretary, I assure you that our Administration understands this as well. President Bush is committed to this as he is to nothing else, for nothing else can be as important as the safety and security of the American people.

The President made that clear in the aftermath of September 11th. He vowed to dedicate the rest of his tenure in office to vanquishing the 21st century scourge of global terrorism.

That commitment has not dimmed with time. Indeed, it has only grown stronger. And so it will continue to do in the weeks and months and years ahead.

Any look through the history books will reveal that there are several characteristics that have come to define modern civilization - freedom of expression … the rule of law … religious toleration.

But perhaps the greatest element of modern civilization is that its inheritors feel compelled in times of great crisis to act in its defense; it is the way we show we are worthy heirs.

This is our moment in time. This is where we follow the example of Lincoln and Churchill, to see if we measure up in a time marked by grave peril.

Each of us is charged with a responsibility … to work, to sacrifice, to struggle … for the preservation of civilization.

Each of us knows the steps we must take.

And, deep down, each of us knows that we will take those steps.

We will work to save what we hold dear. We will not prove unworthy.

Thank you.