Nuclear Strategy and Arms ControlNuclear proliferation

Nuclear proliferation

Regrettably, to power its Mars mission, NASA’s Goddard Space Center is trying to develop a nuclear reactor fueled by weapons-grade, highly enriched uranium — the stuff of the Hiroshima bomb — threatening to undermine decades of progress in phasing out such dangerous material from reactors worldwide to reduce risks of nuclear terrorism and proliferation, writes LBJ professor Alan Kuperman.

Belgian Reactor 2, seen from above during operation, requires highly enriched uranium. Credit: SCK•CEN

The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) has approved the export to Belgium of nuclear fuel assemblies containing 144 kg of weapons-grade uranium, despite the objections of a nuclear nonproliferation activist. The 17 February decision will permit the largest export of US weapons-grade material in five years—enough uranium enriched to 93.3% 235U to fashion at least five nuclear weapons. The export license had been held up by a petition filed with the NRC in August 2016 by Alan Kuperman, a professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs. 

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