Belarus declared today it would "eliminate" all of its Soviet-era weapon-grade uranium before the next global Nuclear Security Summit in 2012, Agence France-Presse reported (see GSN, April 16).
(Dec. 1) - Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov, shown last year, today assured U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton that his country would "eliminate" its cache of highly-enriched uranium ahead of a 2012 nuclear security meeting (Dominique Faget/Getty Images).
Belarusian Foreign Minister Sergei Martynov made the promise to U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton following a meeting during this week's Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe summit in Kazakhstan.
"Foreign Minister Martynov announced that Belarus has decided to eliminate all of its stocks of highly enriched uranium and intends to do so by the next nuclear security summit in 2012," reads a joint statement. "The United States intends to provide technical and financial assistance to support the completion of this effort as expeditiously as possible."
The former Soviet republic was left with a number of nuclear weapons on its territory following the breakup of the Soviet Union. All of the weapons were withdrawn by Russia in the 1990s but some HEU stockpiles remained.
In April, in an apparent pique over not being invited to attend President Obama's global security summit in Washington, Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko announced his country would not give up its highly enriched uranium but would retain it for research purposes.
Clinton heralded Belarus' about-face "as a sign of progress in efforts to advance nuclear security and nonproliferation" (Agence France-Presse/Spacewar.com, Dec. 1).
Belarus has been extended an invitation to participate in the 2012 nuclear security summit in Seoul, the New York Times reported.
Projections of how much highly enriched uranium Belarus possesses differ. This spring, Lukashenko claimed "hundreds of kilograms" of bomb-grade material while a separate official was reported to have said the country possessed a mere 90 kilograms -- roughly 200 pounds.
James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies analysts estimate the nation possesses between 375 pounds and 815 pounds of highly enriched uranium. Of that amount, a minimum of 90 pounds has been enriched to the 90 percent level required to fuel a warhead. In Kazakhstan, officials said Belarus has 485 pounds of the material (Mark Landler, New York Times, Dec. 1).