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U.S. Department of State

Diplomacy in Action

Basics of Nuclear Security


  • The goal of United States Government’s nuclear security programs is the prevention of the illegal possession, use or transfer of nuclear material, technology and expertise or other radioactive material. Successful nuclear security relies on an interconnected combination of technology, policy, operational concepts and international collaboration to prevent acts of nuclear terrorism.
  • Removing or Eliminating Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium. Twenty-eight nations have plans to eliminate all current stocks of HEU by the end of 2013.
  • Upgrading security measures, including physical protection, material control and accounting, at nuclear material and warhead sites around the world to prevent the loss or theft of nuclear material.
  • Converting civilian commercial reactors and isotope production facilities to use Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) fuel and targets to reduce global reliance on HEU for research, energy and medical isotopes.
  • Deploying radiation detection capabilities, as well as providing training and sustainability support, at high-risk land, sea and air border crossings.
  • Formulating and implementing international and domestic nuclear nonproliferation strategies, policies, and treaties to combat nuclear terrorism along with international partners.
  • Advancing global nuclear forensics capabilities to trace the origin of seized materials or devices help identify smuggling networks and aid prosecution efforts of illicit trafficking.
  • Nuclear Security vs. Nuclear Safety: Nuclear security pertains to the prevention of nuclear material theft, nuclear smuggling and terrorism while nuclear safety deals with the practices and safeguards to keep nuclear facilities and workers safe. Fact Sheet»


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