Legislation in the USA Freedom Act which became law last week, allows the U.S. to fully-ratify two treaties aimed at keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists.
The treaties were first ratified by the Senate in 2008, but were unenforceable under U.S. law until the passage of the USA Freedom Act.
“Today, nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials remain spread across hundreds of sites around the globe — some of it poorly secured,” said former Senator Sam Nunn (D-GA) in 2008. Nunn is the co-chairman of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization in Washington that works on the issue.
“We know that to get the materials needed to build a bomb, terrorists will not necessarily go where there is the most material. They will go where the material is most vulnerable,” Nunn continued.
The first treaty ratified was the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.
Nations signed to the treaty pledged to pass legislation specifically criminalizing the use of nuclear materials for terrorist purposes and damaging nuclear facilities.
The second ratification, an amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, requires the U.S. to enact legislation to protect nuclear material while it is being stored or transported.
Joan Rohlfing, the President of the Nuclear Threat Initiative said that to make a nuclear weapon a terrorist needs only “soda can’s amount of plutonium or enough highly enriched uranium to fill a 5-pound bag of sugar.”