Nuclear Nonproliferation:

Status of Transparency Measures for U.S. Purchase of Russian Highly Enriched Uranium

RCED-99-194: Published: Sep 22, 1999. Publicly Released: Sep 22, 1999.

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James E. Wells, Jr
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO examined the nuclear nonproliferation status of transparency measures for U.S. purchase of Russian highly enriched uranium (HEU), focusing on: (1) the transparency measures that are in place; (2) whether these measures ensure that the nonproliferation objectives of the agreement are met; and (3) the proposals for additional transparency measures.

GAO noted that: (1) while most of the transparency measures have gradually been implemented at four Russian nuclear material processing facilities, several key measures have not yet been put into place; (2) under the agreement, U.S. officials lack access to Russian nuclear weapons dismantlement facilities and to the weapons dismantlement process; (3) some of the low enriched uranium (LEU) delivered to the United States--about one-third--was shipped before the transparency measures had been implemented at each of the Russian facilities; (4) according to the Departments of State and Energy, there was a deliberate decision by the U.S. government that U.S. interests would be served by allowing a portion of the HEU to be blended into LEU and to be rapidly removed from Russia while the details of the transparency measures were being worked out; (5) U.S. officials first visited a Russia facility in February 1996 to implement the initial set of transparency measures; (6) in October 1996, Russian officials agreed to strengthen the measures in return for a $100 million advance payment to be credited against their deliveries of LEU; (7) transparency measures provide U.S. officials with confidence that weapons-grade HEU is being blended into LEU at the three Russian blending facilities; (8) U.S. officials will not be highly confident that all of the LEU purchased under the agreement is coming from weapons-grade HEU until continuous-monitoring equipment is operating at the Russian blending facilities; (9) according to the Energy, U.S. officials rejected one cylinder of LEU that was shipped to the United States in 1997 for purchase under the agreement because it did not meet the agreement's requirement; (10) the Secretary of Energy proposed to the Russian Minister of Atomic Energy a number of additional transparency measures that included providing U.S. officials with greater access to the Russian nuclear-weapons-dismantlement process; and (11) there has been no progress in reaching an agreement with Russia's Ministry of Atomic Energy on adopting these additional measures.

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