Page last updated at 21:13 GMT, Tuesday, 13 April 2010 22:13 UK

Russia and US to dispose of tonnes of surplus plutonium

Barack Obama: "We've made real progress in building a safer world"

Russia and the US have agreed to dispose of tonnes of surplus weapons-grade plutonium under a deal signed at a nuclear summit in Washington.

The deal calls for each side to dispose of 34 tonnes of the material.

Moscow is to spend $2.5bn (£1.63bn) on the programme with the US contributing $400m to the Russian disposal.

Closing the summit, US President Barack Obama said participants had agreed to secure all the world's vulnerable nuclear material within four years.

Leaders at the 47-nation summit also pledged to take action to prevent terrorist groups obtaining nuclear material, Mr Obama said.

The US president said the four-point plan reached at the summit would make a real contribution to a safer world.

The final communique calls on the 47 nations to work together to prevent nuclear material falling into the hands of "non-state actors".

Terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon and, if they ever succeed, they would surely use it
Barack Obama

Earlier, he said: "Terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon and, if they ever succeed, they would surely use it."

"Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow at global peace and stability," he added.

Hillary Clinton and Sergei Lavrov in Washington (13 April 2010)
The US and Russia said they wanted to make arms reduction irreversible

The US state department said the agreement signed by Moscow and Washington on Tuesday was a major step forward on disposing of "excess weapon-grade plutonium".

"The signing also signifies our commitment to making arms reductions irreversible and to reducing the danger of this material ever falling into the hands of terrorists," it added.

Russia says at the US nuclear summit it will spend $2.5bn to dispose of some of its weapons-grade plutonium.

Earlier, Mexico pledged to eliminate all its highly-enriched uranium. The country will work with the US, Canada and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to convert the uranium at its research reactor into lower-grade fuel.

Ukraine said on Monday that it would ship its high-enriched uranium to protected storage sites abroad - possibly in Russia or the US.

Co-ordinated effort

The summit's final statement also said that increased security must "not infringe upon the rights of states to develop and utilise nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and technology".

Mr Obama also announced the next nuclear security summit would be held in South Korea in 2012.

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad 09.04.10
Iran's President Ahmadinejad has called a rival nuclear summit

"This reflects South Korea's leadership regionally and globally," he said.

The two-day summit is the biggest international meeting hosted by the US since 1945.

It is taking place without representatives of Iran and North Korea, neither of which were invited by the US because of disputes over their nuclear programmes.

Iran has announced that it will hold its own nuclear summit in Tehran this weekend with the foreign ministers of 15 countries.

It is estimated there are about 1,600 tonnes of highly enriched uranium in the world - the type used in nuclear weapons.

Experts agree that virtually all of it is held by the acknowledged nuclear-weapons states, most of it in Russia.

Last week, the US and Russia signed a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, reducing each country's deployed nuclear arsenal to 1,550 weapons.

Mr Obama has also approved a new nuclear policy for the US, saying he plans to cut the nuclear arsenal, refrain from nuclear tests and not use nuclear weapons against countries that do not have them.

Map showing location of HEU around the world

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