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On November 16, NPR sought out Leonard Spector, deputy director of the Monterey Institute’s James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) to help explain the tricky issue of securing the largest stockpile of weapons grade material outside of a nuclear weapons state. Spector, a former US Energy Department official, first became aware of the nuclear plant in the Kazakh city of Aktau in the 1990s. As he set the scene for a three-part series on the subject on the popular news program All Things Considered, Spector explained: “In a typical nuclear power plant, the plutonium is usable for nuclear weapons, but it’s of low quality and would not be what you seek. But this particular material at this reactor did have these attributes that made it really ideal for that purpose. And the reactor was sitting across the Caspian Sea from Iran.”

On the very same day, the Boston Globe also sought out the expertise of a CNS expert. In an article about the prospects for the New START nuclear arms deal with Russia being ratified during the upcoming lame duck session of Congress, Senior CNS Research Associate Nikolai Sokov was quoted regarding Russian interests in the deal: “If there is someone who would be privately happy about the U.S. Senate rejecting the New START, it’s the Russian military,” said Sokov, who participated in negotiations for two prior START treaties. He went on to explain that the Russian military views the verification measures included in the New START treaty as disruptive and expensive.

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Jason Warburg

Eva Gudbergsdottir