Plutonium is a man-made element which is a necessary component of most modern warheads. Plutonium production increased in the 1980s to heighten arms capability. Now, with the end of the Cold War and as arms limitations agreements limit the need for production of new warheads, there is an excess of plutonium. The stockpile of plutonium is also being increased through the dismantling of nuclear warheads, estimated to become a world surplus of 100 tonnes by 2004. There would be then be enough surplus plutonium in the world to make 87,000 primitive nuclear bombs. In addition, around twice as much will come from civilian reprocessing over the same period. The nuclear nations currently have neither the facilities nor the political programmes to manage this potentially lethal stockpile.
A 1992 report found 150 tonnes of unwanted plutonium stockpiled in Europe. The plutonium stockpile of the USA in 1993 was 33.5 tonnes. From 1945 to 1988, the USA used 89 tonnes of plutonium in its weapons production programme. The USA National Academy of Sciences has denounced the idea of building new reactors to consume plutonium (e.g. the Integral Fast Reactor). In 1994, the Russians were still producing plutonium because it needs the heat and power that the military reactors generate.