Commentary

What Kind of Material Needs What Level of Security?

By Matthew Bunn

In August of 2002, the United States – assisted by a gift from the Nuclear Threat Initiative, when it turned out no U.S. agency had money that was not blocked from doing what was needed – helped airlift 48 kilograms of 80% enriched highly enriched uranium out of the Vinca nuclear research institute in Serbia.  A force of 1,200 armed troops guarded the shipment as it moved from the lab to the airport.  Under international rules, this was dangerous “Category I” material requiring the highest level of security. But under Department of Energy (DOE) rules for categorizing nuclear material, if the same material had been at a DOE site, it would have been considered “Category III” material requiring hardly any security.

Beyond the Summits: The Way Forward for Nuclear Security in the Middle East

By Nilsu Goren and Ariane Tabatabai

With the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) now over, policymakers are thinking about next steps to address nuclear security. The NSS process has progressed since its first installment in 2010; yet, the Middle East, a key region where nuclear security is of tremendous importance, remains underrepresented.

Elbe Group Joint Statement

By Brigadier General Kevin Ryan (ret.)

Recognizing that the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea has shuttered communication between the American and Russian governments, a group of senior American and Russian former military and intelligence officers met quietly in Morocco from 19 to 22 March to ask each other whether there remain any areas where the two nations should continue joint efforts.  The answer, given in a joint statement at the end of the meeting, was yes. 

Future Prospects for U.S.-Russia Nuclear Security Cooperation

By Nickolas Roth

This week’s Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague was understandably overshadowed by the continuing international response to Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea. One aspect of the Ukraine crisis that deserves more attention is how the current standoff will impact the future of nuclear security cooperation between the United States and Russia.

Nuclear Security Summit Joint Commitments: By Country and By Statement

By Dominic Contreras

The 2014 Nuclear Security Summit brought together dozens of world leaders focused on preventing nuclear terrorism. So, what was accomplished and what work remains to be done? One way of assessing this is to look at joint statements (also known as “gift baskets”) issued at the Summit in which participants pledged their support to nuclear security initiatives like enhancing radiological security or strengthening nuclear security implementation. These statements present opportunities for countries to endorse specific actions to strengthen nuclear security.

Progress at The Hague Nuclear Security Summit

By Matthew Bunn

So what did the nuclear security summit in The Hague accomplish?  A good deal.  Despite being overshadowed by the crisis in Ukraine and the associated crush of side meetings, the summit in The Hague once again served as a forcing event to cut through bureaucracy and get important decisions made.  Just as having friends over for dinner motivates you to clean up your house, going to a major global summit motivates leaders to push their bureaucracies to give them something worthwhile to talk about when they get there.

The Step We Still Haven't Taken to Create a Nuke Free World

By Graham Allison
The Atlantic

On Monday, President Obama will join Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and 40 other heads of state in the Netherlands for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. It will be the third in a series of summits initiated by Obama to address what he has called “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”: nuclear terrorism. These gatherings have become a powerful means of motivating leaders to eliminate or secure the fissile material that terrorists could use to carry out a nuclear 9/11.

Lessons from The Hague Peace Palace for the Nuclear Security Summit

By Graham Allison

Presidents Obama, Xi, Chancellor Merkel and 40 other heads of state assemble in the Netherlands early this week for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit.  The meeting is in The Hague, home of the iconic Peace Palace.  We can hope that the briefing books for those attending the summit include a photo of the Palace and enough about its history for them to recognize not only the irony but also lessons from its story for the work they are undertaking.

Resources for Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague

More than 50 world leaders are gathered in The Hague right now for the third Nuclear Security Summit. At this moment, they are reaffirming existing commitments and announcing new initiatives for preventing nuclear weapons from ending up in the hands of terrorists.

We have been compiling some of the best research and analysis that evaluates the summit process and proposes ways of strengthening it. Click here to see these reports.

Eliminating Potential Bomb Material from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly

By Matthew Bunn

Today, the United States and Japan announced that Japan would eliminate all the plutonium and highly-enriched uranium at its Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) at Tokai-mura.  This is a tremendous step forward for nuclear security; for terrorists, this would be some of the best material that exists in any non-nuclear-weapon state.  The material includes 331 kilograms of plutonium, most of it weapons-grade, and 214.5 kilograms of weapons-grade HEU.  (The FCA also includes over a ton of material just at the 20 percent U-235 mark that defines HEU.)   The weapons-grade HEU is enough for four simple terrorist “gun-type” bombs or a larger number of trickier-to-build implosion bombs.  The plutonium amounts to more than 40 bombs worth of material.

We're Not Prepared for a Nuclear Heist

By Eben Harrell
TIME

In September 2009, a group of masked men armed with automatic weapons and explosives arrived on the roof of a cash depot in Vastberg, Sweden in a helicopter. The men blasted their way through a skylight and hoisted millions of dollars up to the hovering aircraft — the operation took less than 20 minutes. When police rushed to respond they discovered a bag with the word “bomb” at their heliport — a diversion planted by the thieves — and caltrops (road spikes) near the depot to slow down their response on the ground. While many of the thieves were caught after an investigation, most of the money was never recovered. 

Getting to No

By Graham Allison
Foreign Policy

With Ukraine melting down and the confrontation between Russia and the West heating up, both partisan critics and impartial observers can be excused for asking why U.S. President Barack Obama is going to The Hague this Sunday, March 23, for the third Nuclear Security Summit. Given all the other urgent demands, should nuclear security be at the top of the agenda at this time, and even if it should be, can this gathering do anything about it?

Could Terrorists Be Seeking a Nuclear Bomb?

By Graham Allison

As the 3rd Nuclear Security Summit approaches next week, many policymakers and analysts continue to find it incredible that terrorists could build a crude nuclear bomb and detonate it in the heart of a major city. One of the sticking points for skeptics is the question of whether, even if terrorists succeed in obtaining enough weapons-grade uranium or plutonium to build a nuclear device, they would actually use it. The consequences seem too disproportionate to any plausible objective to be chosen by any but the insane.

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