The Fourth Nuclear Security Summit (NSS2016) takes place next year in the United States. The preparations by representatives of participating countries - so called Sherpas - have started. I am pleased to discuss the prospects of NSS2016 also with the readers of Nuclear Security Matters as a follow-up to a visit to Harvard University Belfer Center.
I cannot anticipate final recommendations of 53 national Sherpas, let alone the decisions of the Heads of States or Governments in the Summit. But let me offer a few initial thoughts from a Finnish perspective on what issues will be addressed and what could be some of the outcomes. Debate on these topics is going on and will continue. Read more about Towards a New Phase in Nuclear Security Cooperation
The Obama administration is proposing to boost Department of Energy nonproliferation funding to $1.94 billion—more than a $300 million increase from what Congress appropriated last year—in fiscal year 2016. But this is an increase over the very low fiscal year 2015 budget proposed by the administration and then further cut by Congress. Both Congress and the Russian government have cut back on further U.S.-funded nuclear security work in Russia, and the Obama administration has yet to develop major new initiatives that could absorb those resources. Read more about Summary of Nonproliferation funding in Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2016 Budget Request
In the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué, leaders from more than 50 countries “reaffirm[ed] the fundamental responsibility of States, in accordance with their respective obligations, to maintain at all times effective security of all nuclear and other radioactive materials, including nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons, and nuclear facilities under their control. This responsibility includes taking appropriate measures to prevent non-state actors from obtaining such materials – or related sensitive information or technology – which could be used for malicious purposes, and to prevent acts of terrorism and sabotage.” Read more about Implementing International Mechanisms to Ensure the Security of Military Materials
In thinking about how nuclear security and safeguards can fail, it is useful to keep in mind why security usually fails in general. Most security managers and organizations have a good understanding of the assets they are trying to protect, the resources available to them to protect those assets, and the consequences should security fail (though this is sometimes greatly underestimated). They often have a reasonably accurate understanding of the threats they face—who might attack, why, how, when, and with what goals and resources. What is often lacking is a good understanding of the vulnerabilities—the weaknesses in the security that can be exploited by the threats—and how those vulnerabilities can be mitigated or eliminated. Read more about Why Security Fails
For years, security experts have believed that the most likely form of nuclear terrorism would involve the use of radioactive sources such as “dirty bombs’. Yet, spending by governments, including the U.S. government, to secure or destroy such materials has been paltry. Far higher priority (if still not sufficient) has been accorded to efforts to remove or secure nuclear weapons useable materials, such as highly enriched uranium. Read more about Replacing Radioactive Sources