Commentary

Fresh Thinking on Highly Enriched Uranium Research Reactor Conversions

By William Tobey

Last week, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel affirmed the goal of eliminating highly enriched uranium (HEU) from civilian use, while recommending step-wise conversion of high performance research reactors using weapon-grade uranium fuel and that the White House coordinate a 50-year national roadmap for neutron-based research. (Full disclosure:  I sat on that committee, and oversaw the NNSA reactor conversion program from 2006-9; this post, however, represents my views, not necessarily those of the committee or NNSA.)

Index Results Highlight Need for Path Forward After Summits End

By Samantha Pitts-Kiefer

With the fourth and final nuclear security summit approaching in March, the 2016 edition of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Security Index raises red flags about the international community’s implementation of the important measures needed to protect against catastrophic nuclear terrorism and to build an effective global nuclear security system. More importantly, it raises the question, how will leaders sustain momentum and high-level political attention on the need to secure dangerous nuclear materials once the summits come to an end?

All HEU Removed from Georgia, Again

By Matthew Bunn

In 1998, in Operation Auburn Endeavor, the U.S. government helped fly 4.3 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and low-enriched uranium (LEU) from vulnerable facilities in war-torn Georgia to the Dounreay reprocessing plant in the United Kingdom. At the time, those in the U.S. government involved in the project, myself included, thought that was all the HEU there was in Georgia. So it was a surprise when the IAEA announced the removal of another 1.83 kilograms of HEU from Georgia – apparently now really the last of the HEU there.

India’s Nuclear Security

By Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

Situated in a difficult neighborhood, New Delhi has laid strong emphasis on both nuclear safety and security for a couple of decades now. Almost three decades of state-sponsored terrorism and insurgencies of varying scale and proportion within India have meant that security of nuclear materials and installations has been a great worry to India’s security and atomic energy establishments. India’s concerns even predate the Western focus on WMD terrorism, which gained prominence only after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States.  Unfortunately, India’s excessive caution and secrecy in the nuclear arena has led the world to assume that India does not pay much attention to this issue or that it has inadequate security, which is far from the truth.

Snapshot of FY16 Non-Proliferation Budget

By Nickolas Roth

Congress has released its Omnibus appropriation bill for funding the entire government, including National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) nuclear non-proliferation and security programs. The following is a snapshot of the fiscal year 2016 request and Congressional appropriation process, as well as charts providing some context about what these numbers mean.  This non-proliferation budget is the last that will be fully executed by the Obama administration.

Nuclear Security in Five Words

By Michelle Cann

A new YouTube video, released ahead of a government planning meeting for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, charges that stronger nuclear security can be as simple as five words.  These five words are the 5 Priorities, a concept born in 2014 when a diverse group of nuclear security experts identified the most impactful policy changes that could advance global nuclear security. After rallying supporters and polishing their ideas, the 5 Priorities effort was launched to garner the attention of world leaders and help the broader public understand how the decisions made at the 2016 summit will impact them.

The Dannemora Prison Break: Lessons for Nuclear Facilities

By Kate Miller

In prisons as in nuclear facilities, employees are tasked with guarding something highly dangerous in high-stress environments. Both face high costs in the event of failure, and both are especially vulnerable to complacency and insider threats. Given these parallels, two inmates’ dramatic break-out from a New York prison in early June offers nuclear security practitioners valuable insights into how to avert an equally dramatic (and potentially much more consequential) breech.

Reflections on US-Russian Relationship

By Ambassador Linton Brooks

Six years ago, Ambassador Linton Brooks offered some remarkably prescient thoughts on what the U.S.-Russian relationship might look like in 2015, and the implications for nuclear security cooperation — though, of course, he could not have anticipated the conflict in Ukraine. Brooks’ 2009 assessment is reproduced below, followed by his reflections on the topic today:

Dirty bomb efforts and uranium seizure in Ukraine may be less than meets the eye

By Artur Saradzhyan           

Ukraine-based journalist Maxim Tucker has just published two articles to claim that pro-Russian rebels in Eastern Ukraine are plotting to manufacture a dirty bomb with the help of Russian scientists, using radioactive waste from a storage facility at the Donetsk Chemical Factory.