United States

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.

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:

U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation: Rebuilding Equality, Mutual Benefit, and Respect

By Nickolas Roth

In December 2014, Russia informed the United States that, after more than twenty years of cooperation, it was halting almost all nuclear security work between the two countries. My new Issue Brief written for the Deep Cuts Commission, titled “U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation: Rebuilding Equality, Mutual Benefit, and Respect,” explains how the two countries share responsibility for things getting to this point.

Congress Gives Thumbs Up to International Nuclear Security Conventions

By Nickolas Roth

As part of the USA Freedom Act, Congress yesterday passed key legislation that will finally permit U.S. ratification of two important treaties that strengthen international nuclear security. While the Senate gave its advice and consent for ratification of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) years ago, the treaties require parties to criminalize certain acts related to nuclear terrorism, so passage of implementing legislation was needed before the United States could ratify them.  Failure to ratify these key treaties on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism before any of the first three nuclear security summits, when the United States was pushing the world to act on nuclear security, has been a substantial embarrassment.

Summary of Nonproliferation funding in Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2016 Budget Request

By Nickolas Roth

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.

Why Security Fails

By Roger G. Johnston

    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.

Russia puts positive spin on nuclear security cooperation – which is good

By Matthew Bunn

Russia’s state nuclear corporation, Rosatom, has put out a statement on the Boston Globe story on Russia calling a halt to nearly all U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation.  (See Russian stories based on the statement here and here.)  The statement, in essence, tries to avoid responsibility by saying that cooperation is continuing (citing work on returning highly enriched uranium from other countries to Russia), and to blame the United States for any interruption (citing the U.S. cutoff of nuclear energy and nuclear science cooperation as part of the sanctions over Ukraine).

Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation

By Matthew Bunn

As the Boston Globe reported Monday, Russia has put a stop, for now, to most U.S.-Russian nuclear security cooperation.  Russian, U.S., and world security will be in more danger as a result.  But some small pieces of cooperation continue – and with creativity and effort, it may be possible to rebuild a robust nuclear security dialogue of equals, rather than a donor-recipient relationship.

What Can the Secret Service Teach Us About Nuclear Security?

By Nickolas Roth

One of the more notable storylines throughout 2014 was the continued failures of the U.S. Secret Service. There were three striking high profile lapses in the Secret Service’s ability to protect President Obama: one where a man jumped over the White House fence, running through the front door of the White House and throughout its main floor; another where an armed man with an arrest record was able to ride on the same elevator as the President; and another where a man posing as a Member of Congress was able  to sneak into a secured area where the President was speaking. Towards the end of the year, problems within the Secret Service became a hotly debated political football, resulting in the resignation of the Service’s director.

26 Senators Call for Increasing Nuclear Security Funding

By Nickolas Roth

Yesterday, Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Jeff Merkley (D-OR) released a letter signed by 26 senators asking the Obama Administration to increase funding for nonproliferation and nuclear security programs. In the letter, which was sent last week to Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan, the bipartisan group of senators raised concern regarding cuts to nuclear security programs over the past several years and requested that the Obama administration “seek increased funding for vital nuclear material security and nonproliferation programs” in its upcoming fiscal year (FY) 2016 budget request, expected to be released early in 2015.

Cutting Too Deep: Nuclear Security Budget Cuts

By Nickolas Roth

Matthew Bunn, William Tobey, and I recently published a report titled Cutting Too Deep: The Obama Administration’s Proposals for Nuclear Security Spending Reductions. The report provides a detailed description of the Obama administration’s funding for nuclear security programs during the four year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material.

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