Progress and Gaps

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.

Implementing International Mechanisms to Ensure the Security of Military Materials

Samantha Pitts-KieferBy Samantha Pitts-Kiefer

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.”

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.

Belfer Experts: The End of U.S.–Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation?

NNSA photo ommemorating the completion of the 1993 U.S.-Russia HEU Purchase Agreement

More than two decades of U.S.-Russian cooperation to keep potential nuclear bomb material out of terrorist hands largely came to an end last month, as The Boston Globe reported Monday.  Although the dangers have not gone away, Russia is no longer interested in working on most nuclear security projects with the United States— yet another victim of increasing tension between the two countries. The Belfer Center has been centrally involved in these efforts since their inception. Belfer Center experts Graham Allison, Matthew Bunn, and William Tobey offer their thoughts.

The United States Should Chew Gum and Walk on Nuclear Security

By Nickolas Roth

Last weekend, the New York Times published a debate on whether, as a result of tension over Ukraine, the United States should cut off nuclear security cooperation with Russia. As the Times reported before the debate, Russia may be bringing nearly all of this cooperation to an end–but there are some in the United States saying the U.S. government should act to end it whether or not Russia is willing to continue. Given the deteriorating relationship between the two countries, this issue should be debated now. We are continuing the debate on Nuclear Security Matters and welcome readers to send us their thoughts. 

Strengthening International Cooperation on Nuclear Materials Security

By Nickolas Roth

Matthew Bunn, Will Tobey, Hui Zhang, and Nickolas Roth recently participated in a two-day roundtable discussion sponsored by the Stanley Foundation on U.S. nuclear security cooperation with Russia and China. The discussion, which involved experts from around the world, focused on overcoming challenges to nuclear security cooperation and ensuring that countries put in place effective and sustainable nuclear security measures with strong security culture. Although the roundtable was not for attribution, you can read a memo summarizing the discussion here.

A Response to Critics of U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation

By Nickolas Roth

Most U.S. policymakers support critical U.S. investments in improving security to prevent the theft of nuclear weapons and weapons usable material in Russia. A few, however, are starting to raise doubts about whether this cooperation is a good idea. Skeptics argue that, because of Russia’s incursion into Ukraine, the federal government needs to make a stronger case for nuclear security cooperation with Russia. They argue that the U.S. case needs to address issues like the cost of nuclear security programs, the fungibility of money given to Russia for security upgrades, and the marginal benefit of nuclear security spending in Russia. The problem with these concerns is that they do not acknowledge the purpose of nuclear security cooperation: reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The Russian Tie We Can't Cut

By William Tobey, Matthew Bunn, and Nickolas Roth

“I continue to be much more concerned, when it comes to our security, with the prospect of a nuclear weapon going off in Manhattan.” So said President Obama last March, weighing the danger of nuclear terrorism against that of Russian aggression in Ukraine. Yet our research shows that his administration proposes cutting the amount of money spent on an array of programs to secure nuclear bomb materials around the world and keep them out of terrorists’ hands — to $555 million next year from $700 million in fiscal 2014. And in both houses of Congress, there are efforts to legislate a suspension of nuclear security cooperation with Russia.

IAEA Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics

By Mary Fall Wade

Two weeks ago, 330 attendees from over 86 member states and several international organizations convened for the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) International Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics, a three-day meeting in Vienna, Austria. Nuclear forensics seeks to identify the history and origin of nuclear material, by looking, as the IAEA puts it, at “the properties of the nuclear or other radioactive material through physical, chemical, elemental, and isotopic analysis, including major, minor, and trace constituents.” Once a given sample of material is characterized, the information can be interpreted by comparing it with other existing or known materials elsewhere.

Don't Let Nuclear-Security Cooperation with Russia Lapse

Nickolas Roth and Robert GardBy Nickolas Roth and Robert Gard
Republicans and Democrats alike have traditionally understood that investing in nuclear security is a small price to pay compared with the devastating economic, political and social costs of nuclear terrorism. That’s why U.S. cooperation with Russia and other countries to secure vulnerable nuclear material has enjoyed bipartisan support.

GAO Report on Radiological Security

By Nickolas Roth

Recently, the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee held a hearing that highlighted some truly alarming information about the status of radiological security in the United States.  The hearing began with a description from Senator Carper (D-DE) of the Boston marathon bomb attacks. He then speculated on the hypothetical consequences of the use of a Radiological Dispersion Device (RDD) or “dirty bomb” (interestingly, an old high-activity Cs-137 source was removed from Massachusetts General Hospital after the bombing).

Harrington on Radiological Security

 “An RDD [Radiological Dispersion Device] detonated in a major metropolitan area could result in economic costs in the billions of dollars as a result of evacuations, relocations, cleanup, and lost wages. Radioactive sources such as Cobalt, Cesium, Americium, and Iridium are used worldwide for many legitimate purposes and are located at thousands of sites in the United States and around the world.

Bunn on 10th Anniversary of Global Threat Reduction Initiative

By Matthew Bunn
I’ve got a new piece in The National Interest celebrating ten years of the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), which has made remarkable strides in reducing the risks of nuclear and radiological terrorism.  They are the ones who did the actual work of getting the highly enriched uranium out of Ukraine before this year’s crises, to take just one example.

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