Matthew Bunn, William Tobey, and I have a new op-ed in The Hill’s Congress Blog, “Don’t weaken our defenses against nuclear smuggling.” We wrote it in response to proposed legislation that would prohibit funding for fixed radiation detectors to catch nuclear smugglers – both for installing new ones and even for maintaining the ones U.S. taxpayers have already paid billions to install. We argue: Read more about Bunn, Tobey, and Roth on Nuclear Smuggling
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
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
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). Read more about Russia puts positive spin on nuclear security cooperation – which is good
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. Read more about Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation
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.
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. Read more about IAEA Conference on Advances in Nuclear Forensics
By 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. Read more about Don't Let Nuclear-Security Cooperation with Russia Lapse
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). Read more about GAO Report on Radiological Security
By Jonas Siegel Like its predecessor summits, the recently concluded Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague acknowledged the role that nuclear material accounting can play in securing materials from unauthorized use. The emphasis of this and past initiatives, however, has been on improving national laws and regulations—and primarily in states without nuclear weapons. States have yet to develop comprehensive requirements that address the full scope of nuclear risks and that are meant to be adopted by all states—including nuclear weapons states. Read more about How Nuclear Material Accounting Can Contribute to Nuclear Security