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
By Hui Zhang Chinese president Xi Jinpingsaid in his address at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that, “we should place equal emphasis on development [of nuclear energy] and security, and develop nuclear energy on the premise of security.” He further emphasized that, “developing nuclear energy at the expense of security can neither be sustainable nor bring real development. Only by adopting credible steps and safeguards can we keep the risks under effective control and develop nuclear energy in a sustainable way.” Read more about Securing China’s Nuclear Energy Development
By Brigadier General Kevin Ryan (ret.) Recognizing that the crisis in Ukraine and Crimea has shuttered communication between the American and Russian governments, a group of senior American and Russian former military and intelligence officers met quietly in Morocco from 19 to 22 March to ask each other whether there remain any areas where the two nations should continue joint efforts. The answer, given in a joint statement at the end of the meeting, was yes. Read more about Elbe Group Joint Statement
By Graham Allison On Monday, President Obama will join Chinese President Xi Jinping, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and 40 other heads of state in the Netherlands for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. It will be the third in a series of summits initiated by Obama to address what he has called “the most immediate and extreme threat to global security”: nuclear terrorism. These gatherings have become a powerful means of motivating leaders to eliminate or secure the fissile material that terrorists could use to carry out a nuclear 9/11.Read more about The Step We Still Haven't Taken to Create a Nuke Free World
By Graham Allison With Ukraine melting down and the confrontation between Russia and the West heating up, both partisan critics and impartial observers can be excused for asking why U.S. President Barack Obama is going to The Hague this Sunday, March 23, for the third Nuclear Security Summit. Given all the other urgent demands, should nuclear security be at the top of the agenda at this time, and even if it should be, can this gathering do anything about it?