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. Read more about The Dannemora Prison Break: Lessons for Nuclear Facilities
Six years ago, AmbassadorLinton 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:Read more about Reflections on US-Russian Relationship
More than a decade after its nuclear security recommendations first recognized the threat insiders pose to nuclear facilities, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has finally released its guide on nuclear material control and accounting for nuclear security. (This has been in the works for years.) Many people wrongly think that any material under international safeguards has accounting and control good enough for security purposes as well, but there are important differences.
The news that an anti-nuclear protester landed a slightly radiation-laced drone on the Japanese Prime Minister’s office building highlights the burgeoning role of drones in debates about nuclear security. Drones can contribute to both threats to nuclear facilities and defenses against those threats. Read more about Drones: Good News and Bad News for Nuclear Security
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. Read more about Summary of Nonproliferation funding in Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2016 Budget Request
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
In 1991—recognizing the global danger posed by inadequately secured Russian nuclear weapons and materials— Senators Sam Nunn (D-GA) and Richard Lugar (R-IN) led the Congressional charge in passing the Cooperative Threat Reduction Act. This seminal piece of legislation created the first major U.S. effort to work with Russia on preventing the theft of Russian nuclear weapons and materials. In a Washington Post op-ed last week, Senators Nunn and Lugar responded to the recent news that Russia had halted this cooperation. Read more about Senators Nunn and Lugar on Nuclear Security in Russia
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
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. Read more about Belfer Experts: The End of U.S.–Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation?
Advocates of preventing nuclear terrorism received an early holiday present. Earlier in the year, two of the four Congressional committees most directly responsible for nuclear security policy had included language in bills that would have damaged the United States' ability to engage in nuclear security cooperation with Russia. But Congress has taken responsible action in supporting continued work with Russia in this area in the combined House-Senate version of the FY2015 National Defense Authorization Act. (Here is the bill and explanatory language.) Read more about Congress Reaffirms Support for Preventing Theft of Russian Nuclear Material
Last week, the editor for the New York Times “Room for Debate” blog asked me to comment on the question, “Should Washington and Moscow continue to work together to reduce nuclear stockpiles and cooperate to secure, or eliminate, weapons and nuclear materials despite the dispute around Russian actions in Ukraine?” I wrote, “We should honor our New START commitments,” but, beyond that, “until Russia removes its troops from eastern Ukraine and ceases its military support to pro-Russian separatists there, the United States should suspend any discussion on future arms reductions or cooperation on securing Russian nuclear materials and weapons.” Four other commenters disagreed with my recommendation. Read more about Why the United States Should Suspend Nuclear Security Cooperation Inside Russia