Security for Nuclear Weapons and Weapons-Usable Material

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.

IAEA Releases Guidelines on Nuclear Material Control and Accounting

By Matthew Bunn

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.

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.”

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.

Senators Nunn and Lugar on Nuclear Security in Russia

By Nickolas Roth

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.

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.

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.

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.

Congress Reaffirms Support for Preventing Theft of Russian Nuclear Material

By Nickolas Roth

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.)

Why the United States Should Suspend Nuclear Security Cooperation Inside Russia

Kevin RyanBy BG Kevin Ryan (US Army retired)  

 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.

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. 

Nuclear Security Cooperation Between U.S. and Russia Takes Another Hit

By Nickolas Roth

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article revealing that, at the end of 2014, Russia plans to reduce its cooperation with the United States on securing nuclear materials within its borders. The United States and Russia have made substantial progress in securing nuclear material over the past two decades, but more work is needed. Halting cooperation not only risks future progress on reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism, but also jeopardizes progress to date.

Here is how Belfer Center experts responded to the announcement:

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