Threats and Vulnerabilities

The Dannemora Prison Break: Lessons for Nuclear Facilities

By Kate Miller

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.

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.

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.

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.

How much of a nuclear, chemical, or biological threat might ISIS pose? (Part I)

By Nate Sans

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel recently described the Islamic State (IS, referred to by the U.S. government as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant [ISIL] and by many others as the  Islamic State of Iraq and Syria or the Islamic State of Iraq and al Sham [ISIS]) as an “imminent threat to every interest we have,” with sophistication, funding, and military prowess “beyond anything that we’ve seen.” As yet, there is no convincing publicly available evidence that IS aspires to attain or use nuclear, chemical, or biological weapons (Matthew Bunn debunked alarmist press coverage over the group’s seizure of uranium from Mosul University). But good sense demands that policy makers not discount the possibility that ISIS might pursue unconventional weapons, given the vast resources of money and weapons ISIS has amassed during its rampage across Syria and Iraq. Evaluation of the threat might be divided into two categories: the inclination to pursue CBRN weapons, and the means to manufacture or capture them, and afterwards, to plan an attack using them.

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.

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.