As world leaders gather for the fourth nuclear security summit this week, in the aftermath of the horrifying terrorist attacks in Brussels, it seems likely that Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel will have more to say than anyone else — both about real nuclear terrorist dangers and about real steps taken to improve nuclear security.
Situated in a difficult neighborhood, New Delhi has laid strong emphasis on both nuclear safety and security for a couple of decades now. Almost three decades of state-sponsored terrorism and insurgencies of varying scale and proportion within India have meant that security of nuclear materials and installations has been a great worry to India’s security and atomic energy establishments. India’s concerns even predate the Western focus on WMD terrorism, which gained prominence only after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States. Unfortunately, India’s excessive caution and secrecy in the nuclear arena has led the world to assume that India does not pay much attention to this issue or that it has inadequate security, which is far from the truth. Read more about India’s Nuclear Security
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
Are nuclear sites secure? There are some who might assume the answer is yes and that we should not worry about the possibility of nuclear bomb material being stolen. Yet, recent history has repeatedly demonstrated that high security facilities thought to be secure were actually vulnerable. Two such incidents last month illustrated this idea. Read more about Two Recent Incidents of Insecurity
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
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?
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.
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.