Threats and Vulnerabilities

Belgium Highlights the Nuclear Terrorism Threat and Security Measures to Stop it

By Matthew Bunn

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.

India’s Nuclear Security

By Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan

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.

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.

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