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Nuclear Security Matters

Analysis on Reducing the Risk of Nuclear Terrorism

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For Academic Citation:Nuclear Security Matters,” https://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/index.php/publication/nuclear-security-matters.

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Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

Matthew Bunn and Gary Samore just published an op-ed arguing that the program to build a factory that converts excess plutonium from dismantled nuclear weapons into plutonium-uranium mixed oxide fuel for nuclear reactors has become too expensive. Although the two helped to launch the program in the mid-90s, they argue "It is time to stop throwing good money after bad and pursue cheaper alternatives that will serve our national security better" and "whatever we do with this plutonium in the long term, we should move to put it under international monitoring, and commit never again to use it in weapons..." You can read their complete argument here.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

The sports world was recently in a tizzy over revelations by the former head of Russia’s anti-doping laboratory – who has now fled the country – that he helped run a massive doping operation and cover-up that contributed to Russia’s impressive haul of medals at the 2014 Olympics.  (Russian officials and athletes denied the charges.)

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

One important outcome of the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is that China, for the first time ever, joined six “gift baskets” and also made significant additional commitments.  Most notably, China joined the 2014 gift basket on “strengthening nuclear security implementation” and agreed to a U.S.-Chinese joint statement on nuclear security cooperation.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

"China and the United States have made remarkable strides in cooperating on nuclear security matters—in every area except the one that arguably matters most: the military sector. On March 18, shortly before Chinese President Xi Jinping arrived in Washington for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit at the end of the month, the two countries opened a Center of Excellence on Nuclear Security in Beijing.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

At a meeting 23 and 24 March in Belgrade, US and Russian members of the Elbe Group – retired general officers from the military and intelligence services – declared that the risk of terrorism, both conventional and nuclear, is growing.  They urged that special attention must be given to preventing Daesh, al Qaeda, and other terrorist organizations which have declared openly their desire to gain weapons of mass destruction, from obtaining them.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

There is no shortage of terrorist groups – homegrown and international alike – that see opportunity in China’s nuclear enterprise, the fastest-growing in the world. Some would like to steal radioactive material for nuclear or dirty bombs; others may be pondering ways to breach a facility’s containment walls or even induce a Fukushima-style meltdown.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

Last week, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine panel affirmed the goal of eliminating highly enriched uranium (HEU) from civilian use, while recommending step-wise conversion of high performance research reactors using weapon-grade uranium fuel and that the White House coordinate a 50-year national roadmap for neutron-based research. (Full disclosure:  I sat on that committee, and oversaw the NNSA reactor conversion program from 2006-9; this post, however, represents my views, not necessarily those of the committee or NNSA.)

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

With the fourth and final nuclear security summit approaching in March, the 2016 edition of the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) Nuclear Security Index raises red flags about the international community’s implementation of the important measures needed to protect against catastrophic nuclear terrorism and to build an effective global nuclear security system. More importantly, it raises the question, how will leaders sustain momentum and high-level political attention on the need to secure dangerous nuclear materials once the summits come to an end?