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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/publication/nuclear-security-matters.

11 posts

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

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

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.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

China is in beginning stages of significantly expanding its reprocessing program. As it considers the costs and benefits of its plan, Beijing should include the inherent security risks that come with extracting weapons-useable plutonium from spent nuclear fuel.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

The most significant achievement to emerge from the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit was a pledge by 35 countries to observe the terms of a joint agreement, known as Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation. This document committed the signatories to incorporate the principles and guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) regarding nuclear security into their national laws, and to allow teams of international experts to periodically evaluate their security procedures. Promoted strongly by the chairs of all three nuclear summits—the United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands— the 2014 initiative is an important step towards creating a robust global security system designed to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

Chinese president Xi Jinping said in his address at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit that, “we should place equal emphasis on development [of nuclear energy] and security, and develop nuclear energy on the premise of security.” He further emphasized that, “developing nuclear energy at the expense of security can neither be sustainable nor bring real development. Only by adopting credible steps and safeguards can we keep the risks under effective control and develop nuclear energy in a sustainable way."

Nuclear Security Matters

Nuclear Security Matters

Today, the United States and Japan announced that Japan would eliminate all the plutonium and highly-enriched uranium at its Fast Critical Assembly (FCA) at Tokai-mura.  This is a tremendous step forward for nuclear security; for terrorists, this would be some of the best material that exists in any non-nuclear-weapon state.  The material includes 331 kilograms of plutonium, most of it weapons-grade, and 214.5 kilograms of weapons-grade HEU.  (The FCA also includes over a ton of material just at the 20 percent U-235 mark that defines HEU.)   The weapons-grade HEU is enough for four simple terrorist “gun-type” bombs or a larger number of trickier-to-build implosion bombs.  The plutonium amounts to more than 40 bombs worth of material.