Press Release

Leveraging the Private Sector to Increase Security at Civilian Nuclear Power Facilities

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For Immediate Release: January 28, 2016
Contact: Jim Baird; [email protected]; (202) 478.3413
The private sector must play a major role in developing high-level consensus standards that increase preparedness and reduce security risks posed by terrorism, cyber, and other threats to civilian nuclear energy facilities, according to a report released today by the nonpartisan Stimson Center. The report titled Nuclear Energy: Securing the Future — A Case For Voluntary Consensus Standards, recommends that policymakers and governments facilitate the development of a business case for nuclear security, starting with areas of critical interest to industry — from cybersecurity to insider threats. The recommendations come as global demand for nuclear energy markedly increases in unstable regions and as President Obama prepares to host world leaders for the final Nuclear Security Summit. 

“As the series of Nuclear Security Summits comes to a close this March, new forums are needed to continue a focus on improving all aspects of nuclear security,” said Stimson Senior Advisor and report co-author Debra Decker. “We can’t continue to rely on governments and intergovernmental institutions to address this issue on their own as civilian nuclear power grows. Industry needs to be more proactive and take responsibility for security — before a disaster occurs. We believe it can be in industry’s interest to do so through many stakeholders coming together to develop smart standards.”

Global production of civilian nuclear energy facilities is accelerating as states seek a large baseload power source with low carbon emissions. The 2015 joint report of the International Energy Agency and Nuclear Energy Agency found that to meet the goal of limiting the rise in global temperature to two degrees Celsius by 2100, energy emissions need to be cut 50 percent by 2050: to achieve this, the nuclear power industry must double its capacity. As civilian nuclear energy expands, so does the risk posed by an attack on a facility. Currently, about 440 power reactors are in operation worldwide. Existing nuclear power plants were not designed to withstand sophisticated terrorist or cyber attacks. Many countries are actively considering nuclear facilities — including in regions that Boko Haram and ISIL operate in or near.

Although the International Atomic Energy Agency develops security guidelines, it has no power to compel their use or ensure compliance. Domestic regulators are left to interpret and apply guidelines and those regulators are challenged by different levels of experience and conflicting cultural norms. Operators of civilian nuclear energy facilities are faced with implementing complex and sometimes conflicting guidelines, developed with limited industry input and a corresponding lack of commercial motivations. To overcome these gaps, the report recommends nuclear industry take the lead in developing voluntary consensus standards that foster organizational excellence integrating safety and security. These standards can reduce risks in areas of concern to operators and stakeholders — insurers, financiers, exporters, and regulators — who in turn can provide economic benefits that incentivize compliance. After conducting more than 150 confidential interviews with stakeholders, the report identifies several areas where voluntary consensus standards would be most beneficial, including:

  • Human-reliability assurance, broadly including: insider-threat mitigation; safety and security culture; other behavioral-monitoring programs
  • Cybersecurity
  • Export controls
  • New reactor security (especially for smaller reactors)

“Market incentives are a virtually untapped asset in building a nuclear security architecture capable of withstanding future threats,” said Stimson Nonresident Fellow and report co-author Kathryn Rauhut. “Such an effort could materially change the cost-benefit calculations that cause the current underinvestment in security.
Founded in 1989, the Stimson Center is a nonprofit, nonpartisan think tank devoted to addressing transnational challenges in order to enhance global peace and economic prosperity.



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