Press Release

Amid Evolving Risks, Momentum to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism has Waned

in Program

For Immediate Release
November 7, 2017
Contact: Jim Baird; [email protected]; 202.478.3413

Global momentum has waned in efforts to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear and radiological materials, according to a new report released today by the nonpartisan Stimson Center. The report, Re-energizing Nuclear Security: Trends and Potential Collaborations Post Security Summits, finds that momentum to combat nuclear security threats has slowed after a series of high-level global summits concluded in 2016. Industry, governments, and civil society can re-capture momentum through a series of pragmatic actions, the report concludes.
“The world faces evolving nuclear security challenges,” said report author Lovely Umayam, project manager with the Stimson Center’s WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security Program. “Power plants can be vulnerable to evolving cyber threats. ISIL and Boko Haram are operating near nuclear facilities. The spread of weapons-grade material from North Korea is a very real concern. Industry, governments, and civil society can do more to address these challenges given this security landscape.”
During four Nuclear Security Summits from 2010 to 2016, governments, civil society, and nuclear industry pledged to increase nuclear security. The final summit in April 2016 tasked five international organizations to maintain the integrity of the international nuclear security architecture — the United Nations, the IAEA, International Police Organization (INTERPOL), the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (Global Partnership). But more than a year and a half after that summit, it remains unclear how previous summit commitments will translate into measurable actions. Gaps in nuclear security at facilities, in states, and on the international level have persisted as challenges continue to evolve.
The report proposes several recommendations for stakeholders to adopt to better confront nuclear security challenges. Recommendations include:

  • States party to the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM/A) should call for regular reviews to ensure all parties are implementing it. Innovative countries could look to develop streamlined reporting of compliance with the convention’s fundamental principles as part of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1540 reporting.
  • Civil Society should consider how they can better complement the work being done by governments and industry, potentially by promoting transparency and accountability, and by identifying and evaluating new avenues to increase nuclear security such as market incentives.
  • Nuclear industry should explore specific ways it can help implement the Nuclear Security Summit action plans. For instance, the industry group could:
    • Serve as the official hub for international information sharing and collaboration on security issues;
    • Develop an industry framework for strong governance on nuclear security, and;
    • Promote industry discussions with the five organizations on emerging nuclear technologies/approaches.

“Some have compared global nuclear security to a leaky bucket — there are holes all over,” said report author Debra Decker, senior advisor with the Stimson Center’s WMD, Nonproliferation, and Security Program. “The spread of civilian nuclear technology can be a good thing — but it must be done right. Governments need to push the five international organizations to actively pursue security commitments  — collaboratively with stakeholders like industry. Industry should recognize the benefits it can gain from such structured engagement. Civil society must continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible. Without continued action, the world will be ill-equipped to guard against evolving nuclear risks.”

The Stimson Center is a nonpartisan policy research center working to solve the world’s greatest threats to security and prosperity.


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