Nonproliferation
Project Note

Nuclear Security News and Member Updates Roundup, September 2021

In September, the United States announced AUKUS partnership, North Korea begins expanding an enrichment facility capable of producing weapons-grade uranium

Dear INSF Members,

I am struck by the sheer volume and diversity of our membership’s activities over the past month. Between publications and events on nuclear material minimization, insider threats, and strengthening international architecture, we have all been very busy. These outputs demonstrate how much work there is to be done by our community and the important contributions we make to nuclear security. Congratulations to all for having such a productive September! Additionally, thank you to those who welcomed our new INSF Coordinator, Sneha Nair. We are thrilled she has joined the team.

Best,
Nick

Join the conversation on Twitter: @INS_Forum

Updates

  • On September 21, 2021, the International Nuclear Security Forum hosted a meeting to discuss the proliferation implications of AUKUS and provide key insights into the technical details of the arrangement, forecast AUKUS’s policy implications, and highlight activities by INSF members related to the arrangement.
  • On September 30, 2021 the International Nuclear Security Forum and the Gender Champions in Nuclear Policy (GCNP) hosted “Community in Crisis: Impact of COVID-19 on Gender Equity and Inclusion in Nuclear Security,” a briefing on the research conducted by GCNP showing the gendered impacts of COVID-19 on the nuclear policy community.  The discussion helped foster a better understanding of how the pandemic is pushing women out of the workforce and the measures that can be taken to support gender equity and inclusion to safeguard the future of the community. Watch the recording.

Nuclear Security News

International Architecture

  • IAEA Completes Nuclear Security Advisory Mission in Burkina Faso: “The scope of the two-week International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission included the legislative and regulatory framework for the security of radioactive material, regulatory practices, and coordination between all stakeholders involved in nuclear security. The conduct of the mission included a review of security systems and practices in place at several facilities.”
  • 15 Years of the Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan: IAEA Assists 112 Countries to Identify Security Needs: “Upon request, the IAEA supports a State in the development of its country specific plan that outlines priorities and develops implementation strategies and a timeline to complete activities toward enhancing the country’s nuclear security regime.”
  • Zimbabwe Joins Four Multilateral Treaties in Nuclear Safety and Security: “Zimbabwe, which uses nuclear technologies in health, agriculture and research, joined the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), as well as the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management.”
  • Pandemic’s Impact and Enhancing Regulations Discussed at Nuclear Safety & Security Gathering: “Enhancing regulations for nuclear safety and security and the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on global and regional network’s activities were the focus of discussion at this year’s Global Nuclear Safety and Security Network (GNSSN) Plenary Meeting. Launched in 2006, GNSSN supports the IAEA’s Nuclear Safety and Security Programme [sic] by enhancing international cooperation and dialogue among global, regional and national technical networks in nuclear safety and security.”

Security Culture

  • Training Center to teach first responders to work nuclear emergencies: “[T]he facilities will train experts in nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear security, nuclear operations and emergency response, allowing people to learn from ‘experts.’” “[T]he center will support strategic partnerships with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, Department of Justice and regional, state and local emergency responders, along with a “sharing of knowledge” with academia.”

Weapons, Materials, and Facilities

  • Nuclear Safety and Security in India: Emerging Threats and Response Preparedness: “Nuclear security is important for India for a number of reasons. As India has a large nuclear programme [sic] and its atomic energy facilities are spread across the country, and also considering that the country’s immediate neighbourhood [sic] is not benign, there are significant vulnerabilities to nuclear terrorism and other threats.”
  • Pentagon Plans to Track Social Media to Identify Insider Threats: “The Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency needs contractors with expertise in using automation to search publicly available electronic information, including social media, to determine whether an identified employee is an insider threat, according to a sources sought notice. This solicitation is focused on the insider-threat subset of intentional misuse of access—not accidental conduct—to harm the United States. Analysts at DCSA’s Insider Threat Management and Analysis Center determine whether a military service member, civilian employee, or contractor has engaged in behavior that indicates the possibility of malicious conduct, such as an attack on a system or data theft.”
  • Closed consultation: Civil Nuclear Constabulary: service expansion and diversification: “This consultation seeks views on proposed legislation to amend the remit and powers of the Civil Nuclear Constabulary, the specialist armed police force charged with protecting civil nuclear sites and nuclear materials in England, Scotland and Wales. This will ensure that, should a need arise in the future, the Constabulary can utilise [sic] their expertise in deterrence and armed response to support other critical infrastructure sites, as well as assist other police forces in an emergency.”

Minimization and Reduction

  • US, Norway work together to eliminate HEU: “The US Department of Energy (DOE) and Norway’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Fisheries have signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to advance a cooperative project to eliminate all of Norway’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) by downblending it to low-enriched uranium. The MoU calls for downblending activities to begin in 2022 using Norway’s existing infrastructure.”
  • US NNSA launches RadSecure radiological security initiative: “The US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Safety Administration (DOE/NNSA) said on 31 August it had launched a major radiological security project…The RadSecure 100 Initiative focuses on removing radioactive material from facilities where feasible and improving securities located in 100 metropolitan areas throughout the United States.”
  • NNSA Awards $37 Million to Promote U.S. Production of Critical Medical Isotope: “The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) issued two cooperative agreements worth a total of $37 million with a Wisconsin company to support the commercial production of molybdenum-99 (Mo-99), a critical isotope used in more than 40,000 medical procedures in the United States each day, including the diagnosis of heart disease and cancer. The agreements with NorthStar Medical Technologies, LLC of Beloit, Wisconsin will allow for a reliable supply of Mo-99 without the need to use highly enriched uranium (HEU) that presents nuclear nonproliferation concerns.”

Crisis and Recovery Operations

  • Wildfires Near Russia’s Nuclear Research Center Spark State of Emergency: “Russian authorities have declared an interregional state of emergency as tough-to-contain forest fires threaten the country’s top-secret nuclear weapons research center, Interfax reported Tuesday, citing the emergencies ministry… Today, the research center makes nuclear warheads and is believed to be developing Russia’s strategic missiles, including its highly touted hypersonic arsenal. Firefighters have struggled to contain the fires due to hard-to-reach terrain, dead wood that remained after the 2010 wildfires and poor weather conditions.”

Threats

  • Unauthorized Drone Flights Prohibited In LANL Restricted Airspace, Including Additional No Drone Zone: “Since 2018 Los Alamos National Laboratory, in collaboration with the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) [sic]. and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) [sic], has operated a system to counter all unauthorized unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) [sic] over its restricted airspace and an additional FAA designated ‘No Drone Zone.’ Recent unauthorized drone flights have been detected in this restricted airspace… ‘The drone flying public should be reminded that all airspace over the Laboratory is protected against unauthorized drone or UAS flights,’ said Unica Viramontes, Senior Director of Security at the Laboratory. ‘We can detect and track a UAS, and if it poses a threat, we have the ability to disrupt control of the system, seize or exercise control, confiscate, or use reasonable force to disable, damage or destroy the UAS.’”
  • Biden Announces Defense Deal With Australia in a Bid to Counter China: “The Biden administration took a major step on Wednesday in challenging China’s broad territorial claims in the Pacific, announcing that the United States and Britain would help Australia to deploy nuclear-powered submarines, adding to the Western presence in the region. If the plan comes to fruition, Australia may be conducting routine patrols that could move through areas of the South China sea that Beijing claims as its exclusive zone and range as far north as Taiwan.”
  • What does the Australian submarine deal mean for non-proliferation?: “Most non-proliferation advocates are not terribly worried about Australia building a nuke… They are more concerned that the spread of nuclear-submarine technology and fuel for propulsion reactors sets a dangerous precedent that will be exploited by others. Countries that do want nuclear weapons, or simply want to keep the option open, might see submarines as a convenient excuse for making or acquiring bomb-usable HEU, out of sight of pesky inspectors.”
  • Satellite images reveal North Korea expanding facility used to produce weapons-grade uranium: “New satellite images obtained by CNN reveal North Korea is expanding a key facility capable of enriching uranium for nuclear weapons, renovations that likely indicate the country plans to significantly ramp-up production at this once-dormant site in the near future, according to experts who analyzed the photos. Initial analysis also suggests North Korea conducted a missile launch over the weekend, as three US officials told CNN, one day after it claimed to have test fired a long-range cruise missile with range capable of hitting Japan.”

Opinion and Analysis

  • State of Nuclear Security: Trends Threaten Progress Against Nuclear Terrorism: “Mercifully, no such tragedy has occurred, and the haunting question we must ask ourselves is, Why not? Although there may be a temptation to chalk up earlier dire warnings to alarmism, a more compelling explanation is that the U.S. government simply took to heart its vulnerability to nuclear terrorism and responded accordingly.”

Member Organization Announcements and Updates

Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation

  • The Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation released a statement on the passing of Center Board member and renowned national security expert, Secretary Philip E. Coyle, who died peacefully on September 2, 2021. Read the statement.

CRDF Global

  • CRDF Global is hiring for several positions that would be of interest to INSF members, including those on nuclear security, DPRK and Iran counterproliferation. Learn more.

The Stimson Center

  • The Stimson Center Nuclear Security program working with the Center for Energy and Security Studies hosted an off-the-record workshop, “Placing Nuclear Security in a Broader Nuclear Policy Context.”

James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies

  • George Moore, Scientist in Residence at CNS/MIIS, co-authored an op-ed in The Hill with fellow INSF member, Frank von Hippel, Senior Research Physicist and Professor of Public and International Affairs Emeritus with Princeton’s Program on Science & Global Security. Their piece, “Nuclear subs in Australia will challenge the nonproliferation regime, and China,” examined the nonproliferation risks of the AUKUS agreement to provide nuclear submarines for Australia. Read the article.

NPSGlobal Foundation

  • Irma Arguello conducted the traditional Seminar on Nuclear Security, including a thorough analysis of the risks, and measures of prevention and response, including governance, legal framework, and best practices within the framework of the Program in International Security, Disarmament and Non-proliferation. This program is the NPSGlobal’s flagship educational activity that has gathered students all over Latin America and the Caribbean for the last 11 years. Materials included the well-known Report Terror Unleashed that examines the multidimensional effects of a potential nuclear terrorist attack, the 2020 NTI Index, and visiting lecturer Dr. Edith Valles, from the Group of Experts of the UNSC 1540 Committee.

Nuclear Threat Initiative

  • As part of the “NTI at 20” series for Atomic Pulse, Mimi Hall interviewed Ernest Moniz and Laura Holgate. Read the Ernest Moniz interview and the Laura Holgate interview.
  • Samantha Neakrase authored a new paper for NTI entitled “The Global Nuclear Security Architecture: Closing Gaps to Build Greater Assurance, Accountability, and Action,” which provides an overview of today’s nuclear security architecture, identifies areas of weakness, and recommends ways to close gaps. The paper draws from data and analysis from two signature NTI projects, the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities and the NTI Nuclear Security Index. Read the paper.
  • NTI updated their NTI Index Country Action Tracker with their “Country Actions: August 2021 Update.” Read the index.
  • NTI published the “WINS Resources for Strengthening Nuclear and Radiological Security.” Learn more.
  • NTI senior leaders and experts presented and participated at the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) & European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA) Joint Annual Virtual Meeting, hosted between August 23 – September 1, 2021. Learn more.
  • NTI is hosting a virtual panel on October 13, 2021 at 10:00am ET entitled, “Preventing a Dirty Bomb: Alternative Technologies to Radioactive Sources.” The panel will feature experts from the National Academy of Sciences, National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), Government Accountability Office (GAO), and the Government of Switzerland. Learn more.
  • NTI is currently hiring for their Spring 2022 cohort of Interns and is searching for a Vice President of Scientific and Technical Affairs. Learn more.

Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University

  • Matthew Bunn authored an article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists entitled, “Twenty years after 9/11, terrorists could still go nuclear” Read the article.

Third Way

  • Third Way is seeking to hire an HR operations manager, Economic Policy Advisor/Economist, and Salesforce Database Administrator. Third Way is also seeking a Digital Communications Intern. Learn more.

Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology

  • Il Soon Hwang authored an Op-Ed in a Korean Newspaper this month.
  • Il Soon Hwang and a team from the Ulsan National Institute of Science and Technology presented at a conference on June 29, 2021.

Universiteit Antwerpen

  • The Research Group International Politics of the Universiteit Antwerpen (Belgium) organized its third (closed) workshop on insider threats on September 21, 2021 in Antwerp. The theme of this year was “Security screenings in Belgium”.
  • On September 24, 2021, Prof Tom Sauer (International Politics, Universiteit Antwerpen, Belgium) gave a presentation about insider threats at the SHIELD Conference (organized by the Antwerp Police) in Antwerp. Mathias Reveraert (PhD student, Universiteit Antwerpen) gave a podcast interview (in Dutch) on the same topic on the same day.

University of Texas at Austin

  • Alan J. Kuperman authored an article this month on “The US Navy’s Nuclear Proliferation Problem” for Breaking Defense. Read the article.
  • Alan J. Kuperman also authored an opinion piece on “Fixing the submarine fiasco” for the Boston Globe. Read the article.

World Nuclear Industry Status Report

  • The “World Nuclear Industry Status Report 2021 (WNISR2021)” was launched on September 28, 2021 with a virtual Global Launch event with a diverse line-up of distinguished speakers, all of whom are contributing authors. The event is hosted by the Natural Resources Defense Council, Washington D.C. co-hosted by the Rural Action and Voices for the Environment project at the University of New Brunswick, Canada, and the Environment & Society Program at St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick. Learn more.

World Institute for Nuclear Security

  • The WINS and ASEAN Centre for Energy Enter Groundbreaking Agreement was launched this month. The groundbreaking Memorandum of Understanding aims to promote capacity building and the professionalization of individuals responsible for nuclear security in the ASEAN region. Learn more.
  • WINS sat down with the recipient of WINS Academy Scholarship, Ms Furo Ebiere Eritei, to discuss her career trajectory, what she gained from WINS Academy courses, as well as her thoughts on being a woman in the field. Learn more.
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