Despite progress in recent years, the current global nuclear security system still has major gaps that prevent it from being truly comprehensive and effective. For instance, no common set of international standards and best practices exists, there is no mechanism for holding states with lax security accountable, and the legal foundation for securing materials is neither complete nor universally observed. What’s more, 83 percent of all stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials are military materials and remain outside existing international security mechanisms.
Without a comprehensive and effective global system in place, states’ approaches to nuclear security vary widely, creating dangerous weak links that terrorists could exploit as they seek the easiest path to weapons-usable nuclear materials.
Over three years, NTI has worked with senior government officials, representatives from international organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency, leading experts, and nuclear industry representatives to reach a consensus on the following four elements of an effective global nuclear security system:
1. All weapons-usable nuclear materials and facilities should be covered by the system, including materials outside civilian programs (or “military materials”).
2. All states and facilities holding those materials should adhere to international standards and best practices.
3. States should help build confidence in the effectiveness of their security practices and should take reassuring actions to demonstrate that all nuclear materials and facilities are secure.
4. States should work to reduce risk through minimizing or, where feasible, eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials stocks and the number of locations where they are found.
In the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué, leaders wrote, “Continuous efforts are needed to achieve our common goal of strengthening the international nuclear security architecture, and we recognize that this is an ongoing process.”
As the high-profile Nuclear Security Summit process comes to a close, reaching agreement on an ongoing process to build an effective global nuclear security system and to sustain high-level political attention on nuclear security must be a top priority.
For more information on NTI’s efforts to build consensus on the need for a global system, see www.nti.org/globaldialogue.