What is the current international nuclear security architecture?
Existing international nuclear security efforts are a patchwork of legally binding agreements and resolutions, non-binding instruments, and multilateral cooperative initiatives. Participation and implementation vary widely. Combined, these efforts do not yet add up to a system that ensures all nuclear weapons, weapons-usable material, and major facilities are effectively protected against terrorist and criminal threats.
|Nuclear Security Instruments||Legally Binding?||Status||Description|
|Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)||In force since 1987||153 State Parties [i]||Requires states to apply physical protection measures to civil nuclear material during international transport|
|2005 Amendment to the CPPNM||Enters into force
May 8 [ii]
|103 State Parties||Extends CPPNM’s physical protection requirements to material in domestic use, storage, and transport and requires states to protect nuclear facilities against sabotage|
|International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT)||In force since 2007||103 State Parties [iii]||Requires states to criminalize and prosecute acts by individuals planning, threatening, or carrying out nuclear terrorism|
|UN Security Council Resolution 1540 (2004)||Binding on all states||Extended Mandate through 2021||Requires states to criminalize acts that help terrorists acquire WMD or related materials, and to maintain “appropriate effective” security and accounting measures, as well as export and border controls|
|IAEA Recommendations and Guidance||Non-Binding||Used by many states, but level of implementation is inconsistent||Designed to assist states in implementing relevant binding conventions and setting up their domestic nuclear security systems|
|IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (2004)||Non-Binding||131 states have expressed support [iv]||Provides guidance for radioactive source control and for mitigating and minimizing consequences if control measures fail. Also provides guidance on the international transfer of sources.|
|UN Security Council Resolution 1887 (2009)||Non-Binding||Implementation varies||Calls upon, but does not require, states to undertake a broad set of actions, including raising standards of nuclear security, sharing best practices, and minimizing the use of HEU in civilian applications|
|G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction (GP)||Voluntary Participation||24 Members Plus Russia [v]||Launched in 2002 by the G8 as a ten-year $20 billion effort to fund a wide range of threat reduction activities in the former Soviet Union, and has since widened its membership and expanded its activities globally|
|Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT)||Voluntary Participation||86 Members [vi]||Organizes activities among partner states to strengthen global capacity to prevent, detect, and respond to nuclear terrorism|
|Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI)||Voluntary Participation||105 Partners [vii]||An informal grouping of states that have joined together to interdict illicit shipments of WMD, their delivery systems, and related materials|
|The Nuclear Security Summits||Voluntary Participation||52 nations and 4 international organizations attended in 2016, 47 states and 3 international organizations attended in 2010
53 states and 4 international organizations attended in 2012 and 2014 [viii]
|The Summit process has generated a sense of urgency about the threat and advancing the nuclear security agenda. Taking place at the head-of-state level, the Summits have focused unprecedented high-level attention on nuclear security and mobilized often-inert state bureaucracies. The process also includes inter-summit meetings among high-level government officials, known as “sherpas.” Sherpa meetings have enabled states to identify governance gaps, agree on next steps to secure vulnerable nuclear material, and develop national and joint commitments—known as “house gifts” and “gift baskets” respectively—to strengthen nuclear security. [ix]|
Are all materials and facilities covered by the existing agreements and guidelines related to nuclear and radiological security?
No, the existing system is not comprehensive:
- State Parties to the CPPNM are not legally obligated to ensure the physical protection of nuclear materials or facilities located on their territories, as the CPPNM applies only to material in international transport
- CPPNM entered into force on May 8. [x]
- The CPPNM and its 2005 Amendment, along with IAEA guidelines, apply only to nuclear material in civilian use, but 85 percent of global weapons-usable nuclear material is categorized as being in military or non-civilian use, and is therefore not captured by these instruments
- UNSCR 1540 obligates states to maintain “appropriate effective measures” to account for, secure, and provide physical protection for nuclear weapons and related material at all times, making it the only legally binding instrument requiring security measures on such items regardless of their location or intended use. However, the resolution does not provide specific guidance on implementation, including a definition of “appropriate effective measures” detailing the standards and practices states must implement to meet this obligation. As a result, variable interpretation and implementation across states may compromise the achievement of UNSCR 1540 objectives.
- No legally binding mechanism governs how states should ensure the security of non-nuclear radioactive material
- ICSANT includes a wider definition of material and facilities than does the CPPNM, as it covers both nuclear and other radioactive materials in both military and civil applications. However, it is not primarily oriented towards ensuring adequate physical protection, but is instead designed to criminalize offenses related to nuclear terrorism, and to establish a system of cooperation, such as extraditions, through which the international community could respond to offenses set forth in the treaty.
Do the Nuclear Security Summits address all types of nuclear and other radioactive materials, including those in non-civilian uses?
- Technically, yes. The 2014 Summit Communiqué recognized that all countries are responsible for effectively securing nuclear and other radioactive materials, including those used in nuclear weapons, which may be located on their respective territories. [xi]
- The focus, however, has been on civilian materials and facilities, and none of the 8 participants that possess nuclear weapons have made specific commitments in the Summit context to strengthening the security of non-civilian materials
- The 2010 Summit did not address other radioactive materials, but participants agreed to add the issue to the summit agenda in 2012
- In 2014, 23 states signed a joint statement on enhancing radiological security, committing to secure all IAEA Category I sources on their territories by 2016, using measures from relevant IAEA guidance documents [xii]
Are all states with weapons-usable nuclear material party to the existing agreements?
CPPNM amendment entry into force has been achieved. [xiii]
Are states held accountable for lax nuclear and radiological security?
Given the global implications of nuclear terrorism, every state has an interest in knowing whether other states are meeting their nuclear security responsibilities.
- The binding international instruments that currently exist do not define specific standards or best practices for how secure nuclear and other radioactive materials should be, and do not contain monitoring or enforcement mechanisms for holding states accountable
- Non-binding IAEA recommendations and guidelines provide greater detail, and assist states in implementing the provisions of relevant conventions, but their implementation is inconsistent
- UNSCR 1540 requires all states to submit implementation reports, but reporting requirements are ill-defined, and the Committee does not possess the resources to monitor implementation.
How has the Summit process promoted the implementation of nuclear and radiological security standards?
- Each of the three summit communiqués encouraged states to reflect in national practice the measures enumerated in IAEA guidance documents
- In 2014, 35 participating states signed onto a joint statement committing themselves to: [xiv]
- Subscribe to the fundamental principles detailed in the IAEA document titled Objective and Essential Elements of a State’s Nuclear Security Regime, which provides the basis for the Agency’s security recommendations
- Meet or exceed IAEA recommendations for securing nuclear and other radioactive material
- Continually improve the effectiveness of their nuclear security systems through self-assessments, peer reviews, and acting upon those reviews
- Ensure all individuals with accountability for nuclear security are demonstrably competent.
To bridge the accountability gap, interested states have worked to develop and promote confidence-building measures, or voluntary actions states can take to assure others they are providing adequate levels of nuclear security.
Confidence-building measures include:
- Peer Reviews:
- The IAEA offers peer reviews upon request, through International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions. IPPAS missions review a state’s legal and regulatory basis for nuclear security, and assess whether state systems are consistent with relevant treaties and IAEA guidelines [xv]
- While information acquired by the review team is kept confidential, a state’s decision to host an IPPAS mission builds international confidence that it is committed to strengthening its nuclear security system.
- Physical Protection Assessments:
- Most major nuclear suppliers require cooperation partners to meet baseline nuclear security standards
- For example, the United States carries out security assessments in countries with which it concludes nuclear cooperation agreements to ensure adequate physical protection is in place at sites receiving U.S.-origin material. [xvi]
- Information Sharing:
- A number of states publish nuclear security regulations or other relevant information outlining their security arrangements
- According to one assessment, “11 of 25 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials now publish both their regulations and an annual report.” [xvii] These countries include Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Canada, France, India, Pakistan, Russia, South Africa, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
- Exchanging Best Practices:
- The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) is an organization based in Vienna dedicated to providing an international forum to bring together nuclear security practitioners to develop and share best practices. [xviii]
Have such confidence-building measures received attention in the Nuclear Security Summit process?
- Each of the Summit Communiqués encouraged countries to request IPPAS missions, and many participants pledged, in the form of gift baskets, to do so
- Between the 2010 and 2014 Summits, 11 participants hosted an IPPAS mission, and another 10 invited the IAEA to conduct a mission [ixx]
- At the 2014 Summit, 35 states signed a joint statement committing to host periodic peer reviews, such as IPPAS missions, and to act upon the recommendations identified during these reviews. [xx]
- The 2014 Summit Communiqué included a paragraph detailing a host of voluntary confidence-building measures beyond IPPAS missions for participants to consider, including: publishing information about national laws, regulations, and organizational structures; exchanging best practices; providing information through existing reporting mechanisms and forums; and developing and promoting training and certification schemes for nuclear security personnel.
The 2016 NSS Communique included a paragraph highlighting the participating states’ commitment to implementing Action Plans for nuclear security created by the international organizations in attendance. [xxi]
What is being done to minimize and eliminate weapons-usable nuclear material?
For more information and map sources visit NTI’s HEU Resource Collection.
One of the most effective ways to reduce the likelihood of terrorists acquiring weapons-usable nuclear material is to minimize the number of places where they can find it. Significantly fewer locations house HEU, separated plutonium, and nuclear weapons than was the case twenty or thirty years ago thanks in large part to bilateral and multilateral initiatives, such as the U.S.-sponsored Nunn-Lugar Cooperative Threat Reduction Program (created in response to the collapse of the Soviet Union), and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI) (established in 2004). The Summit process has also helped overcome various technical, economic, and political hurdles to minimization and elimination efforts, particularly with regard to HEU used in civilian applications. Yet nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material still exist in numerous locations globally, leaving substantial room for further progress.
Civilian Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU)
- As indicated in the map, HEU, the most widely dispersed weapons-usable material, is used in a variety of reactors for civilian applications, such as research, medical isotope production and naval propulsion. For almost all reactor types, it is possible to use low enriched uranium (LEU), which is not weapons-usable [xxii]
- Consolidating stockpiles and minimizing the use of HEU in civilian applications has been a key priority on the international nuclear security agenda, and the Summit process has helped build consensus support for civil HEU minimization
- As of November 2014, 28 countries had been cleared of HEU, most of which did so with the help of GTRI and its predecessor programs. [xxiii]
- The global stockpile of separated plutonium amounts to an estimated 495 metric tons, 98% of which is found in countries with nuclear weapons. [xxiv] Nearly half of this stockpile was produced for nuclear weapons, while the rest was produced in civilian reactors and separated from spent fuel through a chemical process known as reprocessing [xxv]
- In contrast to civilian HEU, there has been only limited focus on reducing the number of civilian sites housing plutonium stocks. [xxvi] Countries continue to reprocess spent fuel on an enormous scale, producing an estimated 740 bombs worth of separated plutonium per year [xxvii]
- The 2014 Summit in the Hague addressed civil plutonium stocks for the first time, encouraging participating countries to keep stockpiles to a minimum. In addition, Japan announced that it would eliminate all 331 kilograms of plutonium and 214.5 kilograms of HEU stored at the Tokai-mura Fast Critical Assembly. This represented a major success, given the quantity of material involved, and because much of it is in a form ideal for weapons-use [xxviii]
- The 2014 Summit Communiqué controversially applauded efforts to convert separated plutonium into mixed-oxide (MOX) fuel for use in power reactors. Nonproliferation experts strongly contest the notion that converting separated plutonium into MOX has a comparable security benefit to down-blending HEU to LEU, since the former process is far easier to reverse. [ixxx]
At the height of the Cold War, U.S. nuclear weapons were located in over a dozen countries, and the Soviet Union stationed weapons throughout its territory. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, there was a major push to reduce the number of locations where these weapons were stored. Supported by the Nunn-Lugar program, Soviet nuclear weapons inherited by Belarus, Kazakhstan, and the Ukraine were returned to Russia, and numerous fissile material production facilities, as well as warhead handling and storage sites, were closed. [xxx] Most U.S. forward-deployed nuclear weapons were moved back to the continental United States, with the exception of the few hundred that remained in Europe.
Since the late-1990s, there have been some additional efforts to consolidate military stockpiles. However, no nuclear-armed country has plans to further consolidate its materials and weapons to fewer locations. [xxxi]
- In 2006, the United States began consolidating its nuclear weapons complex, limiting HEU and plutonium operations to 5 sites by 2012. [xxxii] The United States continues to station some 200 air-deliverable bombs in five European countries
- Russia is still believed to house weapons-usable nuclear material at more than 200 locations, and nuclear weapons at 48 permanent storage sites and dozens of temporary locations [xxxiii]
- Other countries’ stockpiles are distributed across a small number of sites, precluding substantial consolidation efforts. Pakistan appears to be expanding its nuclear arsenal, as well as the number of storage sites within the country. [xxxiv]
What happens if the Summit process ends in 2016?
The Summit process was not envisioned as permanent, and is unlikely to continue beyond 2016. [xxxv] Unfortunately, there is currently no institutionalized forum to take over the Summits’ mission. IAEA nuclear security conferences, ministerial meetings, CPPNM review conferences, GICNT, the G8 Global Partnership, or a new mechanism have all been suggested as possible replacement hosts for elements of the Summit process. [xxxvi] Discussion of whether an existing or new mechanism should succeed the Summits will be a central concern of the 2016 Summit.
[i] “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” IAEA, Accessed April 26, 2016, https://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Conventions/cppnm_status.pdf.
[ii] “Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” IAEA, Accessed April 26, 2016, https://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Conventions/cppnm_amend_status.pdf.
[iii] “ISCANT,” United Nations, Last modified April 2016, https://treaties.un.org/Pages/ViewDetailsIII.aspx?src=TREATY&mtdsg_no=XVIII-15&chapter=18&Temp=mtdsg3&lang=en.
[iv] “List of States,” IAEA Code of COnduct on Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, April 2016, http://www-ns.iaea.org/downloads/rw/imp-export/status-list.pdf.
[vi] “GICNT Partner Nations List,” GICNT, Last modified June 2015, http://www.gicnt.org/content/downloads/partners/GICNT_Partner_Nation_List_June2015.pdf.
[vii] NTI PSI page, http://www.nti.org/learn/treaties-and-regimes/proliferation-security-initiative-psi/.
[viii] Countries and International Organizations Attending NSS 2016,” Nuclear Security Summit, Last modified March 9, 2016, http://www.nss2016.org/attending-delegations/.
[ix] Nuclear Security Summit, “Sherpa Meeting in Ottawa – One Step Closer to The Hague,” October 22, 2013, https://www.nss2014.com/en/news/sherpa-meeting-in-ottawa-one-step-closer-to-the-hague.
[x] “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” IAEA, Accessed April 26, 2016, https://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Conventions/cppnm_status.pdf.
[xi] “The Hague Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué,” Hague Nuclear Security Summit, March 24-25, 2014, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/the_hague_nuclear_security_summit_communique_final.pdf.
[xii] Office of the Press Secretary, “Statement on Enhancing Radiological Security,” The White House, March, 24 2014, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/03/24/statement-enhancing-radiological-security.
[xiii] “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” IAEA, Accessed April 26, 2016, https://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Conventions/cppnm_status.pdf.
[xiv] The 7 states with 1kg or more of weapons-usable nuclear material that have not ratified the 2005 Amendment include: Belarus, Iran, Italy, North Korea, Pakistan, South Africa, and the United States. The 7 such states that have not ratified ICSANT include: Argentina, Iran, Israel, Italy, North Korea, Pakistan, and the United States.
[xv] “Strengthening nuclear security implementation,” Hague Nuclear Security Summit, March 25, 2015, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/strengthening_nuclear_security_implementation.pdf.
[xvi] International Atomic Energy Agency, “International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS),” June 20, 2013, http://www-ns.iaea.org/security/ippas.asp.
[xvii] Nuclear Threat Initiative, “Practical Proposals for Providing International Assurances,” Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities Non-Paper 2, November 19, 2012, http://www.nti.org/analysis/articles/non-paper-2-practical-proposals-providing-international-assurances/.
[xviii] Nuclear Threat Initiative and Economist Intelligence Unit, NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index: Building a Framework for Assurance, 2nd Edition, January 2014, p. 50, http://ntiindex.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/2014-NTI-Index-Report1.pdf.
[ixx] “World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS),” Nuclear Threat Initiative, http://www.nti.org/about/projects/wins/.
[xx] Results of the Nuclear Security Summit’s Three Main Goals, March 2014, p. 3, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/downloads/results_of_the_nuclear_security_summits_three_main_goals.pdf.
[xxi] “Strengthening nuclear security implementation,” Hague Nuclear Security Summit, March 25, 2015, https://www.nss2014.com/sites/default/files/documents/strengthening_nuclear_security_implementation.pdf.
[xxii] “Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communique,” Nuclear Security Summit 2016, Last modified April 2016, http://static1.squarespace.com/static/568be36505f8e2af8023adf7/t/56fef01a2eeb810fd917abb9/1459548186895/Communiqu%C3%A9.pdf.
[xxiii] “Civil Uses of HEU,” NTI Civilian HEU Reduction and Elimination Resource Collection, January 29, 2014.
[xxiv] “Civilian HEU: Who Has What?” NTI Civilian HEU Reduction and Elimination Resource Collection, November 2014.
[xxv] International Panel on Fissile Materials, “Global Fissile Material Report 2013: Increasing Transparency of Nuclear Warhead and Fissile Material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament,” Seventh Annual Report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, October 2013, p. 8, http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr13.pdf.
[xxiv] International Panel on Fissile Materials, “Global Fissile Material Report 2013: Increasing Transparency of Nuclear Warhead and Fissile Material Stocks as a Step toward Disarmament,” Seventh Annual Report of the International Panel on Fissile Materials, October 2013, p. 8, http://fissilematerials.org/library/gfmr13.pdf.
[xxvii] Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey, “Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 36-38.
[xxviii] Douglas Birch, “Obama curbs nuclear security goals as bomb-building budget grows,” The Center for Public Integrity, July 29, 2014.
[ixxx] Matthew Bunn, “Eliminating Potential Bomb Material from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly,” Nuclear Security Matters, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, March 24, 2014, www.nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org.
[xxx] Ed Lyman, “The Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué Statement on Separated Plutonium Is a Step Backward,” Union of Concerned Scientists, March 25, 2014, www.allthingsnuclear.org.
[xxxi] Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey, “Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 38-39.
[xxxii] National Nuclear Security Administration, “NNSA Ships Additional Special Nuclear Material from LLNL,” Press Release, August 31, 2011, http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/materialllnl83111; National Nuclear Security Administration, “NNSA Completes Removal of All High Security Special Nuclear Material from LLNL,” Press Release, September 21, 2012, http://nnsa.energy.gov/mediaroom/pressreleases/snmremoval092112.
[xxxiii] Matthew Bunn and Eben Harrell, “Consolidation: Thwarting Nuclear Theft,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2012, p. 19-20.
[xxxiv] Matthew Bunn and Eben Harrell, “Consolidation: Thwarting Nuclear Theft,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2012, p. 18-19; Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey, “Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 39.
[xxxv] John Carlson, “Discussion Paper: The Nuclear Security Mission Beyond 2014: Options for Addressing Governance Gaps,” Nuclear Threat Initiative, June 2013, p. 5, https://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/Beyond_2014_4.pdf.
[xxxvi] Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey, “Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals,” Harvard Kennedy School Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Project on Managing the Atom, March 2014, p. 74-76.