Press conference on the release of the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index
SAM NUNN: -- Thank you for coming today, and for your interest in the release of our Nuclear Threat Initiative’s Nuclear Materials Security Index. The NTI Index is a country-by-country assessment of the status of nuclear materials security conditions around the world. This type of in-depth index has not been produced before. It takes a broad approach in defining nuclear materials security. It's comprehensive, and today it will be public. This is the publication. All of you of course will get copies, and our distinguished panel here will be going into some at least broad outlines of it, and then we'll take your questions and answers.
We hope that the NTI index will help to spur debate, dialogue and deliberation that, together, help in beginning to define the long-term path toward a more in-depth, comprehensive nuclear materials security around the world, which we think will lead to a safer and more secure world. Over the past year, our NTI team has been working in close cooperation with The Economist Intelligence Unit – Leo here is representing The Economist Intelligence Unit, and you'll hear from him later. In addition, to ensure the project has maintained an international-type perspective during its entire analysis and survey and results, we have sought the guidance and leadership from experts around the world, which includes an international panel of highly respected nuclear materials security experts from nuclear and non-nuclear weapons states and countries with and without materials, and from developed as well as developing nations. So, we tried to make the expert panel really representative of the world, but we certainly wanted to get experts. That was the number one requirement, and we did.
Why do we need the Index? We must start with a very real threat of nuclear terrorism. Today it is clear that the elements of a perfect storm are gathering. There's a large supply of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, what we call weapons-usable nuclear materials, and that's the term that you'll see in here referenced many times. That material is spread across hundreds of sites around 32 countries, and some of it – in fact, too much of it – is poorly secured.
There's also greater know-how today to build a bomb widely available, and there are terrorist organizations determined to get the material and to build a weapon if they can. It's not a piece of cake for terrorists, and we don't want to pretend that it is, but it's far from impossible, and nuclear materials security is the number one defense that we have to prevent nuclear terrorism.
We know that to get weapons-usable nuclear materials the terrorists must have in order to build a weapon – that's their long pole in the tent, so to speak – they will go where the material is most vulnerable. We have a global challenge, and we are in a race between cooperation and catastrophe. It's pretty revealing, a comment made a couple of years ago by Mohammed El-Baradei, former director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, as he noted, quoting him, “A large percentage of the materials reported as lost or stolen are never recovered.” And perhaps even more alarming, he added, quote again: “A large percentage of materials which are recovered have not been previously reported as missing,” end quote.
So, if terrorists succeed in blowing up a large city somewhere in the world, the result would be catastrophic, in the human toll of hundreds of thousands of dead and injured and disruptions to global commerce and global confidence, and long-term environmental and public health consequences, and in probable new limits on civil liberties worldwide.
So, what can we do to prevent it? We believe we're giving an important part of that answer here today. We hope that this index will help individual countries as well as the international community to set priorities and to determine what steps must be taken to better secure the materials that could be used to build a bomb. We start by taking a broad view of security. Working with the independent group of international experts that I have alluded, we identified key factors which fundamentally affect a state's nuclear material security conditions. Then we assessed their relative importance.
These factors, in broad terms – and there are a number of details under each one of them – but in broad terms, we asked the questions: How much weapons-usable material does a state have? And in how many locations? What kind of requirements for protection are in place? What international commitments related to materials security has the state made? What is the ability of that state to fulfill these international commitments? Finally, could a given country's societal factors – for instance, corruption and governmental instability – undermine its security commitments and its practices?
Certainly, we do not expect every country or every expert to agree with all of the assessment that's in this index. And we don't expect everyone to agree with our set of priorities. We welcome debate on these essential questions. We also welcome constructive suggestions for improvements, and certainly we all acknowledge that improvements can be made.
Here are some of the highlights of what we found, in very general, brief terms. First, the good news. We see clear signs that governments are becoming more engaged on this issue. There are a number of international initiatives – and most of them are set forth here in the Index – initiatives that can be credited for galvanizing actions by governments around the globe. As an example, to date, 19 countries plus Taiwan have completely eliminated their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material. I also want to give President Obama and his team credit for elevating this issue to the heads of state level through the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, and to all of the people who have been working hard to make these achievements possible. And there'll be a follow-up meeting in South Korea in March, again at the heads of state level.
So, I want to start by noting that progress is being made, and certainly many of you followed progress in the former Soviet Union, where a remarkable amount of cooperative activity is taking place with the United States and Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus recently, and other countries that have been helping in this effort for some 20 years. However, we are concerned there is not a shared consensus about what security measures matter most. The lack of shared priorities undercuts the ability of governments to take urgent and effective action, and even, it basically is a disincentive to governments taking action when there is no sharing of priorities.
Most importantly, to build a framework for assurance, accountability and action -- and that's what we're calling for here: assurance, accountability and action throughout the world -- government leaders should determine and must determine robust ways of doing the following: One, create a global dialogue and build consensus on a new security framework for the protection of nuclear materials that are weapons-usable; Two, hold states accountable for their progress; And, three, build a practice of transparency that includes declarations and peer reviews.
I want to make it clear that we understand that some information must be protected. like specific security practices at individual sites. We do not go into that kind of depth, nor should we in a public document. But there is a lot of information that should be shared with the public, and, certainly, other governments have to have confidence, and only by sharing information will that confidence be possible. And, also, we think that sharing information can help inspire actions by other countries.
When we brief governments about the index, and we have briefed a number of them as will be talked about by our fellow panelists here, some questions consistently come up. First we've been asked, are governments cooperating with you? The answer is a qualified yes. In developing the index, we offered briefings to 32 countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials. Twenty-eight took us up on it. More than half of those countries also validated the data collected by Leo and his Economist Intelligence Unit, to ensure that it was accurate. We also have kept South Korea informed, fully informed, as the host of the summit in March. And in the future, we hope more governments will be engaged more fully in this process.
Second question we're asked frequently: Why did you rank 144 countries that don't have weapons-usable materials? And we did. The answer is, even countries without weapons-usable nuclear materials must avoid becoming safe havens, staging grounds, or transit points for illicit nuclear activities. Every country can and must do more to help protect these materials.
Third, do you expect, or can the Index help the Nuclear Security Summit in March in terms of their process and their deliberations? The answer is, hopefully, from our point of view, yes. We hope that the NTI Index will help shape the discussions at the March summit, and, more importantly, help guide the international community, and individual countries, as they work to set up priorities beyond the summit. The summit is important, but the follow-through is even more important. This, of course, is up to the governments of the world, and they will make that decision.
Let me add one more thought before we move on to our other presenters. I want to be clear that this Index is not, although we do rate countries – no doubt about that – but it is not about congratulating some countries and chastising others. Instead, it should be used as a tool for initiating discussion, analysis and debate, as well as beginning to help build a consensus, as I've mentioned, on the priorities and the imperatives. The bottom line: If the world is to succeed in preventing catastrophic nuclear terrorism, all countries can and must do more to strengthen security around the world's most dangerous materials.
We believe this is a tool, a very powerful tool. It's up to governments to decide that. And, if so, to act on it. The NTI Index challenges governments worldwide to respond to the threat by taking appropriate steps to strengthen security conditions. As citizens and as leaders, we need to ask ourselves this question: If we had a catastrophic nuclear terrorist attack, whether it be in Moscow or New York or Tel Aviv or Jakarta, or any other city in the world, they day after, what steps would we wish we had taken to prevent it? Securing weapons-usable nuclear material is the most critical step, and we hope the NTI index can make a significant contribution toward this imperative goal.
In closing, I'd like to thank the funders who supported this project, the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, the Carnegie Corporation of New York, and the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. And, of course, I must thank Warren Buffett, who makes NTI and our work possible. I'd now like to introduce Leo Abruzzese from the Economist Intelligence Unit to give you more background on how they constructed the Index. Page Stoutland here, vice president of NTI's Nuclear Materials Security Program, will then give you more information about our approach and the Index results. And then he'll be followed by Deepti Choubey, the senior director of Nuclear and Biosecurity at NTI. Deepti will talk about our findings and recommendations. We thank all of you for your interest, and I look forward to your questions. Leo?
LEO ABRUZZESE: Senator, thank you very much. Thank you, Senator. My name is Leo Abruzzese with the Economist Intelligence Unit. If you're not familiar with the company I work for, I thought I would just take a moment to explain what we do and how we came to participate in the project. We are the research arm of The Economist Group, which is the publisher of The Economist magazine, and I'm sure most of you are familiar with the magazine. So we are a sister organization to the magazine, but we do a much different kind of work. We are research-based, and we mostly work on behalf of governments, corporations or nongovernmental organizations, mostly doing public policy research and other economic projects. Also, in fields like environmental science and in security.
We've done quite a bit of work on indices. We've actually made this a specialty of ours, and we have done projects like this for the World Bank, for the Gates Foundation, and for quite a number of Fortune 500s. So, with that background, NTI approached us a little over a year ago and told us of their plans to put together a Nuclear Materials Security Index, and asked us if we would essentially advise on the project, if we would be technical consultants to help them build an index that was credible. We were very happy to do that.
But one important point we always like to mention on these projects: This being Washington, there are a lot of places doing studies in Washington, and more than a few of them have a certain bias to them – ideological biases, preordained conclusions. When we work on projects like this, we have three goals in mind which we insist on, and that is they are independent, they're transparent and they're credible. If there are any results that are established ahead of time, we don't participate. So, we were very happy to find out that NTI wanted us to gather the data as objectively as we could, and to let the conclusions fall where they may, which is what we've been doing for the past year.
Now, this is an interesting project in a number of ways. With NTI, we've built an index here. It's not obvious that you would want to build an index to measure nuclear materials security. But we do that for a couple of reasons. One is, this provides a framework for looking at this subject. You can look at anything in a number of different ways, and we try to be as objective as possible. By building an index, by looking at indicators and categories in a very structured way, it allows you to have a system that you can repeat over time. So, we've done this now with NTI for the first time, being released in 2012. But should we want to do this again a year from now, two years from now, five years from now, we have a way of going about this that we can repeat. So, there's a structure, there's a level of organization to this, and a good element of objectivity.
Secondly, it makes it easy for countries to see where they've done well and where they haven't. We are attaching scores and ratings to these, so it's very easy for a country, for example, to see its progress over time. When we've built these indices in the past, we've seen countries that perhaps didn't do well in one particular area actually change laws or regulations so that they were scored better a second time around. So that's another element of an index that weighs very well in this process.
How do you go about producing an index like this? Especially on a topic like nuclear materials security, this is a subject that, almost by definition, has a heavy element of secrecy to it. The Senator pointed out that we don't want to go into areas of security at specific facilities. That would actually move against the whole goal of trying to provide security. But at the same time, countries can be transparent. They can do things to reassure the international community that they're at least playing by the rules.
So, in building an index, we gather indicators. Indicators are basically just questions that we try to answer, and answer them in a very organized fashion. We looked at dozens of indicators. We ultimately chose about 18 of them. And in order to make sure that we chose ones that were credible, we used our judgment, NTI's of course, but we also assembled an international panel, people who have worked in this field for decades. And this panel came from a wide group of countries. This was not US-based by any means. We had US members of the panel, but we had members from Russia, from China, from Indonesia, from Kazakhstan, from a number of other countries. So, this process was informed by people around the world, and it does have, as the Senator suggested, a strong international flavor to it.
Gathering this data is not easy. Again, a lot of this data is, shall we say, generously, less than transparent. A colleague of mine, Hillary Ewing, spent six months with a large team of researchers, poring through thousands of documents, looking for whatever information we could find on how much nuclear materials these countries have – that is not obvious, by the way. You cannot easily put a number to the quantities that most of these countries have. What kind of regulations do they have in place? Sometimes the regulations are easy to find. Often, they're almost impossible to find. Nonetheless, we put together a system for doing this.
As the Senator pointed out, because so much of this information is difficult to find, we gave countries an opportunity to look at what we had gathered and to tell us whether they thought it was good or whether it was a bit off. And in some cases, countries were quite generous with their time. They tweaked some of the findings that we had.
To give you one example, we had a source that said Canada has less than 1,500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium. It was true, but when we checked with Canada we found out, in fact, it was less than 500 kilograms, which is actually quite a bit less. So, this was a way of making sure that we had information that was as accurate as it could possibly be.
Finally, on this process, we put this into what we call a model, an index tool. As the Senator pointed out, this is something that you can test. You can actually change assumptions in this model. For those of you that have a technical bent, if you're in the field, if you're a stakeholder, if you're a university, this is something that you can actually use and play with. You can change weights, you can change assumptions. So, it has overall conclusions, but it's also something that you can use as a drill-down feature.
So, we hope that you'll find this interesting. We certainly found it a challenging project. We're very happy with the results. We are most certainly open for feedback. We hope we'll do this again, and each time we do these they get a little bit better the second or third time around. So, with that, I'm going to turn it over to Page Stoutland from NTI, and he'll tell you a bit about the history of the project.
PAGE STOUTLAND: Thank you, Leo. I'd like to discuss very briefly the project's overall approach, and then to provide the index results themselves. Let me begin by reiterating that, despite progress, important gaps remain in our ability to set priorities and to measure progress on nuclear materials security. And so, to address this, we've developed the first-ever comprehensive framework for nuclear materials security, that does two things: provides a basis for dialogue and priorities and is a framework against which progress can be measured.
Let me quickly summarize the five categories, including some of the indicators in the categories, as well as why they are important. The first category of indicators includes the quantity, number of – quantities and number of sites – with weapons-usable nuclear materials. It includes the quantities themselves, the number of sites, and whether or not the quantities are increasing or decreasing in a particular country. This is important because it affects the overall potential for theft in a particular country.
The second category are the security and control measures. This includes the specific physical protection measures, accounting practices, and whether or not security personnel are screened. These actions directly affect the security of materials at a given site.
The third category is what we have called global norms, and includes the relevant international legal agreements, voluntary commitments, and the level of transparency shown by a country on both its materials quantities and its material security practices. All of these measures affect the international confidence in a country's, in the way that a country takes its security obligations.
The fourth category is domestic commitments and capacity. This is about the national level implementation of actions, for example, whether or not a country has an independent regulatory agency that oversees the security practices in this area. And national level implementation is required for effective security programs.
The fifth, and final, category, what we have called societal factors, and includes the levels of corruption in a country as well as its political stability, among other things. These measures provide an important backdrop to the specific security practices that may be in place.
Taken together, these five categories comprise what we call a country's nuclear materials security conditions. A brief word about the scope of this project. The scope of this inaugural index is weapons-usable nuclear materials, specifically highly enriched uranium, separated plutonium, including the plutonium in mixed-oxide fuel. It does not include low-enriched uranium, as is used in the nuclear power industry, or radiological materials such as are used in hospitals or in industry.
Finally, countries with less than one kilogram of these weapons-usable materials, or even no weapons-usable nuclear materials, were evaluated against a sub-set of the categories, in order to assess their contribution to the global nuclear materials security agenda. Key actions would include joining relevant treaties and taking actions such as criminalizing illicit possession of weapons-usable materials, so as not to become a transit point or a staging ground for these illicit activities.
I know this chart may be a difficult to read, but shown here, as well as on pages 14 and 15 of the written report, are the overall scores and rankings for the 32 countries with greater than one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials. Pages 16-to-18 are showing the scores and rankings for countries with less than one kilogram or no weapons-usable nuclear materials.
Let me briefly review these six columns. On the far left is the column that shows the overall rankings and scores for these countries. The five columns on the right show these scores and rankings in the individual categories, starting with quantities and sites, then global norms – or, sorry, quantities and sites – then the security and control measures, global norms, domestic commitment and capacity, and the fifth and final column is the societal factors.
These, recall that these five categories on the right contribute to the overall score, based on their relevant priorities as determined by NTI and EIU in conjunction with the international panel of experts. We will not take the time here to comment on the individual rankings. Rather, what we'd like to do is call your attention to a couple of examples, to help you better understand the Index. Australia is the top-ranked country, ranked 6th or higher in every category, benefiting from small quantities of nuclear materials, strong societal factors, and high scores in the higher categories as well. For the other top-ranked countries, as well, consistently high scores in all categories was a key theme.
For comparison, the United Kingdom also scores well across the board, but its overall rank is lowered to 10th overall by its large quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials that are a legacy of the Cold War, and the fact that the quantities of these materials are increasing, particularly in the civilian sector. If the quantities of nuclear materials and the number of sites were not included, as an example, the United Kingdom would rank 4th overall.
There is a similar situation for the United States. The United States is ranked 13th overall, but if quantities and sites were not considered it would rank 2nd overall, indicating that it has high scores in all of the other categories. A distinction between the United States and the United Kingdom, as an example, is primarily due to the scores in the global norms category, where the United States has yet to ratify two important treaties.
Four countries have particularly low levels of transparency, specifically Israel, North Korea, India and China, on materials and materials security. This most directly affects the scores in what we've called the global norms category. For example, if India were as transparent as the United Kingdom, its rank in the global norms category would move from 26th to 6th overall. Appropriate levels of transparency are critical, because independent of the specific security posture on the ground, it affects the international confidence in a country's nuclear materials security conditions.
Finally, for the lowest-ranked countries, the index shows that these countries, with the exception of the materials and sites category, generally have low scores in most, if not all, of the indicator categories, and providing these countries many opportunities for improvement on their materials security conditions.
At this point, let me transition to my colleague, Deepti Choubey, who will present the findings and the recommendations of the Index.
DEEPTI CHOUBEY: Thank you, Page. Let me share with you today a selection of our key findings and recommendations from this effort. Encouragingly, one of our key findings is that governments have become far more aware of the threat and the need for urgent action to combat it. There are, however, far more troubling findings.
For instance, although there's agreement about the importance of nuclear materials security, there is no global consensus about what priorities should be for achieving security. Furthermore, there is no agreed international system or globally accepted practices for regulating the production of, the use of, and security requirements for weapons-usable materials. You might think that this is a job already done by the International Atomic Energy Agency, but the IAEA only has the authority to oversee materials in civilian programs and not the materials used for military purposes. As such, the IAEA does not have the mandate or the resources to oversee a comprehensive system covering all weapons-usable nuclear materials. So, instead, today, we only have in place part of the system that we actually need to tackle this problem.
Another finding is that a deliberate lack of transparency makes it very difficult to hold states accountable for their security responsibilities. Many details around site security, as several of us have already said, should be protected, so that they do not become a road map for terrorists. But other information could and should be made public to build international confidence. And I'll address exactly what we're recommending later on.
Also worrying is that several states are particularly vulnerable to insider threats, such as a corrupt or disgruntled worker accessing materials without authorization. Nearly a quarter of the states with weapons-usable nuclear materials scored poorly on societal factors, because of very high levels of corruption. Of those countries, several also scored poorly on the prospect of political instability over the next two years. The combination of those two factors significantly increases the risk that nuclear materials might be stolen with help from corrupt insiders or in the midst of government distraction or political chaos.
Finally, the Index also revealed that the stocks of weapons-usable materials continue to increase in a few countries. Total stocks in Japan and the United Kingdom are increasing because of civilian use whereas total stocks are increasing in India and in Pakistan due to military programs. And although there are no legal barriers to the production of new highly-enriched uranium or plutonium, the production of these materials for weapons purposes is certainly against the global norm, where all other states are abiding by a moratorium. But there are, however, a few other states that produce plutonium, but because of the use of that plutonium as fuel in civilian reactors, their current material inventories are largely static.
Despite some positive developments, these findings underscore the need for urgent action. Because no state can address this threat alone, all states have a responsibility to work both individually and cooperatively. Specifically, governments must work together to build and create the conditions for a system for tracking, protecting and managing these deadly materials. Done right, such a system could assure all of us that each state is fulfilling its security obligations. In parallel, there are also steps that countries must take by themselves and without delay.
So, let us first turn to how to create a foundation of a global network materials security system. How would we go about doing this? Foremost, we must begin a dialogue that leads to a much-needed global consensus on priorities. The Nuclear Security Summit process has the potential for being the right and, possibly, only forum for this discussion. And our hope is that leaders at the next summit commit to an ongoing process to come to agreement about what actions matter most.
Additionally, there should be a sustainable and effective way for benchmarking progress and holding states accountable to their obligations. Our hope is that the NTI index is a starting point in framing the breadth of the problem, and that it can be built on and improved as governments provide assurances through more information.
To that end, states must enact greater transparency practices, which would then, in turn, foster greater international confidence. And we're recommending three specific actions for governments. First, they should publish and provide access to their nuclear materials regulations. Currently, 13 out of the 32 states with weapons-usable materials publish both their regulations and an annual report. Governments can and should do far better than this.
Second, they should declare their nuclear material inventories. Again, there's no legal requirement for states to declare how much material they have for civilian or military purpose. However, nine states voluntarily declare their civilian plutonium holdings, and the plutonium and HEU production history for the UK and U.S. military programs have been made public. More nuclear weapon states should do the same.
And then, finally, they should invite regular peer reviews, which is a service provided by the IAEA of facilities that actually contain weapons-usable material. In parallel with these collective efforts, there are also several actions that states can take individually to improve their stewardship of weapons-usable material. For instance, all states should stop increasing their stocks of materials, particularly for military purposes. And over time, those stocks should be reduced to the lowest possible levels commensurate with civilian energy or scientific needs.
But one of the best ways to objectively measure progress is to eliminate completely weapons-usable nuclear materials in as many states as possible. Over the past two decades, 19 countries, plus Taiwan, have eliminated their materials, and, currently, 14 of the 32 states with weapons-usable materials have less than 100 kilograms, and many, but not all, of those states could be good candidates for eliminating their stocks in the next few years. We should all look to the outcome of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit to see which of these states commit to accelerating the clean-out of their materials.
We also know that two of the most important steps governments should take to strengthen their defenses against the insider threat is to decrease levels of corruption and ensure political stability. The prescriptions for these issues are beyond the scope of this project. But we do emphasize steps for strengthening security and control measures, including physical protection, control and accounting, and personnel measures at facilities and during transport of nuclear materials. These steps are the first defense against the insider threat.
But today there is no agreed global baseline defining minimum security and control measures which should be in place at all sites with HEU and plutonium. States should also routinely test their security arrangements, particularly if there are challenging societal factors that can undermine security.
In the interest of time, I will not review each of our recommendations, which are spelled out in more detail in our report, but, instead, just focus on one last one. And that is to target assistance to states that need help. The good news is that the Index has helped to easily identify 18 states that have provided financial, regulatory or security assistance on a bilateral or multilateral basis in the past two years. The index also identifies states that may be in need of assistance. Our hope is that the Index can be used as a resource to match those who need help with those who can provide assistance, and vice versa, because no matter whether a state is ranked at the top or at the bottom of the list, all states can do more to improve. Thank you. And I'll now hand it over back to Page, who will briefly walk you through what our website offers.
PAGE STOUTLAND: Thank you, Deepti. Very briefly, let me just highlight a few features on the website. The website is www.ntiindex.org. On the website, you will find electronic versions of the entire report. You will find downloadable versions of the model, the Excel spreadsheet that has the complete functionality. In addition, though, you will find all of the sort of most frequently used features on the website itself. There are the overall rankings and scores, as shown on the projector. The next slide will show an example of a country profile. There are specific pages that detail how each country did on all of the indicators themselves. And then, finally, there's a function where the user can change the relative priorities, to let the user engage with the Index, to see how the scores and rankings change as a function of the relative priorities of the specific categories and indicators. So, please explore the website for access to all of these features. And at this point, I think we're going to take questions and answers.
SAM NUNN: Thank you Leo and Page and Deepti. And now we'll have questions and answers, and be glad to have questions from the media. Back on the back left. If you want to direct it to a particular individual, do so. And if not, we'll field it among ourselves here.
Q: Perhaps you could say why you think the clump of countries that lies at the bottom of the list of 32, why do they lie there, in your analysis?
SAM NUNN: Why are the countries at the bottom?
Q: Yes. I mean, I know from the objective standards why they're there, but, I mean, what are the common characteristics which need repair? Maybe you could talk about that a little bit. And then I'm curious to know whether any of the countries that lie at the bottom of the list are among those countries that sought to get briefed by you or whether they have ignored the results of your work or the fact that the work was in progress? Thanks very much.
SAM NUNN: Well, if you wrote down your suspicions, I suspect they would all be correct. And there is certainly a relationship between those at the bottom, generally speaking, and those that did not accept the briefings or have anywhere near full cooperation. I would say, and I'll defer to my colleagues here, I will say that corruption, as has been mentioned, instability – those are two factors – and lack of transparency, if I had to say what the three factors are. And depending on which country, they vary. But those would be the three that would be the most prominent. Page, you want to comment on that?
PAGE STOUTLAND: Yeah, let me just briefly field your final question first. In terms of countries that agreed to meet with us, actually 28 of the 32 did, including some that were ranked quite near the bottom. And so, we were, in a sense, pleased to see that so many were willing to meet with us. But I will just second what Senator Nunn said. I mean, there are a number of cross-cutting themes, certainly low transparency, not participating in a full range of what we've called global norms, be they legal agreements or political agreements, and that's then coupled with sometimes very challenging levels of corruption and low political stability. So, those things came together for those countries, and resulted in them being ranked at the bottom of the Index.
SAM NUNN: Yes?
Q: Thank you. Hi. I'm not quite sure, Senator Nunn, whether it would be you or one of the experts, but looking at all the data that you collected, there have been scattered reports, of course, over the years that terrorists do have some type of access or could be holding material, not using it yet. Is there anything that you found in this research that does help to clarify that, whether any terrorist organization does have something that could be very serious?
SAM NUNN: There have been a series of recent articles talking about what happened in terms of the last 20 years, and there's a lot that's been done that's prevented weapons of mass destruction from spreading. I mean, we've had teams of US and Russian experts working together, military to military, lab to lab. We've had coordination between a number of countries in helping the former Soviet Union get control of their nuclear materials. That was where the largest stockpile was in the world. Kazakhstan has taken a lead in this regard. Ukraine has recently taken a lead. Kazakhstan, Ukraine and Belarus gave up all their nuclear weapons, which most people in the world don't know about. Most people don't know about the fact that 10 percent of the electricity in this country, one out of every 10 light bulbs, comes from nuclear material that was formerly in weapons pointed at us from Russia, Ukraine, others in the former Soviet Union. So, 10 percent of our electricity is in highly enriched uranium that was in weapons blended down to low enriched uranium, converted into nuclear fuel, and we bought it. That was part of the dismantling. So a lot of has been done.
What's missing and whether there's material out there that no one knows about, it's always possible. I certainly would not discount it. I would say that I've always operated under the probably questionable, but nevertheless assumption, that terrorists that had nuclear material, if they had it, they would try to use it, and they would try to use it as soon as they could build a weapon. And, of course, building a weapon is not a piece of cake, but the hardest, the longest pole in the tent is getting the material. So, our operating premise at NTI has always been, and still is, that protecting the material is the number one way you prevent catastrophic terrorism. It is possible. There could be some out there that we don't know about. There's certainly missing material. There are certainly inventories. But we, with this Index, help establish, hopefully, a dialogue that would lead to some baseline about how much nuclear material there is, because if there is no inventory, if there's no baseline, it's hard to know when something's missing. So that's part of this whole process. Page, you want to add to that, or Deepti?
DEEPTI CHOUBEY: No.
PAGE STOUTLAND: That's fine.
SAM NUNN: David?
Q: Senator, I have a couple of questions, I guess. One is a big picture question, which is, President Obama has promised global clean-out in four years, and I realize he's using a different criteria. He's promised to lock down vulnerable materials in four years. But does the work on this Index give any of you any insight into, is he getting close to that, is he going to make that goal? And a second question, which is more a methodological question, I guess, which is, Securing the Bomb, which NTI produced for, I think, nine years was very valuable because of the way it was very specific and pointed out quantities and locations and at least looked back over the last year at events like the events in South Africa, for example, and you seem to now have decided on a different kind of analysis, which doesn't have that kind of data in it. And I just wondered why you feel that this is a different, why have you shifted to this kind of analysis as compared to the previous one?
SAM NUNN: My answer on the second question, why have we shifted to this kind of analysis, Matt Bunn, who helped us do the Securing the Bomb report, was very much a part of our expert panel, so there's continuity in that sense. We felt we needed a deeper dive and we needed to really let countries know what they could to improve specifically, country by country, more than generically, which was that general approach.
Also, that effort started with the focus primarily on the former Soviet Union. Still problems there, as you well know, but I think it's now much more of a global approach. Third, I would say that it's important for US and Russia to work together. For about 15, 20 years under the Nunn-Lugar program, Russia viewed themselves more as a supplicant, and that kind of relationship, I think, was wearing thin. And I have felt for the last five or six years that we needed to move much more to a partnership with US-Russia, as well as countries all over the globe, in trying to address this problem. So, this is really trying to take a much broader partnership type approach. And also I would say that we were inspired to start this Index by the Nuclear Security Summit that President Obama had with 40 heads of state, and that, of course, will be followed up on with our friends in South Korea, an enormously important meeting in March, and we felt this type index would better, would be a better tool for those countries attending that summit.
Finally, I would say, we aren't addressing radioactive material in here, dirty bombs and so forth. We're using the index to look at weapons-usable material. But the radioactive material needs to be protected. There are a lot of crossovers here. The steps that would be taken here to protect against weapons-usable would also help on radioactive. That's not the focus of this Index, but it needs to be part of what they talk about in South Korea. So, all of those reasons are reasons. Let me ask Page to add to it.
PAGE STOUTLAND: Just briefly, as the Senator said, I think this report, the Index builds very nicely on the great work that Matt Bunn has done as part of the Securing the Bomb. And I think when you see the full report, and particularly the website, you'll find all the specific details for all these countries that'll actually, I think, in fact, be of a lot of interest. And so, there are a lot of specifics. We didn't have time to cover them here.
Q: What about Obama's goal?
SAM NUNN: I applaud the goal. I wouldn't bet money that it'll be completed in four years, but we've made progress. There were two or three countries that we've been working on for a long time that, after the last summit, were willing and gave up their highly enriched uranium and moved it over to low enriched uranium. So, real progress has been made on that area. Without a goal, you're not going to get very far, and I applaud the goal. But I would not be a whole lot of money you'll complete it. For one thing, you've got countries that don't cooperate, as we've seen in this index. And if you're setting the goal to secure all nuclear material, that would include North Korea, it would include Iran, it would include Pakistan, it would include other countries that, at this stage, are not cooperating.
I believe that this Index, this may be – hope – but it is my hope that this Index will alert countries that have not cooperated in the international community in terms of sharing and protecting material and best practices, and so forth, will understand they have threats themselves, that this is not simply doing a favor to the world. This is protecting your own security, because countries that don't have good practices are also probably the most likely victims of material that would get in the hands of terrorists, whether it's a dirty bomb or whether it's weapon-usable material. So I'm hoping that those light bulbs will go off. But I wouldn't bet money on that in the near-term, but in the long-term I think there is hope here. Back row, yes, ma'am?
Q: Please forgive my voice. Firstly, can you discuss a little bit about how you gave weighting to different things like societal stability, corruption versus participation in international treaties? Did you decide that one thing was more of a better indicator of what the on-the-ground security was likely to be? The second question: You urged that the upcoming summit be used to settle on global priorities. Do you have, can you share what you believe those priorities should be? And, thirdly, can you share whether Pakistan, India and Iran were briefed on the index and what the reactions were?
SAM NUNN: Okay, let me start with Leo on that, and then we may want to shove off a couple of those other questions.
LEO ABRUZZESE: Sure. Let me address the weightings question. It's a good one. When you build an index like this, there are a number of ways you can weight it. You can start with the assumption, for example, that every indicator has an equal weight. We considered that approach, but decided, at the end of the day, that probably some of them were more important than others. But rather than us making that decision, we mentioned earlier that we had an international panel, so we convened that panel about five or six months after we began the project, we showed them some of the initial results, and we essentially had a long, full day brainstorming session, where we talked to the panel members, we really pushed people, and what you've seen here is essentially the collective wisdom of about 15 or 20 people at NTI, especially from among the peer panel and also at EIU, really asking people to judge on their experience.
If you look at our panel members, some of them have experience on physical protection, others have worked in governments at nonprofit organizations – they're all experts on this. So this, essentially, rather than taking a mathematical approach to it, rather than simply saying they're all equal, we essentially put a large group of very bright people in a room and we just went around and around until we reached a rough consensus on this. So, we're happy that that's a good approach.
However, if you would like to try another one, as they mention, this model is a tool. You can actually go into this, if you'd like, and change the weightings. It doesn't change what our conclusions are. Our conclusions are what you've seen here. But for those of you that are so disposed to have a go at this and see how the ratings would change, you can do that.
SAM NUNN: Okay, Deepti?
DEEPTI CHOUBEY: In terms of global priorities, you know, this framework that we've put forward, particularly these five categories and the 18 indicators, to a large extent that's what we're offering as the initial proposal of what we think matters. And, again, what we're hoping to spark here is a discussion amongst other governments, you know, are these the right things that we should be asking governments to do better on? Are there other things that we should add? And so, we're looking forward to that conversation. And then, of course, through the prioritization, you'll also see how much weight we've accorded. We think all of those things are important, but we're also mindful, particularly out of the last security summit, that you have states that don't have materials who are part of that process, and kind of scratching their heads a little bit about, what exactly do you want me to do? What's more important? Is it more important to take care of physical protection at a facility that has materials or do you want me to sign this treaty, or just kind of what's the relative order of that?
And then in terms of Pakistan, India and Iran, again, we issued invitations to all of the 32 countries to be briefed. Pakistan and India were briefed, and, you know, I think it was a very constructive conversation with them about what we were trying to do. All three of those countries also received the data validation, and what we know is that both governments considered the requests but they, in the end, chose not to answer our data validation requests either in whole or in part. Our hope is that we can work with these governments, going forward in the next year, as they see how the Index can be a tool for providing assurances and building international confidence in the steps that they are taking around their materials, that they'll engage with us, perhaps, if we do this again, in using the tool to that end.
And with the Iranians, we issued an invitation to their mission in New York several times, followed up, never received a response. And even though we weren't able to brief them in person, they were also given the same opportunity to validate the data, and, again, we did not receive a response from them.
Q: What about North Korea?
DEEPTI CHOUBEY: And then with the North Koreans, we issued the invitation. It was considered in Pyongyang for briefing them, and we had offered to go to New York to do that, and they chose not to take the briefing. But they were also offered the opportunity to validate the data, and, again, they chose not to do that.
SAM NUNN: Page, you want to add anything to the question?
PAGE STOUTLAND: Only one maybe final anecdote, and that's this issue of prioritization. We have seen, in our experience, that by creating the framework, it creates a space for a very productive discussion. So, as Leo mentioned, we had a daylong discussion about the relative priority of these indicators and categories. And there were very vigorous discussions about the relative priorities of things that perhaps we all take for granted: the importance of international legal agreements. So, we think that this framework is going to be very useful in terms of sparking this dialogue amongst the international community.
SAM NUNN: Okay, back row, right under the camera? Then, let's see, next here.
Q: Thank you. My question is on Russia. Russia is not top five, even in the top 10 in your index. It's actually ranked 24th in overall score column. What are the major concerns that you have regarding Russia? You mentioned several factors like corruption, instability, the lack of transparency. What are the major concerns? Thank you.
SAM NUNN: In general, I would say, I think we have to put in perspective where Russia was 20 years ago and where they are now. If you look where they were 20 years ago, the chances were pretty high that there would be some type of nuclear incident, if not disaster, coming out of the huge stockpiles of highly enriched uranium, plutonium, and weapons. The fact that has not happened, I think we have to tip our hat to the leaders in the military, the laboratories and others in Russia who were dedicated patriots during a period of huge economic hardship where all sorts of temptations were put in front of them. So, put it in perspective where Russia was 20 years ago and where they are now, is a remarkable achievement.
Have they got a long way to go yet? Yes. But they are making a lot of progress. Now, one of the problems in Russia, you alluded to corruption. President Medvedev has spoken to that subject, President Putin has spoken to that subject several times. So, they, themselves, acknowledge that that's one of the biggest problems Russia has, not just in terms of nuclear security, but also in terms of economic confidence, investment and so forth from abroad. So, I would hope they would make progress on that.
But in addition, the military in Russia has control of certain elements, particularly the weapons. There are other agencies that have jurisdiction over things like research reactors, where small amounts are. So, there's a divided responsibility in Russia that I think probably needs addressing. With that, let me see if, Page, you want to comment further?
PAGE STOUTLAND: Let me just give a bit more specific information. Russia, in fact, scores very well in three of the categories – the security and control measures, global norms and domestic commitments and capacity. Its score is brought down, of course, by its large quantities of nuclear material, similarly to the United States, both as a legacy of the Cold War and then, as Senator Nunn pointed out, by the levels of corruption, which imply that Russia needs to be extra-vigilant, as do all states with any challenging societal factors on their specific security practices.
SAM NUNN: Okay, let's see, there was somebody in the second row – yeah, right here? Mike?
Q: There have been references to dialogue and establishing priorities and minimum baselines. So, is the ultimate goal here to have a global standard for nuclear security, and is that useful, is that necessary, is that feasible? If you could just talk about that, thanks.
SAM NUNN: I was on a panel of, they called us, I don't remember the exact name of the panel, but it was a panel of global people who were involved in nuclear security that was appointed by Director El-Baradei on the IAEA a couple of years ago. We worked a long time on that initial report. This is one of those jobs that eventually should be done by an international group. There ought to be international norms, there ought to be international standards. We're going to have to move toward international, I think, approach to the whole question of the fuel cycle. We've started that with a fuel bank now, which has been authorized, and the IAEA is moving forward on that.
The IAEA, and there's a lot about this in the report – and I'll refer you to that to the details, because it's enormously important – the IAEA or some other organization like the IAEA is going to have to be put in charge of this and given the mandate, the legal authority and the resources. They don't have it now. This is not their mandate. What safeguarding means, we explain this in the report, and it's very important, people assume the word “safeguarding” means security. It doesn't necessarily mean security. The example I've used before, and this is actually in the report, to some extent, alluded to, if a safeguard inspector from the IAEA goes in a building and they're basically doing an accounting, and they have cameras, their job is to make sure it's not diverted to weapons, and has not been diverted to weapons. It's not to see whether there are locks on the doors, whether there are holes in the ceiling, whether there are perimeter guards, and whether people – it is secure. So, there would only be after the fact kind of action there.
And the IAEA is doing what their mandate says, but their mandate is not broad enough and resources are not significant enough, and, at some point, the international community has to come together and decide who's going to be responsible for this. This is an NGO operation now, and we're doing it because governments are not doing it. But that doesn't mean that governments shouldn't do it in the future, and perhaps that kind of discussion can be held in Seoul, South Korea, because that could be a beginning point of deciding what authority the IAEA ought to have. But I know that the IAEA does not have the kind of resources they need to do a job on the security side. Safeguarding is different from security.
DEEPTI CHOUBEY: And, Dan, I'll just add a little bit to your question. I think we do need a global standard eventually. What we have right now, I think, are states who are looking for some guidance, again, on what matters most, and I think if we had a global standard we'd be able to do a far better job of holding states accountable, and we'd also be able to track progress. And so, again, what we've done with this Index is we're putting forward a framework that helps us really get our minds and our arms around the scope of this problem.
The other thing I would just say is, you know, we included in our index two relevant treaties, and one of them is the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and its 2005 amendment. That amendment isn't in force. If it was, that actually would require states to enact standards on protecting materials while they are in use or in storage and not just when they're being transported. And we still need over 40 states to actually ratify that. And so, currently, states aren't obligated to enact those standards, and we clearly need to do a far better job of getting us there, and I think that that's one clear step we can take.
SAM NUNN: Okay, we can take a couple more questions. Charlie?
Q: If I can just comment on this --
SAM NUNN: Charlie Curtis. Charlie has been part of NTI and is on our board now, and ran our organization for a long time.
Q: I also chair the World Institute of Nuclear Security, which is, I think, relevant to this last question, not to detract in any way from the comments about the need for minimum standards. NTI has not weighted for that. It has catalyzed the creation of the World Institute of Nuclear Security to share best practices for the physical protection and security of nuclear materials worldwide. It's concluded just now its third year of operation, and it has over 700 members from 53 countries. And so, we're trying to improve the practices of physical protection and security while we await this more important international standard. But you can't weight it, because the physical protection concerns are so great.
SAM NUNN: There's a large vacuum here, and NGOs are trying to fill it. We're not the only ones. But the WINS organization is in Vienna. It has an international board. As Charlie said, over 600 members. Roger Housley, who used to head up British nuclear fuel security, is in charge of it. Roger was one of the members of our panel. That is a voluntary organization. It is certainly not mandatory, but we're hoping that it will grow, and we're also hoping that it will be able to help develop best practices. Okay, I think we've got one more question here.
Q: Yes, for Leo, you mentioned that countries were given the opportunity to, as you said, tweak some of the numbers. To what extent were you, in your example sort of for Canada, were you able to verify the fact that they only had 50 instead of 150 kilograms, that kind of figure?
LEO ABRUZZESE: For some of these, it's difficult to verify them precisely. What's important to understand is we mainly went to regulators within the country, so we're not necessarily going to people in political positions. You don't really know, and it's almost impossible to know, exactly what the quantities are. Again, we took them initially from central sources. The central sources in some cases were fairly good and, in other cases, they gave ranges. So, we went to the individual countries to try to say, “Would you be willing,” for example, “to offer us more information one-on-one than you're normally providing to other people who've collected the information?” And in a number of cases, they were able to do that.
Now, were we able to verify it in every case? Not in every instance. But we asked them to justify it. We pushed them on the points, as well. And if, for some reason, we were not satisfied with what we came back, we made the ultimate judgment on this. Now we felt, by and large, that we had very good levels of cooperation. People took this process seriously. And I would describe it as more of a technical process. We didn't feel that this was a political exercise. We were dealing with technical people who said to us, “You're close on this. It's basically in the right direction. But we can help you refine it.” We really didn't find any situations where anyone tried to turn us around and say, “This is completely wrong. We deserve a wonderful score and you've given us a poor one.” It wasn't that kind of exercise. It was more of a technical process.
SAM NUNN: At some point here, you're going to have certain categories and areas that are sensitive and will remain sensitive, that countries will be reluctant to make public. But at least we ought to start to at least get the discussion going about sharing that kind of information with an international organization like an IAEA, like a WINS organization, or even share it on a regional basis, so there can be regional confidence-building. Because if there's not confidence – and the Middle East is a good example of that – then you're going to say more and more pressures for proliferation. And as you get more and more pressures for proliferation, you've got more and more countries going into enrichment, you've got more and more dangers of terrorist groups being able to buy or steal material, and the odds on an international disaster go up, up, up. So, we've got to make that spiral the other way around.
I don't see any other hands up. We thank you very much for coming. We appreciate it. And we'll be glad to continue to answer your questions. We'll have our staff available for any follow-up questions with the media. Page and Deepti and Leo --
Transcript of the press conference announcing the release of the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index.
the Nuclear Threat
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