The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index
The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index finds that progress on protecting nuclear materials against theft and nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage has slowed significantly over the past two years, despite ongoing, major security gaps. An alarming development at a time of growing global disorder and disruption, the decline in the rate of improvement to national regulatory structures and the global nuclear security architecture reverses a trend of substantial improvements between 2012 and 2018.
The decline suggests that without the driving force of the Nuclear Security Summits, which ended in 2016, or similar high-level international events, attention to nuclear security has waned—and it has done so at a time when terrorist capabilities and growing cyber threats contribute to a more complicated and unpredictable environment. At the same time, geopolitical tensions and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic are undermining cooperation and exposing the limits of how countries cope with cross-border threats.
Countries have continued to take steps to strengthen nuclear security regulations and support global norms, but since 2018, the number of countries improving their scores in the NTI Index has declined across all three rankings. The number of countries with worsening scores has increased since 2018 in both the theft ranking for countries without materials and the sabotage ranking. Overall, the average amount that a score improved has declined in all three rankings compared with previous years, showing that even countries that are improving are taking fewer actions.
“Given the challenging backdrop for the sharp decline in progress, it is more important than ever to identify shortfalls and to call for governments, industry, and the international community to once again step up their efforts to prevent a catastrophic attack using stolen nuclear materials or an act of sabotage that could further shake global foundations,” said NTI Co-Chair and CEO Ernest J. Moniz.
The NTI Index—which is produced biennially with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) and developed with an International Panel of Experts—serves as a critical resource and tool for assessing global nuclear security. For the fifth edition, NTI this year took a fresh approach to the NTI Index to account for past progress on nuclear security and new tools to address risks. Key changes across all three rankings are detailed in the full 2020 report.
Sign up for our newsletter to get the latest on nuclear and biological threats.
“The bottom line is that the countries and areas with the greatest responsibility for protecting the world from a catastrophic act of nuclear terrorism are derelict in their duty,” the 2023 NTI Index reports.
The NTI Index is recognized as the premier resource and tool for evaluating global nuclear and radiological security.