Discussion Paper: Next Steps on International Assurances

This is an excerpt from NTI's discussion paper, titled "Next Steps on International Assurances." To read the full paper, download the PDF below.

Reflecting a Collaborative Effort to Develop International Assurances

The community of officials, experts and nuclear security practitioners have further defined, developed and delineated the concept of international assurance as one that contributes to nuclear security as a shared as well as sovereign responsibility. This paper reflects the collaborative and collective efforts to further evolve this contribution to global nuclear security and attempts to clarify current thinking on the definition of international assurance, why international assurances matter, how international assurances work, what is new about international assurances and how they can be provided and, finally, it raises for consideration questions about how best to implement international assurances efficiently with minimal duplication of effort and for maximal assurance benefit.

Taking the Next Step in Building Effective Global Nuclear Security

Measurable progress has been made in reducing the risk posed by vulnerable weapons-usable nuclear materials (highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium) over the past four years. The Nuclear Security Summits have facilitated significant progress in further elimination, minimization and securing of nuclear materials, strengthening the international legal architecture and improving the internal and cooperative capability of states in addressing the threat. A fundamental starting point was that Summit participants recognized the global nature of and global consequences associated with the risk of unauthorized access or theft of nuclear materials. States in possession of these materials have taken a variety of steps to provide greater accountability to internal constituencies for the security of these materials and to assure themselves that these materials within a state's jurisdiction will remain within the state's control. States without these materials have different responsibilities in the field of nuclear security. Their vital contributions come in the form of strengthening the international legal architecture, cooperating in efforts to combat illicit trafficking and in ensuring that their own territories do not become transit points, staging grounds or safe havens for terrorists or criminal networks.

Building on this progress, the next step in an effort to comprehensively address the threat could be for states to consider the equity that they, other states and even the public have in understanding that the nuclear security system in any given state that possesses these materials is operating effectively. Of critical importance is to develop mechanisms that will allow states to gain confidence about each other’s security arrangements without compromising national security.

May 28, 2013

This paper explores the role of international assurances in global nuclear materials security.