In January 2012, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) released the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index, a first-of-its-kind public assessment of nuclear materials security conditions in 176 countries – 32 with one kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials and 144 with less than one kilogram of weapons-usable materials.
An updated version of the NTI Index will be released in early 2014. In the meantime, since the completion of the inaugural NTI Index, dozens of countries have taken or pledged to take key steps to strengthen their own nuclear security conditions, diminish opportunities for terrorist access to nuclear materials, and enhance nuclear security around the world.
Progress on Reducing the Availability of Nuclear Materials
Eliminating weapons-usable nuclear materials is, of course, the most significant step a country can take toward ensuring that terrorists can’t get access to the materials needed to build a nuclear bomb.
Since release of the NTI Index:
- Three countries – Austria, Mexico, and Ukraine – have completely eliminated all weapons-usable nuclear material from their territories.
- Five more countries – Kazakhstan, Poland, South Africa, Sweden, and Uzbekistan – have reduced their stockpiles of weapons-usable nuclear material.
As a result of these actions, now only 28 states have one kilogram or more of these materials, instead of the 32 countries profiled in the 2012 NTI Index. When the second edition of the Index is released in 2014, Austria, Mexico, Ukraine, and Sweden  will move off the list of countries with more than one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear material.
This progress builds on steps taken following President Obama’s April 2009 speech in Prague when he initially announced a four-year effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material worldwide. In addition to the three countries that have eliminated all weapons-usable nuclear material listed above, Chile, Libya, Romania, Serbia, and Turkey as well as Taiwan have eliminated their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material since April 2009. As a result, there are nine fewer states with weapons-usable nuclear material than in 2009, demonstrating significant, measurable progress in the global effort to prevent nuclear terrorism.
Additional near-term progress is possible. Vietnam, the Czech Republic, Hungary, and Poland have committed to eliminating their remaining weapons-usable nuclear material, and Australia and Italy pledged at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea to further reduce their nuclear material stockpiles.
New Commitments and Actions
The NTI Index also assessed countries’ commitments to global norms, including participation in two key treaties to prevent nuclear terrorism: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).
Since the completion of the first NTI Index:
- Côte d'Ivoire and Vietnam acceded to the CPPNM, an agreement vital to enacting security standards for materials in transit.
- Twelve new countries are now party to the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM, which obligates state parties to enact standards for nuclear materials in use, in storage, or in transit domestically and requires countries to take criminal action against nuclear thieves, smugglers, and saboteurs. Argentina, Belgium, Georgia, Ghana, Greece, Israel, Lesotho, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Mexico, Sweden, and Vietnam have all taken this important step since the 2012 NTI Index was completed. 
- Five new countries – Australia, Côte d'Ivoire, Malta, Nigeria, and Turkey – are now party to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), which commits states to criminalize acts of nuclear terrorism and promotes cooperation among countries on investigations and extraditions.
NTI anticipates more progress before the release of the 2014 NTI Index, as France has pledged to complete ratification of ICSANT and the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM and Norway has pledged to ratify ICSANT.
In addition to progress in the international legal arena, several countries have taken other steps to enhance global nuclear security:
- China and India for the first time contributed to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund, which assists states in preventing, detecting, and responding to nuclear terrorism.
- Kazakhstan, Mexico, and Ukraine joined the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction.
- Japan formed a new independent regulatory agency to address nuclear safety and security, a substantial policy reform.
These achievements are welcome, but significant challenges remain. Despite the growing importance attached to nuclear security by world leaders and two Nuclear Security Summits over the past four years, there is still no global system in place for tracking, accounting for, managing, and securing all weapons-usable nuclear materials.
Additionally, some states continue to produce weapons-usable nuclear materials; insider threats remain a concern; and a deliberate lack of transparency makes it impossible to hold some states accountable. Because the threat of nuclear terrorism remains one of the greatest challenges to global security, all states can and should do more to strengthen global nuclear materials security, both individually and collectively.
To measure progress and to continue to hold states accountable, NTI is working with a distinguished panel of international experts and the Economist Intelligence Unit to release the next version of the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index in early 2014, in advance of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands.
A particular challenge is to ensure that states continue to make progress, without exclusively relying on the Summit process. To that end, a separate NTI initiative is focused on strengthening the global nuclear security system, building on the gains of both the Washington and Seoul Nuclear Security Summits and the individual achievements listed here.
About the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index
The NTI Index, prepared with the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU), was created to spark an international discussion about priorities required to strengthen nuclear materials security and encourage governments to provide assurances and to take actions to reduce risks.
The inaugural NTI Index assessed 32 countries with one kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials as well as an additional 144 countries with less than one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials. Countries were ranked based on five key factor: Quantities and Sites where materials are stored; Security and Control Measures, such as on-site physical protection; Global Norms, such as participation in international legal agreements; Domestic Commitments and Capacity, including how well a country discharged its international obligations; and Societal Factors, such as political instability, which could undermine security.
All sources are available upon request. Visit www.NTIIndex.org to see the 2012 results and country profiles.