Remarks by Joan Rohlfing at the Launch of the 2014 NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index

Remarks by Joan Rohlfing at the Launch of the 2014 NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index

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The story we’ve described so far has been retrospective, looking back at changes countries have made to their nuclear security over the last two years.  

Now, let’s look ahead and talk about what countries need to do to achieve effective global security.

How do we address the challenges the Index lays out?  What should countries be doing? 

NTI has developed two sets of recommendations.  The first focuses on collective action.  And here is where we have our most important recommendation.

Our number one recommendation is this:  Global leaders must work to create a shared system for securing the world’s most dangerous materials.

They should use the two upcoming Nuclear Security Summits to accomplish this. 

As the Index findings make clear, right now we have no shared global system for nuclear security.

That means no common international standards. 

No governing body with the mandate and resources for proper oversight.

No expectation for states to take actions that build confidence in the effectiveness of their security practices.

And finally, no mechanism for holding countries accountable.

Why is this? 

Many states see nuclear security as only a sovereign—not a shared—responsibility.

That means they each have their own individual approaches to nuclear security. 

Here’s an example: Most states with weapons-usable nuclear materials require facilities to have armed guards on site. But in some places, if a facility were to come under attack, they would need to call the local police or military unit and then wait…

This needs to change.

Poor security in one country could result in an attack that affects all of us. 

It’s time for governments to create a shared system for protecting these materials. 

Talking about a system may not sound actionable—but it is. Here are some concrete steps.

At the Summit this March, leaders must commit to a set of principles to guide the development of a global nuclear materials security system. 

What do we mean by principles?  Here are four for leaders to consider:

First, a global system should cover all materials. All materials means including the 85% of materials in military or other non-civilian use.   

This needs to be done in a way that builds confidence in other countries about the security of those materials and can be done while protecting truly sensitive information.

Second, a global system should be based on international standards and best practices. 

International standards for securing nuclear materials don’t yet exist but a good foundation for them has been created through the IAEA’s nuclear security guidelines.

The international community needs to empower the IAEA to create standards.  We also must strengthen the World Institute of Nuclear Security—the only organization dedicated to identifying and sharing best security practices.

A third principle:  countries must build confidence in the effectiveness of their security systems through reassuring actions. 

Without confidence-building or transparency mechanisms, we cannot know whether the system is working and there is no way to hold states accountable.

Reassuring words are no longer enough. We need states to take reassuring actions like participating in international peer reviews and publishing nuclear security regulations. 

Fourth and finally, states with weapons-usable materials should further decrease their stocks of these materials. The less there is, the less there is to be vulnerable. 

In some cases, states can eliminate their materials entirely. 

As the ambassador from Mexico said in the video, this is a win-win action. If removal or elimination is not possible, states can reduce risk by consolidating these materials and the facilities where they exist.

This final principle—on decreasing stocks—is also an important action that countries can take on their own. 

Let me briefly list three additional steps that countries should take individually. 

First, states should tighten physical protection and improve control and accounting measures at their nuclear facilities, to protect against theft and prevent insiders from stealing materials. 

Second, countries should establish or strengthen independent regulatory agencies to improve domestic oversight and accountability. Japan made this a priority after Fukushima, but other countries shouldn’t wait for a similar disaster.

Finally countries need to follow through on commitments made at previous Nuclear Security Summits.     

On this recommendation, I need to call out the United States.  Despite a 2010 commitment, the U.S. Congress still has not passed legislation to complete ratification of two critical treaties designed to protect against a terrorist with a nuclear weapon. 

Clearly, we are still lacking the global will to tackle this challenge with the urgency it deserves.  Even as we make progress, the job remains far from complete.

Every few weeks we read news about nuclear security incidents around the world. We learned just last week about an Indian terrorist organization seeking a nuclear weapon from sympathetic Pakistani sources—and reportedly being told by the source that “anything is possible.”

And not to single out only states near the bottom of the list, last month we read a news story that at one of their key nuclear weapon facilities in the U.K., a number of guards were missing their patrols because they had been sleeping through part of their shift.

So this is a serious problem.

Leaders must take action at the Nuclear Security Summits to address this threat and create lasting solutions.

We hope the Nuclear Threat Initiative Index will help spur a greater sense of urgency and guide international debate and action.

Thank you—and we will now be happy to take your questions.

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The NTI Nuclear Security Index


The NTI Nuclear Security Index

The NTI Index is recognized as the premier resource and tool for evaluating global nuclear and radiological security.


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