White Paper: Options for Strengthening the Global Nuclear Security System

This is an excerpt from NTI's white paper, titled "Options for Strengthening the Global Nuclear Security System," which reflects early analysis and proposals from the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities. It does not reflect the consensus opinion of NTI or the group of global experts participating in the Global Dialogue. To read the full paper, download the PDF.

Consensus on Strengthening the Global Nuclear Security System

At the first meeting of the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) proposed that the global nuclear security system required strengthening and identified five characteristics of what should comprise such a strengthened system.

  1. The system should be comprehensive; it should cover all nuclear materials and facilities in which they might be present, at all times.
  2. The system should employ best practices, consistently and globally.
  3. At a national level, each state’s system should have internal assurance and accountability mechanisms.
  4. Globally, the system should facilitate a state’s ability to provide international assurances that all nuclear materials and facilities are secure.
  5. The system should work to reduce risk through minimizing or where feasible, eliminating weapons-usable material stocks and the number of locations where they are found.

We believe a system that meets these characteristics can be achieved by strengthening existing mechanisms and through voluntary measures implemented by states in the near term. It does not require the negotiation of a new legal mechanism or convention at this time. While legally binding mechanisms may be desirable at some future point, the current lack of political consensus for such an agreement would delay urgently needed security upgrades that could be achieved sooner through voluntary mechanisms.

The discussion at the first Global Dialogue meeting demonstrated a strong consensus from participants on the need to strengthen the global nuclear security system, both for each state individually and for all states globally, and to address gaps in today’s patchwork of agreements, guidelines, and multilateral engagement mechanisms. There was also convergence on the five characteristics and a wide-ranging discussion of the implications of each characteristic for existing expectations, behaviors, obligations, and mechanisms.

At our second meeting, we propose to advance the group’s thinking on three of the key issues that emerged and for which no other forums currently exist. In particular, this paper addresses (1) the role of best practices and standards in strengthening security; (2) the global security benefits of international assurances; and (3) the feasibility of achieving a system that is comprehensive in its coverage of all weapons-usable nuclear materials, including materials outside civilian programs.

October 2, 2012
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This paper addresses the role of best practices and standards in strengthening security, the global security benefits of international assurances, and the feasibility of achieving a system that is comprehensive in its coverage of all weapons-usable nuclear materials. It was introduced at the second meeting of the Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities and does not reflect the consensus opinion of NTI or the group of global experts participating in the Global Dialogue.