Interaction between the Private Sector and National Strategies Against Nuclear Terrorism

Introductory Remarks by Charles B. Curtis
President, Nuclear Threat Initiative
At the Panel Discussion “Interaction between the Private Sector and National Strategies Against Nuclear Terrorism”

Welcome to the first event of this, the fourth meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. It is my pleasure to be here chairing the discussion with these distinguished panelists. Thank you to the co-chairs of the Global Initiative and to our hosts here in Madrid for the opportunity.


As members of the Global Initiative, those of you in this room have recognized the grave peril facing the international community posed by the threat of nuclear terrorism.

Despite significant progress in cooperative efforts to secure nuclear weapons and materials, the risk of a nuclear weapon being used today may in fact be growing. New press accounts clearly demonstrate that terrorists are seeking nuclear weapons and there can be little doubt that if they acquire a weapon that they will use it. Materials to create nuclear weapons exist in more than 40 countries. Radiological materials which may be employed in a “so-called” dirty bomb are broadly distributed throughout the world and in every one of the nations represented in this room. At the current pace, it will be several decades before this material is adequately secured or eliminated globally.

Interest in nuclear energy is growing and a number of countries are considering developing the capacity to enrich uranium to use as fuel for nuclear energy. As we must acknowledge, once any nation has the ability to enrich uranium for energy, they have the inherent capacity to move quickly to a nuclear weapons program if they chose to do so. As of March 2008, nearly 50 countries have contacted the IAEA for help in establishing new nuclear energy programs. Those concerned about world primary fuels balances and global climate change, such as myself, welcome the expanded availability of nuclear power and the peaceful use of the atom. But we all must recognize that with that expansion come increased risks.

In a world with more countries with weapons-capable facilities and materials insufficiently secured increases the opportunity for terrorists to acquire nuclear weapons or the materials to make one.

Unless these risks are effectively countered by the states in this room and others we must bring into this effort, the threat of nuclear terrorism is likely to grow in this century with potential catastrophic consequence.

In order to effectively face this monumental challenge, as the states in this Initiative have recognized, we are, and will be, dependent on an already large, ever expanding community of nations to provide for our collective security.

But we need to look to an even larger global community – the community that includes civil society, industry and commercial enterprises, local governments and law enforcement, and international nongovernmental organizations.

Effectively involving each of these sectors of society in our defenses against nuclear terrorism will require recognizing the unique expertise and resources they can bring to bear on the challenge of combating nuclear terrorism. The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which I serve as President, was established with the express mission to bring the public and private sectors together to reduce the nuclear danger. We are governed by an expert and influential Board of Directors with members from 10 countries: the United States, Russia, Japan, India, Pakistan, China, Jordan, Sweden, France and the United Kingdom. Through its direct action program, NTI has been able to contribute by filling gaps and setting examples for government to follow to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism. Each of our projects reflects cooperation with governments and other international institutions and often the creation of specific public/private partnerships. In the interest of time, I will mention only three of these which I believe have particular relevance to the work of the Global Initiative.


To help prevent the spread of uranium enrichment technology, NTI has pledged $50 million to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to help create a low-enriched uranium stockpile to support nations that have made the sovereign choice to develop their nuclear energy based on foreign sources of fuel supply services—and therefore have no indigenous enrichment facilities. NTI’s funds will be released if the IAEA takes the necessary steps to set up the fuel bank and other nations provide $100 million in matching funds. In 2007, the U.S. contributed $50 million toward this effort, and in March 2008, Norway pledged $5 million and committed itself to work with other states to find the $45 million remainder. In addition, the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia have publicly stated that they plan to rely on the international nuclear fuel market, backed by an IAEA fuel reserve, in developing their nuclear power plans.

The idea for a fuel reserve is not new; there has been discussion of it, in some form, for several decades, and the International Atomic Energy Agency’s statute provides for it. NTI’s commitment is intended to help move the discussion from words to deeds in this vital area of nuclear cooperation. We are making progress.


NTI is working with the Institute of Nuclear Material Management (INMM) and the U.S. Department of Energy in close cooperation with the IAEA to launch a new global initiative to strengthen security and physical protection for nuclear materials around the world. This World Institute for Nuclear Security, or WINS, is the best hope for rapidly increasing security at nuclear facilities and will compliment but move ahead of existing government and international regulatory efforts. WINS will bring together practitioners— the professionals responsible for on-the-ground security practices—to collect and promote the world’s best practices in nuclear materials security and to share that information with facilities that are responsible for protecting the world’s most dangerous nuclear materials and for preventing these materials from getting into dangerous hands. The people involved in WINS are on the front lines, and they are in the best position to know where the vulnerabilities are, how to improve security for nuclear materials and to see that security improvements are implemented quickly and effectively. The WINS concept is building broad international support from nuclear security experts, the nuclear industry, government officials and international organizations.

The Global Initiative’s Terms of Reference explicitly speaks of the need to share best practices to develop and improve accounting, control and physical protection systems for nuclear and other radioactive materials. With the launch of WINS, we hope to provide an institutional means for doing that important work.


More than two and a half bombs’ worth of highly enriched uranium (HEU) stored in a civilian research reactor in Serbia with inadequate security were flown to a storage facility in Russia and ultimately rendered safe. These weapons-usable nuclear materials were vulnerable to theft by terrorists, so NTI worked extensively with the U.S. Department of State, the IAEA, Russia and Serbia to transfer the 48 kilograms (over 100 pounds) of weapons-usable nuclear material to more secure storage in Russia for elimination through blend down.

Project Vinca was the first and became the model for a major program to secure U.S. and Soviet-origin HEU research reactor fuels around the world. The U.S. side of this program is supported by funding commitments of nearly one-half billion dollars.


The Global Initiative spends much of its time focusing on the motives and ambitions of so-called “non-state actors.” We justifiably refer to these virulent elements of society as “the bad guys.” But, in this meeting, we are called upon to recognize “the good guys” and integrate more deeply into our plans and our actions another set of “non-state actors” – particularly private sector actors that share the goals of the Global Initiative and have expertise and resources to bring to bear in facing the challenge of nuclear terrorism.

We should all keep in mind the Russian proverb: “one person on a battlefield is not a fighting force.” In the fight against nuclear terrorism, we need to field a global army that combines the resources and the talents of government and civil society.

The Global Initiative’s framework is built with the necessary diversity and flexibility essential to having a strong partnership with private sector partners. The eight core objectives – that range from strengthening physical protection of nuclear materials, to detecting and disrupting its movement by or to terrorists, to consequence management in the aftermath of a dirty bomb or nuclear attack – these objectives lay a strong foundation for the work needed to accomplish this great task.

I understand, in fact, that some companies have offered Global Initiative Statements of Support to the co-chairs, to include Hutchinson Port Holdings and Areva. For those Spanish businesses with us this evening, I hope you are able to do the same.

With that in mind, I would like now to give the floor to our panel members who will offer a few short remarks on how best to work cooperatively as partners to combat nuclear terrorism. After hearing from all panel members, I would like the panel to remain seated for questions. Thank you.

June 16, 2008

NTI President Charles B. Curtis moderated a panel discussion on "Interaction between the Private Sector and National Strategies Against Nuclear Terrorism" and gave opening remarks at the Fourth Meeting of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in Madrid, Spain.

Charles B. Curtis
Charles B. Curtis

NTI President Emeritus and Emeritus Board Member