Remarks by Former Senator Sam Nunn at the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) 10th Anniversary

Ten years ago here in Vienna, I was proud to join IAEA Director General ElBaradei, U.S. Secretary of Energy Sam Bodman, Ambassador Johansen of Norway, and INMM President Nancy Jo Nicholas. We were gathered to announce an initiative aimed at ensuring that the world can continue to enjoy the great benefits of nuclear energy while defending against its potential dangers. We called it the World Institute for Nuclear Security or WINS.

In developing the WINS concept, NTI partnered with INMM and the U.S. Department of Energy. WINS would not have happened without the leadership of Secretary Bodman and Will Tobey. Will was then a leader in the Energy Department’s National Nuclear Security Administration. We at NTI were deeply saddened by Secretary Bodman’s recent death and are grateful for his exceptional public service. I know that this audience and all WINS members join me in thanking Will Tobey for his continued dedication and outstanding service as chair of the WINS Board of Directors.

I would like to add thanks to our friend Charlie Curtis who was president of NTI in 2008 and championed the WINS idea from the very beginning. Charlie could not be here today, but he served as the founding chair of the WINS Board and continues to be a dedicated and trusted advisor.

I also applaud Corey Hinderstein, Joyce Connery and Jim Tape, three leaders who played a decisive role and made WINS possible. And, of course, praise must go to the real heroes—Roger Howsley and the WINS staff—past and current. WINS has a blue-ribbon international team energized by a “start-up spirit” and dedicated to this crucial mission.

To put WINS’ 10th birthday in perspective, I will briefly address three key questions:

  • Why was WINS needed?
  • What has WINS accomplished?
  • Why do we still need WINS today?

Why was WINS needed?

Three reasons:

  • First, preventing nuclear catastrophe is one of the greatest challenges of our time, and although the world has made progress on nuclear security since the Cold War, we all know that the work of nuclear security is never done.
  • Second, the nuclear power industry has a great organization – the World Association of Nuclear Operators or WANO. Since Chernobyl, WANO has shared information and conducted peer reviews to improve safety and efficiency. There wasn’t, however, an equivalent organization that could bring together nuclear security professionals to develop and share best security practices.  
  • Third, the tragic events of 9/11 brought the need to secure nuclear materials into sharp focus.

Our goal ten years ago was for every institution responsible for nuclear and radioactive material to join this organization—to share what they know and to learn from others.

It was a bold and ambitious strategy for an NGO. Today, 10 years later, Winston Churchill’s quote comes to mind: “No matter how brilliant the strategy, occasionally we must look at the results.”

So what has WINS accomplished?

Under Roger Howsley’s brilliant leadership, WINS has brought together nuclear security experts, the nuclear industry, governments, and international organizations to focus on rapid and sustainable improvements in security of weapons-usable nuclear materials as well as radioactive materials.

It is important to point out that WINS’ mission complements the essential regulatory work by governments and the authoritative guidance provided by the IAEA.

A few facts to consider:

  • WINS today has more than 5,000 members in 139 countries.
  • WINS established the world’s first training and certification program for nuclear security professionals – WINS Academy. It has certified 334 nuclear security professionals and has more than 1,000 enrolled.  At the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, a dozen heads of state publicly pledged to support the work of the Academy.
  • WINS has hosted security workshops in 23 countries, attended by more than 3,300 participants, and published 36 international best-practice guides.
  • WINS today is working to develop a peer review program for nuclear security with WANO’s help.
  • Most important and most impactful for the world, according to a survey last year, more than 80% of WINS members state that they have modified and improved their security practices because of WINS.

Bottom line: WINS has done exactly what it was set up to do – and much more.

Why do we still need WINS?

My perspective:

  • We need WINS because peaceful nuclear energy relies on credible and effective nuclear security.
  • We need WINS because our global nuclear security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
  • We need WINS because as more countries rely on nuclear energy, new generations of nuclear security professionals must be trained and they must become part of and contribute to a culture of information sharing and accountability.
  • We need WINS because many risks, including those posed by terrorist organizations and cyber hackers, will continue to grow and evolve.

In closing, WINS is robust, effective and growing. It is independent and, with your continued help, sustainable. As this crowd knows well, WINS must have resources to sustain and build its programs and to meet evolving nuclear security challenges.

This is not a fundraiser and you don’t need to grab your wallets. But in case there is a prospective donor, Roger Howsley and Will Tobey have authorized me to share with you what the pastor of my hometown church often told our congregation: “The Lord loves a cheerful giver, but we will also take money from a grouch!”  Thank you.

December 3, 2018
About

Former Senator Sam Nunn, Co-Chair of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, gives remarks at the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) 10th Anniversary event in Vienna, Austria.

Authors
Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI