NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn Announces World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) Launch in Vienna, Austria

Former Senator Sam Nunn
Co-Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative

I am delighted to be here on behalf of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the foundation that I co-chair with Ted Turner. I am honored to join Director General ElBaradei, U.S. Secretary of Energy Bodman, Ambassador Johansen of Norway, and President of the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management Nancy Jo Nicholas -- to announce an important initiative aimed at ensuring that we can enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy while defending against its dangers.

In the last 60 years, the world has developed many beneficial uses for nuclear energy – from generating electricity, to protecting water resources, to increasing crop yields and fighting diseases.

But we all know that our continued ability to enjoy the beneficial uses of the atom depends on our corresponding ability to prevent the destructive use of the atom. There is no threat more potentially devastating than a terrorist nuclear attack:

  • Terrorists have been seeking nuclear and radiological weapons for more than 10 years.
  • The nuclear material they need is housed in hundreds of facilities around the globe.
  • In seeking this material, terrorists will not go where there is the most material; they will go where that material is most vulnerable.

Our global nuclear security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.

I believe that we must be committed to the vision of a world in which all nuclear materials are safe, secure, and accounted for -- from cradle to grave. Today, I am pleased to announce the establishment of the World Institute for Nuclear Security – WINS – whose goal is to strengthen the physical protection and security of nuclear materials and facilities worldwide.

WINS will bring together nuclear security experts, the nuclear industry, governments and international organizations to focus on rapid and sustainable improvement of security at nuclear facilities. WINS’s scope of work will be on both weapons-usable material and radioactive materials.

Security professionals are the people in the best position to know where the vulnerabilities are, how to improve security, and how to ensure that improvements are implemented quickly and effectively. Through WINS, these professionals will determine the world’s best security practices for dealing with nuclear facilities and materials and share that information with their peers worldwide.

If this concept sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the nuclear power industry created an international organization – the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) -- dedicated to sharing information in order to improve nuclear safety. WINS takes its inspiration from WANO’s important and effective safety work with nuclear power plants around the globe, and WINS will be dedicated to improving security across a broad spectrum of facilities. The world can’t afford to wait for a “security Chernobyl” before we act.

WINS will build on the fundamental and essential activities of the IAEA by working closely with and complementing the IAEA’s vital work. WINS will be headquartered in Vienna to ensure close coordination.

Our ultimate goal is that every institution responsible for nuclear and radioactive material will join and participate in this organization – both to share what they know and to learn from others. Though the scope of WINS will be broad, its initial activities will concentrate on the most dangerous nuclear materials. WINS operating assumption and message to everyone handling nuclear materials is that a terrorist nuclear attack anywhere in the world will cast a dark cloud over the nuclear community no matter where the material originated.

This project has been underway for some time:

  • In 2004, NTI, with the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management (INMM), sponsored two global workshops bringing together a select group of nuclear materials professionals to discuss best practices.
  • The next year, we formed a “coordinating committee” to move the idea of a “security best practices forum” forward.
  • In 2006, the coordinating committee organized and co-sponsored an international “Experts Group” with representatives from 17 countries to explore the WINS concept.

Throughout the WINS development process, we have effectively partnered with the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management and the U.S. Department of Energy, thanks to the leadership of Sam Bodman and Will Tobey, and closely coordinated with the IAEA. Both governments and industry have added their voices and resources in support of WINS, and they have all helped make this announcement possible.

NTI will continue to offer its encouragement and assistance to WINS in any way that is helpful, but WINS will be accountable and responsive to its membership, its international Board and its participants.

We believe that time is of the essence, and that it is important to begin work immediately. Dr. Roger Howsley has agreed to get us off to a running start as WINS’s first executive director. He will report to and be accountable to an international Board of Directors, whose membership will expand in the coming months.

Roger previously served as the Director for Security, Safeguards and International Affairs at British Nuclear Fuels. In that position, he was responsible for the security and safeguards functions across the BNFL Group of Companies which included 16 countries and 17,000 employees, in addition to co-chairing the police force responsible for armed defense of civil nuclear sites in the United Kingdom. We are very happy that Roger will be taking the lead at this critical time to get us off to a fast start and a solid foundation and to organize WINS internationally.

Today’s announcement would not be possible without the vision, leadership and generosity of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. The Peterson Foundation is dedicated to increasing public awareness of the nature and urgency of challenges threatening our future and accelerating action on them. Like Pete Peterson himself, the foundation’s approach is to bring people together around common sense, long-term solutions that tackle intractable problems and transcend geographical, cultural and political differences in order to provide better security for the world.

Pete and his Foundation are enabling NTI to announce today that we are making a grant of $3 million to WINS to assist in the early stages of its birth, growth and independence.

In conclusion, the world has already experienced a catastrophe that came from a lack of safety. The world has never experienced a catastrophe that came from a major lapse in security. WINS is born today to help ensure that we never do.


September 29, 2008

NTI Co-Chairman Sam Nunn Announces World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) Launch in Vienna, Austria.

Sam Nunn
Sam Nunn

Co-Chair, NTI