GP Insights

GP Insights # 391, 25 July 2020

Global Nuclear Security progress has slowed
Sukanya Bali

What happened?

On 23 July, the US Nuclear Threats Initiative (NTI) released its fifth annual Index on country-level progress on nuclear security. The Index also recommends action plans for the State to protect nuclear material and strengthen nuclear security. 

The report states that the overall rate of improvement in protecting nuclear material and facilities have declined since 2018. This raises threat with increasing terrorist capabilities, growing cyber peril, geopolitical tensions and the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Australia is ranked first, for its security practices for the fifth time among countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials and for the third time in the sabotage ranking. The report also highlights Pakistan as the "most improved country" after its overall score increased by seven points and ranked 19.  

What is the background?

First, the NTI index and its parameters. The NTI Index includes two theft rankings and one sabotage ranking. The ranking on secure materials, looks at 22 countries with 1kg or more of weapons-usable nuclear material, based on actions related to securing material against theft. 

Besides, 153 countries and Taiwan, with less than 1kg or- no weapons-usable material, are ranked to assess efforts towards global nuclear security. 

Next is on the sabotage; 46 countries and Taiwan are ranked with their nuclear power and research reactors, to assess actions taken to protect them against sabotage. 

Second, in 2020, a radioactive source security assessment has been included in the report: This assessed the national policies, commitment, and actions to secure the radioactive sources in 175 countries and Taiwan. The Index has been released biennially since 2012. 

Third is the shift compared to 2018 assessmentsAs compared to 2018, twelve countries have shown no change, while countries like Egypt, France, Hungary, and Israel have shown negative changes. Pakistan and Bulgaria have risen above five while Jordan and UAE were not applicable in this year's Index. 

What does it mean?

If one has to go by the Index, there is a slowdown in the global progress in protecting nuclear facilities and materials from theft and sabotage, which is worrisome for the nuclear security environment. 

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