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Belfer Center: Advancing Nuclear Security: Evaluating Progress and Setting New Goals

Authors: Matthew Bunn, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, and William H. Tobey
March 21, 2014

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"The threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism has not disappeared, though the world has made important progress in reducing these risks. Urgent new steps are needed to build effective and lasting nuclear security worldwide. The nuclear security effort must now shift from short-term improvements toward a focus on a continued search for excellence, lasting as long as terrorist groups bent on mass destruction and the nuclear and radiological materials they might use both continue to exist."

Countries around the world have made substantial progress in improving nuclear security during the four-year effort to secure nuclear material that President Obama launched in 2009 - which was endorsed unanimously in UN security Council Resolution 1887 and at the first nuclear security summit in 2010. In that sense, the effort was a major success:

  • Thirteen countries eliminated all the highly enriched uranium (HEU) or separated plutonium on their soil during the four-year effort.
  • Many countries strengthened their rules and procedures for securing nuclear weapons, nuclear materials, nuclear facilities, or dangerous radiological sources.
  • All of the locations in non-nuclear-weapons states where enough high-quality HEU for the simplest type of terrorist nuclear bomb existed at a single site were either eliminated or had significant security improvements put in place.
  • States, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) are working together to strengthen nuclear security culture by publishing guides and hosting workshops.

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