Managing Nuclear Security Risks Post-2016: The Case for Centers of Excellence
November 9, 2015
Nuclear security experts are bracing themselves for what comes after the last Nuclear Security Summit in 2016, to be held in Washington, D.C.. Without the high level attention to what was a tiny, dusty corner of nuclear policy (compared to, say, North Korea’s nuclear weapons or Iran’s nuclear program or the accident at Fukushima), the chances are fairly good that nuclear security will fade into the background of nuclear policy, at least until the world confronts a major nuclear terrorism incident.
To be sure, some of the gains achieved since the first summit was held in 2010 have made the world more secure against nuclear terrorism, but the job isn’t over yet. Eighty-five percent of the world’s weapons-usable fissile material still lies in the military sector and in the civilian sector, countries have agreed to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) but not to eliminate it. A small number of countries adhere to voluntary international guidelines for plutonium management, but there is no long-term plan for reducing the risks from stockpiles of separated plutonium. And there is enough separated civilian plutonium for tens of thousands of nuclear weapons.
The nuclear security summits have raised public awareness, spurred new commitments, and focused government resources. Without them, it will be difficult to harness the political support for the additional changes that are necessary for sustainable nuclear security.