January 13, 2012
New Study Finds Global Nuclear Security Lacking
A new study published by the U.S.-based Nuclear Threat Initiative has ranked 32 countries believed to possess nuclear material based on the level of security with which their potential bomb-making ingredients were locked down. The results, say experts, suggest that the global community has a long way to go in tracking and securing potentially rogue nukes.
The report is loaded with surprises. In first place for tightest nuclear security was Australia, while struggling countries like Mexico, South Africa and Kazakhstan finished alongside or even ahead of first-world nations like Japan (23rd place). The U.S., which has one of the world´s largest stockpiles of nuclear weapons fared decently, tying Belgium for 13th place.
At the very bottom of the list came the rigidly autocratic nation of North Korea, the newest addition to the nuclear community. Yet even more disturbing for many was Pakistan, which held the second-to-last position just ahead of North Korea.
The assessment has highlighted the broad security chasm that must be gulfed if President Obama is to make good on his 2009 pledge in Prague to completely secure the world´s nuclear materials.
The nuclear report card is the product of a collaboration between the private advocacy group Nuclear Threat Initiative in Washington and the Economist Intelligence Unit, a London-based risk-analysis firm. The stated aim of the joint study was to stir up debate as to how to best advance nuclear security and encourage states to beef-up preventative measures against the looming specter of nuclear terrorism.
The NTI has also put together a so-called nuclear materials security index which attempts to create benchmarks for measuring and recording progress in security measures for nations that possess highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
Sam Nunn, a current NTI chairman and former United States Senator, commented that the report provided confirmation of what many already suspected; namely, that much of the world´s nuclear materials insufficiently secured.
“This is not about congratulating some countries and chastising others,” said Mr. Nunn. “We are highlighting the universal responsibility of states to secure the world´s most dangerous materials.”
Elaborating on what these rankings mean in practical terms, Nunn had the following to say: “It´s not a piece of cake for terrorists [to obtain nuclear materials], but it´s far from impossible.”
The NTI´s index employs a variety of metrics to assess the quantity of nuclear material a country possesses, how they store and account for it, as well as political factors such as regime stability and government corruption.
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