Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Ranking Nuclear Security By Country

The Nuclear Threat Initiative, which is headed by former US Senator Sam Nunn, has released a study of 32 nations that have nuclear capabilities - both nuclear weapons and civilian nuclear programs - that ranks each country by taking into account on-site security, political stability, economic conditions, security and safety, international commitments (such as nuclear nonproliferation), and other factors.
The 122-page report is titled the “Nuclear Materials Security Index” and its accompanying Web site is Australia came out on top, the report says, because it has reduced its holdings of weapon-useable materials to “a small amount” and did well on the overall indicators. It received 94 out of 100 possible points.

Among the nine countries known to possess nuclear arms, Britain came out on top with a score of 79. The report credits its high status to concrete security measures as well as “its commitment to and follow-through on international obligations.”

The United States scored 78 — a fairly good ranking, the evaluators said, considering its possession of a sprawling nuclear complex that dates to the earliest days of the atomic era.

Japan received a score of 68 because of its vast stores of plutonium, its relatively poor measures with security personnel and its lack of an independent regulatory agency.

A surprise nation on the list is Iran. It claims no ambitions for making bomb fuel even while global leaders worry that its growing atomic program seeks just that capability. The study team said that Iran was included in the analysis because of its possession of highly enriched uranium for a research reactor in Tehran.

Iran received an overall score of 46, its standing undercut by what the report judged to be corruption, political instability, and poor procedures for nuclear control and accounting. Of 32 nations, it ranked 30th.

Pakistan, with a security score of 41 and a nuclear complex that is undergoing rapid growth, ranked 31st.

North Korea came in last with a score of 37. The report cited a total of 10 indicators that came in below the global average, including site and transportation security as well as political stability.
The full report is here.

The index is based on information that is widely available and doesn't require special intelligence gathering means. Israel's ranking is based on the fact that the country refuses to divulge information about its program - refusing to confirm or deny its nuclear program. Thus, security protocols are rated low, even though its believed to be quite secure.

It's an issue repeated with China, India, Pakistan, and North Korea.

As for international treaties and agreements, more than 70% of countries without nuclear materials have ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT), but several countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials have signed but not ratified the agreement: Argentina, Australia, Canada, France, Israel, Italy, Norway, Sweden, and the United States. Iran, North Korea, Pakistan, and Vietnam haven't signed the convention.

Ultimately, the goal is reducing the chances of nuclear weapons proliferation, and exposing the public to the dangers of weapons materials falling into the wrong hands.

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