The Nuclear Threat Initiative’s 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index, released last week, finds that progress on the protection of nuclear materials and facilities has slowed significantly over the past two years, reversing a trend of substantial improvements between 2012 and 2018.
Published biennially since 2012, the NTI index assesses and tracks nuclear security conditions in countries around the globe, highlighting progress and trends over time. It is produced in cooperation with the Economist Intelligence Unit, the research and analysis division of the Economist Group media company.
According to the new, fifth edition, the slower pace of progress suggests that the world’s focus on nuclear security has faded somewhat following the conclusion of the high-profile Nuclear Security Summits. (The final summit was held in Washington, D.C., in 2016, hosted by President Obama [NN, Sept. 2016, p. 29].) At the same time, the index notes, geopolitical tensions and events such as the COVID-19 pandemic have undermined international cooperation.
Call to action: “Given the challenging backdrop for the sharp decline in progress, it is more important than ever to identify shortfalls and to call for governments, industry, and the international community to once again step up their efforts to prevent a catastrophic attack using stolen nuclear materials or an act of sabotage that could further shake global foundations,” said NTI Cochair and Chief Executive Officer (and former U.S. secretary of energy) Ernest Moniz.
The rankings: The 2020 NTI Nuclear Security Index includes two rankings on theft and one on sabotage:
Theft: Secure Materials—A ranking of 22 countries with 1 kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials, to assess actions related to securing those materials against theft.
Theft: Support Global Efforts—A ranking of 153 countries and Taiwan with less than 1 kilogram of or no weapons-usable nuclear materials, to assess actions related to supporting global nuclear security efforts.
Sabotage: Protect Facilities—A ranking of 46 countries and Taiwan with nuclear facilities, such as nuclear power reactors and research reactors, to assess actions related to protecting those facilities against sabotage.
Down under on top: Taking first place among countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials is Australia, and for the fifth time. It also ranks first in the sabotage ranking, for the third time. Canada and Switzerland tie for second, Germany is fourth, and the Netherlands and Norway tie for fifth. The remainder of the top 10 countries are, in order, Belgium, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
The full, 224-page index can be downloaded here.