Winnipeg Free Press - ONLINE EDITION

Progress made in reducing nuclear risks

  • Print

Efforts by Iran and North Korea to acquire nuclear weapons have been at the forefront of diplomacy and international concern for several years, and justifiably so. Neither country has been convincingly stopped, although Iran is negotiating. Elsewhere, though, there has been progress toward preventing nuclear materials from falling into the wrong hands.

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a nongovernmental organization, has just published the second edition of its global index on the security of nuclear materials, prepared with help from the Economist Intelligence Unit. The report shows that, since the first study was released in 2012, seven nations — Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam — have removed all or most of the nuclear weapons-usable material from their territory. This brings the number of countries with more than a kilogram of such material down to 25, compared with more than 50 states two decades ago. The index also shows that 13 states with more than a kilogram have reduced their stocks in the past four years, including Russia and the United States.

This kind of incremental progress often escapes wide attention; giving up such nuclear materials as highly enriched uranium and plutonium is not often accompanied by a parade. Some of the impetus has been the regular nuclear security summits that began in 2010, where leaders made commitments, and many carried them out. The next summit is in March in the Netherlands.

Before anyone heaves a sigh of relief, a lot still needs to be done. The four nations at the bottom of the NTI’s index present familiar and continuing concerns: North Korea is dead last, followed by Iran, India and Pakistan. India and Pakistan, both of which are increasing their stocks of nuclear materials, are still a particularly worrisome flashpoint. Despite its rank on the index, Pakistan was praised for improved laws and regulations that tighten on-site physical protection. The study, however, pointed out the dangers of Pakistan’s instability, corruption and "the presence and capability on its territory of criminal or terrorist groups interested in illicitly acquiring nuclear materials."

Perhaps the most important finding in the study is connected not to any single nation but rather to the lack of a global system of oversight. About 2,000 metric tonnes of weapons-usable nuclear materials are spread around the world, yet "there is still no effective global system for how nuclear materials should be secured," no common global standards or best practices, nor a way to hold nations accountable, according to the study. Former Sen. Sam Nunn, a co-chairman of the NTI, pointed out that strict standards exist in other high-risk enterprises, including aviation, but not for nuclear materials security. The International Atomic Energy Agency has a role to play but is limited by its mandate and resources.

U.S. President Barack Obama once pledged to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years. The deadline won’t be met — this is a long game and a long slog. But the goal remains worthy.

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Kevin Cheveldayoff announces Maurice contract extension

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • A young goose   reaches for long strands of grass Friday night near McGillvary Blvd-See Bryksa 30 Day goose challenge- Day 19 - May 23, 2012   (JOE BRYKSA / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS)
  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Gardening Column- Assiniboine Park English Garden. July 19, 2002.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What are you most looking forward to this Easter weekend?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google