Terrorism and the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit

The Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University recently published a report, Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline? The report discusses the potential outcomes of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit beginning March 31st in Washington D.C. The report paints two extreme potential paths to be taken at the end of the summit, and the repercussions of those paths regarding the threat of nuclear terrorism. At one extreme, the high-security path, leading to “continuous improvement in nuclear security, in a never-ending quest for nuclear security excellence—and a drastically reduced risk of nuclear terrorism.” The other extreme is the low-security pathway, with which “nuclear security progress would stall and eventually reverse—and the risks of nuclear terrorism would grow.” Seeing as these are extremes, the true path after the summit will most likely lead somewhere between the two. However, the authors argue that since the Islamic State has increased its capabilities and now controls massive infrastructure, the threat of nuclear terrorism may be greater than when the summit was last held in 2014. And with that increased threat, the steps taken during and after the summit must effectively counter efforts by terrorist groups to obtain sensitive materials. To that end, the authors provide six recommendations:

  1. Commit to stringent nuclear security principles
  2. Revitalize programs to implement effective and sustainable nuclear security
  3. Expand efforts to strengthen security culture and combat complacency
  4. Broaden nuclear consolidation efforts
  5. Develop approaches to confirm that effective nuclear security is in place
  6. Continue an effective nuclear security dialogue after the summit ends

Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/terrorism-and-the-2016-nuclear-security-summit