According to the latest nuclear material study some startling facts have emerged. This latest study is a joint collaboration of Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and the Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU). NTI is a non-profit and non-partisan, private, Washington-based organization while EIU, is a nuclear security analysis consultancy based in London, New York and Hong Kong.
According to this biennial nuclear study, a nuclear material security index has been prepared by the above named organizations. The main factors that were considered while compiling this index were the production, storage, transportation and security of nuclear assets.
The latest study estimates that there are approximately 1,400 tons of nuclear weapons-usable uranium and approximately 500 tons of highly enriched plutonium in the world. These materials that are essential to build a nuclear bomb, according to the study, are stored in hundred of sites around the globe.
According to the index prepared in light of this latest study, out of a total of 25 countries, Australia is no.1 as far as nuclear material security and safety are concerned.Australia is followed by Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Norway as the countries with remarkably good arrangements as far as nuclear material management and security are concerned. U.S. and U.K. are joint no.11 on this index. Pakistan, India, Israel, Iran and North Korea are at the bottom of this index. Pakistan has vastly improved its nuclear management including safety, storage, transportation and security but a lot still needs to be done. At the present moment, according to the findings of this study, Pakistan has 90-110 nuclear warheads.
The main concern in countries like Pakistan, India and Israel vis-a-vis their nuclear capability and security, is the presence of non-state stakeholders, especially the extremist groups including Al-Qaeda and Hamas, within their territories. North Korea and Iran have the reputation of being “rogue” states , according to the present study, hence the use of nuclear technology by these two states is a cause of concern for the world peace. In addition, their audit and safety records, are also a cause of concern.
This nuclear also highlights the fact that a very small amount of highly enriched uranium and plutonium are required to develop a nuclear device. This is alarming because highly enriched uranium and plutonium can be easily purchased on the black market.
A very positive aspect of this latest study is that there are some countries in the world which have reduced their weapon-usable nuclear material to the absolute minimum. Seven nations namely, Austria, Sweden, Vietnam, Hungry, Mexico, Ukraine and the Czech Republic possess less than a ton of weapon-usable nuclear material. The other good news is that since 2012, the number of countries with nuclear ambition has significantly dropped world-wide.
According to experts the study has been published at an opportune time. U.S. and the P 5+1 powers have been successful in hammering a deal with Iran concerning its nuclear program. The findings of this study will be of much importance to the international leaders taking part in the Hague nuclear security confab, during the month of March. The researchers are confident that the recommendations put forward in the latest study shall be of importance to the participants of 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in Netherlands, as well.
By Iftikhar Tariq Khanzada