Key Trends

States are making progress. Since the beginning of 2012, 7 states—Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine, and Vietnam—have removed all or most of their weapons-usable nuclear materials, according to the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration. Thirteen other states have decreased their quantities of materials over the most recent four-year period measured by the NTI Index; 6 states have strengthened physical protection measures and the ability to mitigate the insider threat; 3 states have updated regulations for transporting materials; 7 states have signed or ratified key international legal agreements; and 4 states have made new voluntary commitments that support global efforts to improve security.

Nuclear Security Summits have had an impact. At the 2010 and 2012 summits, many states with weapons-usable nuclear materials committed to decreasing their quantities, to ratifying relevant treaties, or to taking other actions. Twelve specific score improvements in eight states captured in the NTI Index were a direct result of those summit commitments.

Global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials are decreasing overall, but some states are still increasing their stocks. Despite the reduction of nuclear materials in 13 states, 4 states have increased their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials during the most recent four-year period measured by the NTI Index. Japan and the United Kingdom have increased quantities in their civilian sectors; India and Pakistan have increased quantities for both civilian and military purposes. North Korea has also taken new steps necessary to produce new weapons-usable nuclear materials, which may increase its quantities.

Eight states improved their physical protection, control, and accounting measures, including through regulations on on-site physical protection, control and accounting procedures, insider threat prevention, and physical security during transport when materials are most vulnerable.

States with no weapons-usable nuclear materials or with less than one kilogram are supporting global norms and implementing international commitments. For example, 22 more of these states became parties to key international legal agreements on nuclear security since research for the 2012 NTI Index ended in September 2011, and 19 states made new voluntary commitments.

Country Highlights

Australia again ranks first among 25 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials, scoring well across all five categories and demonstrating that all states can do more to improve.

Belgium, Canada, and Japan are the most improved states.

Among nuclear-armed states, Pakistan is most improved through a series of steps to update nuclear security regulations and to implement best practices, though it ranks 22nd overall. France, the United Kingdom, and the United States lead the nuclear-armed states in scoring, with France tied for 7th with the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom and the United States tied for 11th.

Remaining Challenges

The lack of an effective global system for securing weapons-usable nuclear materials is a major challenge. Despite progress since 2012, there is still no effective global system for how nuclear materials should be secured. Because each state considers materials security an exclusively sovereign, not shared, responsibility, approaches to nuclear security vary widely with little sense of accountability, even though poor security in any one state can affect all other states. Several factors addressed by the NTI Index underscore this fundamental deficit:

  • The existing legal foundation for global nuclear security remains weak. A key legal agreement related to nuclear security—the CPPNM and its 2005 Amendment—provides an important initial foundation for nuclear materials security. However, the 2005 Amendment still has not entered into force. A separate agreement, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, commits states to criminalize acts of nuclear terrorism. However, each of those agreements has limitations: they are not universally implemented; they have no enforcement or accountability mechanisms; and the CPPNM and 2005 Amendment cover only civilian materials, which make up only 15 percent of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials.
  • Participation in international peer review is still limited. Of the 25 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials, only 18 have invited a peer review in the past five years, and 6 have never invited a peer review, even though it is a critical tool for strengthening a state’s security practices and assuring others about the effectiveness of an individual state’s security.
  • The vast majority of global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials—approximately 85 percent—is military or other non-civilian material and remains outside any of the existing international nuclear security mechanisms.

Excerpted from the full NTI Index report.