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More than three-fourths of all countries and Taiwan in the Theft and Sabotage rankings have improved their scores since the third edition of the NTI Index, which was published in 2016. This is an encouraging development following the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit. However, in several regions around the world, escalating international tensions and continued poor nuclear security conditions warrant concern and renewed attention to nuclear security.
Although progress on nuclear security for countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials had slowed between 2014 and 2016 (the average country score increase was only 1.2 points), scores improved by an average of 2.8 points between 2016 and 2018. Overall, the average score increase between 2012 and 2018 was 6.5 points; only North Korea’s score declined over that six-year span. Of countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, those showing the most notable progress since the first NTI Index was published in 2012 are China, Japan, Germany, and Belgium.
- In the Theft Ranking, Australia and Switzerland are tied at the top of the list for their nuclear security conditions. Australia has ranked first in each of the previous rankings of countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, dating to 2012.
- Australia’s few sites and limited quantities of nuclear materials, combined with its extensive security and control measures and its commitments to global norms drive the country’s consistently top scores. Australia’s regulations now mandate updates to the Design Basis Threat, boosting the country’s score since 2016.
- Switzerland, which has ranked second since 2012, now joins Australia at the top of the Theft Ranking because of its recent reductions in quantities of nuclear materials to less than 5 kilograms and because of its revised policy to transport nuclear materials for removal only. Switzerland also provided financial or in-kind contributions to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund in recent years.
- In the Sabotage Ranking, Finland ranks first for the second time. In addition to fulfilling all global norms, domestic commitments, and capacity measures, Finland improved its scores on insider threat prevention and response capabilities since 2016, scoring 98 out of a possible 100 points in the security and control measures category.
- Of countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, Japan has improved its Theft Ranking score more than any other since 2012—by 22 points. Since 2016, Japan has decreased its quantities of nuclear materials and has improved its insider threat-prevention measures, physical security regulations of materials during transport, and cybersecurity regulations. Ranked 14th in the year following the 2011 Fukushima–Daiichi disaster, Japan now ranks 4th among countries with weapons usable nuclear materials.
- China’s scores increased by 14 points, while Germany and Belgium’s scores improved by 11 points, between 2012 and 2018 in the Theft Ranking for countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials. By making notable improvements to insider threat prevention and physical security during transport, China now scores 75 out of a possible 100 points for its security and control measures. China’s scores on the voluntary commitments indicator improved as a result of its new Center of Excellence and its hosting of an IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) mission in 2017, which built international confidence in the country’s nuclear security conditions.
- Germany’s overall score in the Theft Ranking improved as a result of enhanced insider threat prevention and cybersecurity measures. Although a corruption scandal decreased the country’s previously strong Risk Environment marks, Germany ranks 4th overall in the Theft Ranking.
- Although Belgium’s Risk Environment score declined since 2016 because of the threat of nuclear terrorism and a decrease in the quality of the country’s bureaucracy, Belgium’s security and control measures improved. In particular, Belgium has deployed armed response teams to be onsite at nuclear power facilities. The total stock of nuclear materials in Belgium also is decreasing, leading to a 5-point score increase in the Quantities and Sites category since 2016.
 Although the regulatory change is forthcoming, Belgium has stationed armed guards at nuclear facilities in response to recent threats.