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Security in Emerging Nuclear Energy Countries

September 3, 2018

UAE Dosimetry Lab, image courtesy of IAEA

The future for civilian nuclear power is promising but comes with potential security risks. Data collected for the NTI Index provide insight into security measures in countries seeking or expanding nuclear energy programs and show that, despite needed attention to and improvements in security, important gaps remain.

In the Middle East and North Africa, where countries are preparing to enter a new era of nuclear energy expansion:

  • The United Arab Emirates, which is expected to commission its first nuclear power plant in 2019, has crafted a series of domestic regulations and made contributions to the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) Nuclear Security Fund and the World Institute of Nuclear Security (WINS) since 2016.
  • Two countries considering nuclear power, Saudi Arabia and Jordan, have increased their voluntary contributions to international nuclear security efforts since 2012. Jordan also became a member of the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
  • Although Egypt currently has a nuclear research reactor and is planning four new nuclear power reactors, it ranks 43rd out of 44 countries and Taiwan in the Sabotage Ranking. It lags in several areas, including on-site physical protection, insider threat prevention, response capabilities, and cybersecurity for nuclear facilities.

In Central Europe, where ambitious plans for nuclear power are underway:

  • Belarus is building its first nuclear power plant, with plans to begin operation in 2019. As a steward of weapons-usable nuclear materials, it ranks 7th among 22 in the Theft Ranking. Belarus scores above average on a number of physical security and cybersecurity measures assessed, and it receives full credit for having hosted an international security review within the past five years. However, Belarus has not ratified the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, nor has it ratified the IAEA’s Model Additional Protocol, which provides for enhanced IAEA safeguards.
  • Poland expects to construct its first nuclear power plant by 2025. The country currently maintains a research reactor at one site and is 19th in the Sabotage Ranking, down from 15th in 2016. Poland receives credit for having hosted a review of its security arrangements within the past five years.
  • Although Belarus’ risk environment for nuclear security has improved slightly since 2016, Poland’s has declined because of an increased risk of significant violent social unrest (both civil and labor) and a decline in the ability of the country’s bureaucracy to carry out government policy.

Turkey and Bangladesh are constructing new power plants, with plans to begin operation in 2023.

  • In the Theft Ranking of countries without weapons-usable nuclear materials, Turkey receives full credit for its implementation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540, its domestic nuclear materials security legislation, and its safeguards adherence and compliance. However, Turkey’s Risk Environment scores have deteriorated. The EIU’s rating of Turkey’s risk conditions for nuclear security dropped 15 points between 2016 and 2018 to 24 points out of a possible 100. The risk of social unrest is rated as high, risks to orderly transfer of power have increased, and a moderate risk of armed conflict within the next two years exists. The ability of the country’s bureaucracy to carry out government policy is rated as low in the EIU Risk Briefing, and the pervasiveness of corruption among public officials is rated as high. Finally, terrorist groups that have the capabilities to illicitly acquire nuclear materials are believed to be active in the country.
  • In the Index’s Sabotage Ranking, Bangladesh ranks 41st out of 44 countries and Taiwan with nuclear facilities at risk of sabotage. Its security and control measures, response capabilities, and control and accounting procedures need improvement. Bangladesh receives no credit for its insider threat prevention or cybersecurity regulations. Although improving, Bangladesh’s risk environment for nuclear security remains low (the EIU awards a score of 35 points out of a possible 100). The EIU assesses the risk of violent demonstrations or civil unrest within the next two years and the pervasiveness of corruption among public officials as “very high.”