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The Importance of Peer Review

September 3, 2018


One of the most valuable steps toward improving a country’s nuclear security is a peer review by another country or by an international organization such as the IAEA. Such peer reviews often identify weaknesses in security and highlight practices that can be used to strengthen security at nuclear facilities and build international confidence in a country’s security practices. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA’s) International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) provides peer advice about implementing international agreements and IAEA guidance for nuclear security. Those reviews currently are conducted on a voluntary, “as requested” basis (states must request or offer to host an IPPAS or other IAEA peer review mission). To build confidence in global nuclear security, all countries with relevant nuclear facilities should invite such reviews on a recurring basis (ideally, every five years or sooner).

Only four countries in the NTI Index rankings hosted security reviews between 2016 and 2018 (China, Germany, Italy, and Uzbekistan). Among countries with nuclear facilities or with weapons-usable nuclear materials, 27 countries hosted such a review within the past five years, which is four more countries than the NTI Index observed in 2016. Six countries have never hosted such a review (Algeria, India, Israel, Morocco, North Korea, Pakistan), and 14 have not been reviewed within the past five years (Argentina, Bangladesh, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Iran, Kazakhstan, Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Taiwan, and Ukraine).

Among countries in the Sabotage Ranking, three hosted reviews between 2016 and 2018 (China, Germany, and Uzbekistan). However, four countries’ reviews occurred more than five years ago (the timeframe measured in the NTI Index), and their scores declined as a result: Argentina, Kazakhstan, and the Netherlands were last reviewed in 2012, and Spain was last reviewed in 2011. Conversely, four countries’ scores improved as a result of new reviews: China and Germany hosted an IPPAS mission in 2017, Uzbekistan hosted a U.S. Department of Energy review in 2016, and Italy hosted an Integrated Regulatory Review Service evaluation in 2016.