Nuclear Terrorism – book published

Nuclear Terrorism: Countering the Threat

Edited by Brecht Volders and Tom Sauer

Routledge, 262 pages

About the Book

This volume aims to improve understanding of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism.nuclear terrorism

Nuclear terrorism is perceived as one of the most immediate and extreme threats to global security today. While the international community has made important progress in securing fissile material, there are still important steps to be made with nearly 2,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear material spread around the globe. The volume addresses this complex phenomenon through an interdisciplinary approach: legal, criminal, technical, diplomatic, cultural, economic, and political. Despite this cross-disciplinary approach, however, the chapters are all linked by the overarching aim of enhancing knowledge of nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism. The volume aims to do this by investigating the different types of nuclear terrorism, and subsequently discussing the potential means to prevent these malicious acts. In addition, there is a discussion of the nuclear security regime, in general, and an important examination of both its strengths and weaknesses. In summary, the book aims to extend the societal and political debate about the threat of nuclear terrorism.

This book will be of much interest to students of nuclear proliferation, nuclear governance, terrorism studies, international organizations, and security studies in general.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction, Brecht Volders and Tom Sauer

2. The nuclear threat: a two-level analytical framework to assess the likelihood of nuclear terrorism, Brecht Volders

3. Internal dynamics of a terrorist entity acquiring biological and chemical weapons, Jean Pascal Zanders

PART I: Preventing Radiological Terrorism

4. Promoting alternatives to high-risk radiological sources, Miles Pomper and Aaron Gluck

5. Time for a convention on radiological security?, Sylvain Fanielle and Piotr Andrzejewski

6. The threat of a self-sustained chain reaction device, Ivan Andryushin, Eugeny Varseev and Gennady Pshakin

PART II: Preventing Attacks on Nuclear Facilities

7. Attacking nuclear facilities: hype or genuine threat?, Gary Ackerman and James Halverson

8. Nuclear security in Belgium: evolution and prospects, Rony Dresselaers and Sylvain Fanielle

PART III: Preventing the Detonation of a Crude Nuclear Device

9. Searching for the nuclear silk road, Steve Sin and Marcus Boyd

10. Securing Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal: the threat from within, Pervez Hoodbhoy and Zia Mian

PART IV: Nuclear Security Governance and Culture

11. Nuclear security culture: from concept to practice, Igor Khripunov

12. Nuclear security commitment making: results of the summit process, Michelle Cann

13. Nuclear security diplomacy beyond summitry, Trevor Findlay

14. Conclusion, Tom Sauer and Brecht Volders

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Panel on the Iran nuclear deal

Our followers in London and the UK will be interested in this panel on the Iran nuclear deal that will take place at the University of Westminster in London on 17 November. As you know, on 14 July 2015 the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action agreed by Iran, the P5+1 and the European Union was announced. Under the framework, Iran will substantially reduce its stockpiles of nuclear material, limit its future production of nuclear materials, and accept the IAEA’s Additional Protocol. In return, the P5+1 and the UN Security Council will lift all nuclear-related economic sanctions against Iran. But what legal obligations does the deal contain? How will we ensure that Iran is complying with them? Does the deal strengthen international peace and security or is it rather a threat to it? And why have other nations not faced as much scrutiny as Iran? The panel discussion will address these and other important questions from a legal, political and diplomatic perspective.

Speakers include, in addition to our own Dan Joyner, Sir Richard Dalton (British Ambassador to Iran 2002-2006; Associate Fellow, Middle East and North Africa Programme, Chatham House; President, British Iranian Chamber of Commerce) and Ambassador Peter Jenkins, CMG (Partner, the Ambassador Partnership).

To register, please click here.

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Nuclear Strategy Push-Back Against the “Cyber Industrial Complex”?

Greg Austin of the EastWest Institute published a piece in China-US Focus on August 6th in which he identifies possible push-back against the US government’s race to achieve “cyber superiority” and the emergence of “the American cyber industrial complex” from people in the US military knowledgeable about US nuclear weapons and strategy. He argues that disclosures by Edward Snowden reveal a “lack of restraint” in US cyber behavior and:

This lack of restraint is especially important because the command and control of strategic nuclear weapons is a potential target both of cyber espionage and offensive cyber operations. The argument here is not to suggest a similarity between the weapons themselves, but to identify correctly the very close relationship between cyber operations and nuclear weapons planning. Thus the lack of restraint in cyber weapons might arguably affect (destabilize) pre-existing agreements that constrain nuclear weapons deployment and possible use.

The cyber superiority of the United States . . . is now a cause of strategic instability between nuclear armed powers. . . . [I]n the long run, the most influential voice to end the American quest for cyber military superiority may come from its own armed forces. There are military figures in the United States who have had responsibility for nuclear weapons command and control systems and who, in private, counsel caution. They advocate the need to abandon the quest for cyber dominance and pursue a strategy of “mutual security” in cyber space – though that has yet to be defined. They cite military exercises where the Blue team gets little or no warning of Red team disruptive cyber attack on systems that might affect critical nuclear command and control or wider war mobilization functions. Strategic nuclear stability may be at risk because of uncertainty about innovations in cyber attack capability. This question is worth much more attention.

Cybersecurity literature contains references and analogies to nuclear weapons and nuclear strategy, including attempts to draw on the nuclear experience to address what some perceive as a cyber arms race. However, Austin is talking about something different–concern among experts that what is happening with US cyber policy, strategy, and capabilities threatens US nuclear strategy and stability. I do not know how prominent such strategic introspection actually is, or whether it deserves the level of deliberation Austin advocates.

In the most general terms, Austin seeks reassessment of what he and others believe is an insufficiently restrained American quest for superiority in military and intelligence cyber capabilities–not because of perceived threats to privacy and other civil liberties at home, but because this path might create strategic problems for US national security down the road, including in the context of nuclear weapons. For Austin, this reassessment should include more scrutiny of permitting one military officer to lead both NSA and US Cyber Command, a situation Austin provocatively describes as “an unprecedented alignment of Praetorian political power in any major democracy in modern political history.”

A unrestrained cyber industrial complex led by a cyber Praetorian guard potentially causing strategic nuclear instability? Well, now, the “national conversation” is getting more interesting by the day . . .


More of the Same: The Ministerial Declaration of the International Conference on Nuclear Security

The International Atomic Energy Agency convened the International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna from July 1-5, 2013. Noting that “the risk that nuclear or other radioactive material could be used in malicious acts remains high and is regarded as a serious threat to international peace and security,” the IAEA held the Conference “to review the international community’s experience and achievements to date in strengthening nuclear security, to enhance understanding of current approaches to nuclear security worldwide and identify trends, and to provide a global forum for ministers, policymakers and senior officials to formulate views on the future directions and priorities for nuclear security.”

The Ministerial Declaration from the Conference was negotiated before it began and was disseminated on the first day of the Conference. The Ministerial Declaration indicates that IAEA member states are not willing, at present, to move beyond the existing approach of primarily focusing on national-level responsibilities and efforts to improve the security of nuclear material to prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism and other malicious acts. The Ministerial Declaration invited states to become parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (1980) and its 2005 Amendment and to the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (201). But, arguments for developing more and better international rules to enhance nuclear security globally did not find fertile ground in this IAEA effort. As Global Newswire reported on this point:

As expected, the joint document . . . did not embrace the creation of any formal new rules that would bind participating countries. At the top of a list of 24 principles that signatories support is “that the responsibility for nuclear security within a state rests entirely with that state.” Nuclear watchdogs expressed disappointment over the scope of the document . . . . “I would say that this declaration does not give a lot of hope that IAEA ministerial meetings are the way to move forward the nuclear security agenda–it’s pretty boilerplate,” said Miles Pomper, a senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies.