increase the urgency and pace of discussions with states possessing nuclear weapons and special nuclear material with the goal of identifying and implementing more effective safeguards through the wider deployment of protection, control, and accounting technologies.

Although the United States has technically sophisticated capabilities to offer to other nations, other nations have also identified good technical solutions to many of these challenges. Technology sharing is essential for preventing the unauthorized procurement and use of nuclear weapons.

Recommendation 2.2: Concurrently, the U.S. government, working through the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, should reexamine the security of its own nuclear weapons, both within its borders and elsewhere.

Stolen U.S. nuclear weapons represent a very small threat in the universe of threats described in this chapter; nevertheless, protecting these weapons is solely the responsibility of the U.S. government, and a reexamination to determine their security would set a positive example for other nuclear powers to emulate. In particular, the risks and benefits of retaining forward-based nuclear weapons in NATO countries should be reassessed, especially in light of the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review, which emphasizes that the addition of non-nuclear strike forces to the U.S. deterrent capability will reduce U.S. dependence on nuclear forces.8 Although the presence of forward-based nuclear weapons in NATO countries does not pose an immediate danger given current levels of security and protection measures, the potential for rapid, regional changes in the geopolitical security environment is cause for concern.

Recommendation 2.3: The U.S. government, working through the Department of Energy and Department of Defense, should undertake an internal evaluation of its bilateral Materials Protection, Control, and Accounting (MPC&A) program in Russia and consider ways to accelerate progress in safeguarding nuclear weapons and special nuclear materials, especially to counter potential insider threats. A principal goal of this evaluation should be to identify ways to accelerate deployments of means to safeguard (1) atomic demolition munitions and other small nuclear warheads and (2) special nuclear material, particularly highly enriched uranium.

This program is moving at an irregular and sometimes interrupted rate for a variety of reasons, but there are several actions the United States could take to

8  

Transmittal letter of the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review to Congress, signed by Donald H. Rumsfeld. The classified review was completed in December 2001. There are other technical and diplomatic issues relevant to the nuclear posture that would have to be considered in this reassessment, including binding agreements with NATO countries.



The National Academies | 500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001
Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement