CNS Global Incidents And - Nuclear Threat Initiative

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July 2019CNS Global Incidents andTrafficking DatabaseTracking publicly reported incidents involvingnuclear and other radioactive materials2018 Annual ReportProduced Independently for the Nuclear Threat Initiative by theJames Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies-1-Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

ContentsExecutive Summary. 3I. Introduction. 7II. Materials and Data Overview. 9III. Key Findings and Policy Implications. 121. Variable reporting transparency yields variable, low transparency, results. 122. Transportation creates greatest vulnerabilities. 153. Human failure is a security risk. 184. Viable alternative technologies exist. 20IV. Conclusion. 23V. Appendix. 24JULY 2019 CNS GLOBAL INCIDENTS AND TRAFFICKING DATABASEAcknowledgmentsThe 2018 report was authored by Sam Meyer, Shea Cotton, Jakob Lengacher, and Jaewon Oh. The authorsthank Jessica Varnum and George Moore for their peer review comments on an earlier draft of this report.-2-Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

Executive SummaryThree years have passed since the fourth and finalNuclear Security Summit (NSS), which markedthe culmination of a multi-year global effortto strengthen security over nuclear and otherradioactive materials. The IAEA has rolled out newtechnical documents on how states can improvesecurity over nuclear and other radioactivematerials,1 and member states are increasinglyincorporating those recommendations into theirregulatory frameworks. In addition to creatinghigh-level awareness of the threats, the summitprocess may have contributed to a reduction ofthe most serious incidents involving nuclear andother radioactive materials. The 2018 edition ofthe database recorded only four incidents involvingthe most dangerous materials (IAEA Category 1 and2), tied with 2016 for the fewest in the history ofthe database. It is impossible to causally link thisdata point with the summit process—and otherdangerous incidents may have gone unreported—but the data provides some reason for optimism.Despite this progress, there are several indicationsthat security over nuclear and other radioactivematerials is dangerously declining in priority onthe international agenda. No international forumhas emerged to replicate the high-level attentionpaid to the issue by the NSS process, and furtherinternational cooperation in this realm appearsunlikely. The deteriorating diplomatic relationshipbetween the United States and Russia, the collapseof key decades-old arms control agreements, anduncertainty about the future of transnationalentities and trade agreements make the globalclimate unfriendly to new nuclear security initiatives.Additionally, the United States has significantlydecreased its nuclear security and nonproliferationbudgets,2 and International Atomic Energy Agencyspending on nuclear security has decreased fromits post-NSS highs.3 And, this year’s report findsthat the overall number of incidents worldwideinvolving nuclear and other radioactive materialsoutside of regulatory control remains consistentand concerning.-3-In 2018, the James Martin Center for NonproliferationStudies’ (CNS) global, multi-language, review of opensource reports found a total of 156 incidents of nuclearor other radioactive materials outside of regulatorycontrol, occurring in 23 countries.4 Since CNS begantracking incidents in 2013, researchers have identifieda total of 1,040 incidents in 58 countries.Incidents involving nuclear materials (especiallycertain isotopes of uranium and plutonium) are ofspecial concern, because of the potential of suchmaterials to be used in an improvised nuclear device(IND). In 2018, there were four reported incidentsinvolving nuclear materials, a decrease from theeight unique incidents recorded in 2017. One 2018incident was particularly serious: the loss of 1 gramof weapons-grade plutonium from a universitylaboratory in Idaho. While the incident did notinvolve sufficient material for an IND, it illustratesworrying gaps in the security of weapons-useablenuclear materials.Non-nuclear radioactive materials incidents alsocarry significant safety and security concerns, asdiscussed in greater detail throughout this report.The IAEA categorizes radioactive materials 1-5,where Category 1 poses the greatest danger tohuman health and Category 5 poses the least risk.The IAEA’s categorization system is based on the typeof radioactive material involved, its activity level,and the relative danger posed by external (human)exposure to the material. Higher IAEA categorizationalso corresponds to materials of higher concern formisuse as radiological dispersal devices (RDDs).Incidents involving the most dangerous materials,Category 1 and 2, are relatively rare in the CNSdatabase. In 2018, zero Category 1 incidents werereported, and only three Category 2 incidents werereported, which tied with 2016 for the fewestCategory 1 and 2 incidents reported. In total, from2013 to 2018, four cases involved Category 1 sources,and 35 involved Category 2 sources. Although thesenumbers are low, it is impossible to know whetherthe relative scarcity of Category 1 and 2 cases isartificially low because of incidents going unreported.Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

Category 3-5 materials are classified as presenting alower risk than Categories 1 and 2. However, thesematerials can still pose significant safety and securityrisks, and are cause for public concern. The majorityof 2018 incidents involved Category 3-5 materials,accounting for approximately 77 percent of totalreported incidents. In 32 percent of cases, there wasinsufficient publicly reported information for CNSresearchers to categorize the material.With six years of accumulated data, consistenttrends have emerged, which lend additional weightto the key findings and policy recommendationsoutlined below.Key Finding 1: Voluntary reportingyields variable, low transparencyresults.As in past years, CNS found that there were broaddifferences in the numbers of incidents reportedacross countries, with the U.S. reporting the mostincidents. This says much more about the variationsin reporting requirements across countries than itdoes about the actual number of incidents in eachcountry. As shown in Fig. 1, the majority of incidentsrecorded in the 2018 database occurred in the sixcountries that have public reporting mechanisms.Figure 1. Total Incidents, 201837119Countries without Public Reporting MechanismsCountries with Public Reporting MechanismsAlthough individual states may require internalreporting of incidents, only six countries publiclyrelease those reports. Even the United States, by-4-far the most prolific public reporting state, doesnot publicly report all incidents. For example, in anincident uncovered in 2018, Department of Energy(DOE) employees lost sealed plutonium and cesiumsources while traveling. Since the sources involvedwere DOE rather than civilian in nature, they were notreported through Nuclear Regulatory Commissionchannels, and the incident was only uncoveredpublicly through investigative reporting.5 Canada,another country that publicly reports incidents, onlyupdates its database when a Category 4 or higherloss occurs. As a result, incidents involving Category 5materials may be published months after they occur.This problem is not limited to public reporting. TheIAEA’s Incident and Tracking Database (ITDB) remainsconfidential, and thus closed to outside researchers.However, it suffers from similar reportinginconsistencies.6 States voluntarily participate in itsreporting system and set their own standards forwhat to disclose to the organization. Even if incidentsbecome publicly known, the IAEA may only recordthem in the ITDB if they were also reported to theIAEA by the state in question.Policy Recommendation: Establish a commonstandard for incident reporting that requiresreporting Category 1 & 2 losses; encourage publicreporting of incidents involving military sources.Past versions of this report have made thisrecommendation, but international progress hasnot been made on this front. At a minimum, theIAEA should establish a mandatory standard for allmember states to report incidents involving the mostdangerous Category 1 and Category 2 losses to theIAEA’s ITDB. This would allow the Agency to identifyproblem areas and craft appropriate responses.Better still would be to publicly disclose theseincidents. A well-informed public can both assistwith materials recovery and bring nongovernmentalexpert analysis to bear to improve security practices.Additionally, this edition of the report recommendsthat incidents involving Category 1 and Category 2military-origin radioactive materials be reportedwith the same regularity and transparency as thoseinvolving civilian materials. Incidents involvingGlobal Incidents and Trafficking Database

military materials this year show that theseincidents pose just as much of a concern as incidentsinvolving civilian-origin materials. Just as reportingtransparency can improve procedures and help instilla robust security culture in institutions, so too can alack of transparency enable security issues to fester.Key Finding 2: Transportation createsthe greatest vulnerabilities, especiallywhen materials are unattended.As in past years, CNS researchers identified that analarming number of incidents occur while nuclearand other radioactive materials are in transit. In2018, 68 incidents (41% of total incidents) occurredduring transport, consistent with similarly high ratesin previous years.Of the incidents that occurred during materialtransport, 25 were confirmed thefts, again consistentwith previous years. In many cases, radioactivematerial theft may have been incidental to the thief’sefforts to steal a vehicle or other valuable equipment.Nonetheless, the occurrence of thefts while materialis in transit represents perhaps the most dangerousnexus for incidents in the database.Policy Recommendation: Improve physicalsecurity measures while in transport; expandelectronic tracking of dangerous radioactivesources.Physical security improvements could help preventlosses and thefts during transit, especially of the mostdangerous sources. There has been some progresson this front, but more work remains.Most states with dangerous sources requireelectronic tracking of vehicles and containersholding Category 1 sources. Unfortunately,enhanced security for Category 2 sources is not asuniversal. States should require electronic trackingof Category 2 sources and, where appropriate,encourage its use for some lower categorymaterials and sources as well.-5-Electronic tags to track the location of materialshave become very inexpensive over the past fewyears. Most consumer smartphones have trackingcapabilities which allow users to locate them if lostor stolen. An initiative of Malaysia’s Atomic EnergyLicensing Board attempts to leverage the ubiquityof smartphones to help track lost and stolenradioactive sources. Called the MyAtom mobileapp, it was designed to assist first responders inlocating sources and coordinating recovery. Appslike this may represent the future of radioactivematerials security.7Key Finding 3: Human failure is asecurity risk.Human failure continues to contribute to theoccurrence of a large percentage of incidents. In2018, CNS researchers identified 98 incidents (63%percent of all incidents) in which those responsiblefor nuclear and other radioactive materials behavedcarelessly or disregarded appropriate procedures.This designation is primarily associated with casesinvolving lost and misrouted nuclear or otherradioactive materials, although it is also a factor insome cases of theft. In incidents such as these, safetyand security measures were either not known, orwillfully disregarded, resulting in the material fallingout of regulatory control.Policy Recommendation: Improve securityculture at organizations responsible for nuclearand other radioactive material.Past reports have recommended creating policiesdesigned to improve security culture at organizationsin possession of nuclear and other radioactive material.However, given that human failure was a contributingfactor in more than half the 2018 incidents, weaksecurity culture clearly remains a problem.Licensees should train employees to understand thereasons behind rules and regulations rather thanjust the regulations themselves. This understandingwould provide better motivation for following therules. Regulatory agencies (or licensees themselves)Global Incidents and Trafficking Database

should conduct personnel audits, assess existingprotocols, and improve training as warranted. Theforthcoming IAEA publication, “Enhancing NuclearSafety Culture in Organizations Associated withNuclear and/or Radioactive Material” will providea much-needed resource to assist organizations incrafting a more robust security culture.Key Findi