Nuclear Risk ReductionProject
William Perry, former secretary of defense, and Siegfried Hecker, former director of Los Alamos National Laboratory, have joined forces to launch the Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative to address the changing nuclear threat following the end of the Cold War and the rise of international terrorism. The project is based at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).
The Nuclear Risk Reduction initiative (NRR) builds on the work of the Preventive Defense Project (PDP), which was established at Stanford and Harvard 13 years ago under the leadership of Perry and Ashton B. Carter, a former assistant secretary of defense in the Clinton administration. During their time in government, the two men tackled some of the most important security issues following the dissolution of the Soviet Union through promoting the concept of preventive defense to diminish the possibility of potential threats escalating into conflict.
Hecker, as director of Los Alamos, was instrumental in creating the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile stewardship program to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War environment without nuclear testing. He also helped reduce the nuclear threat posed by Russia and the former Soviet states in the chaotic years that followed the breakup of the Soviet Union. At Stanford, he has expanded his activities to include work in Northeast Asia, South Asia and the Middle East.
NRR's three-prong approach for making the world a safer place:
1. Working toward a world free of nuclear weapons
Perry, along with former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, and former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn, launched a joint effort in 2007 to refocus world attention on the critical need to eliminate nuclear weapons. President Obama, who has embraced this vision, has begun to adopt policies that will move the United States in this direction. The New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), signed April 8, 2010, by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, reduces the number of strategic arsenals in each country to 1,550 warheads. Now Perry and Hecker, through NRR, are conducting a risk/benefit analysis of ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), another critical piece of legislation linked to nuclear weapon reductions. They will also explore with Russian colleagues deeper cuts in their respective nuclear arsenals along with engaging other nuclear weapons states on such critical issues.
2. Preventing proliferation of nuclear weapons
Perry and Hecker believe the risk of the use of nuclear weapons increases as more countries acquire them. Much of their focus is currently on the nuclear program in North Korea and Iran, both of which threaten international peace and stability. In addition, as more states possess nuclear weapons and materials, it will become increasingly likely that fissile materials for an improvised nuclear device could fall into the hands of sub-national groups or terrorists.
Meanwhile, if there is to be a global renaissance of nuclear power, nations must learn how to manage potential proliferation risks associated with nuclear reactors and their fuel cycles. This is particularly critical if nuclear power spreads to developing countries that have expressed interest in this form of energy, since many have neither the requisite technological basis nor political stability to guarantee security.
3. Preventing nuclear terrorism
The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. highlighted the importance of keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists. As President Obama stated: "It is increasingly clear that the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security-to our collective security." Despite this, some nations view the terrorist threat with less alarm. NRR plans to engage the technical and military leadership in key countries to promote a common understanding of the dangers posed by such threats and what steps are needed to mitigate them.
President Obama also warned that nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen and fashioned into a nuclear weapon exist in dozens of nations. Harvard's Graham Allison stated if countries could "lock down all nuclear weapons and bomb-usable material as securely as gold in Fort Knox, they [could] reduce the likelihood of a nuclear 9/11 to nearly zero." During the Nuclear Summit, Obama announced a goal to "lock down" all nuclear materials by 2014. This is a laudable objective, but Perry and Hecker know it will require much more than physical security to protect nuclear sites worldwide. The two men will work toward a cooperative, global effort to help countries develop modern, comprehensive nuclear safeguard systems that can provide proper control and accounting, along with physical protection.
Hecker in 1994 initiated a nuclear materials protection, control and accounting program (known as the lab-to-lab program) with Russia's nuclear complex. Perry and Hecker, through NRR, are working to reinvigorate and broaden the scientific cooperation that existed between the United States and Russia in the 1990s. Moreover, they plan to collaborate with the technical, military and policy communities in key countries to realize NRR's ambitious agenda of making the world a safer and more secure place.
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