The UK scores poorly among nuclear-capable states for the security of its nuclear infrastructure and the quantities of nuclear materials it holds, according to a study by the influential Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).
NTI's Nuclear Materials Security Index for 2014 placed the UK bottom of the ratings list for quantities and security of nuclear material among 25 states which were assessed as having the special nuclear materials and technology necessary for manufacturing nuclear weapons. The NTI report is published annually and assesses standards of nuclear security against five sets of indicators: quantities and sites, security and control measures, global norms, domestic capabilities and capacity, and risk environment.
Although the UK scored above average in four of these categories, placing it in the top half of the NTI index, it ranked worst of the nuclear capable states in terms of the quantities of nuclear materials held and the security of sites and transportation between sites. NTI concluded that the UK’s nuclear materials security conditions “remain adversely affected” by its high quantities of weapons-usable nuclear materials, the large number of sites at which those materials are located, and its continued increase in materials quantities.
The UK was singled out as one of just four states that increased their stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials during the four-year period measured by the NTI index, alongside Pakistan, India, and Japan.
The UK's score in the assessment decreased by one point compared to 2012, the last year in which the NTI index was compiled as a result of a projected greater likelihood of violent demonstrations and international disputes and tensions during the next two years, impacting political stability.
NTI concluded that the UK's nuclear security could be improved by strengthening laws and regulations for mitigating insider threats, particularly by requiring more frequent personnel vetting and requiring personnel to report suspicious behaviour.
Overall the NTI report concluded that states are making progress in improving nuclear security. Global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials are decreasing overall and since the beginning of 2012 seven states have removed all or most of their weapons-usable nuclear materials.
Australia ranks first among the 25 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials and Belgium, Canada, and Japan are the most improved states.