After years of progress on nuclear security and continued improvements following the last of four global Nuclear Security Summits, the preventive measures countries have taken to secure nuclear materials against theft by terrorist organizations are at risk. The 2018 NTI Nuclear Security Index finds that, since 2016, risk environment factors (including political instability, ineffective governance, pervasiveness of corruption, and presence of groups interested in illicitly acquiring nuclear materials or in committing acts of nuclear terrorism) have deteriorated in 54 countries. Such deterioration has occurred at a time when well-organized, well-financed, and increasingly capable terrorist organizations are actively seeking the materials necessary to build weapons of mass destruction; additionally, cyber threats to nuclear facilities are rapidly expanding and evolving.
Today, 22 countries around the globe have weapons-usable nuclear materials, and 44 countries and Taiwan have nuclear facilities for which an act of sabotage could result in a dangerous release of radiation. Among those countries that the 2018 NTI Index identifies as having deteriorating risk environments, seven are estimated to have nearly 1,000 metric tons of weapons-usable nuclear materials combined, and 12 countries with deteriorating risk environments have a total of more than 120 nuclear sites.
From 2010 to 2016, the global Nuclear Security Summits, where heads of state came together biennially to address
nuclear security, elevated the importance of the issue, sharpened understanding of the steps needed to prevent
catastrophic terrorism, and prompted countries to make commitments both big and small to improve the
security of potentially vulnerable nuclear materials and facilities. Those summits ended in 2016, however, andno comparable cooperative global effort has emerged to replace them. Meanwhile, both the terrorist threat and new
concerns, including the risk of cyberattacks on nuclear facilities, are mounting. This fourth edition of the NTI Index
provides a benchmark that leaders can use to judge progress, and it contains recommendations for enhancing the security of nuclear materials and facilities around the world in an ever-more perilous context.