Nuclear Weapons | Analysis and New Insights

The IAEA and Nuclear Security: Trends and Prospects

Jack Boureston and Dr. Andrew K. Semmel | December 2010


Despite nuclear security having emerged at the top of the international security agenda, and even with the worldwide interest in developing nuclear power capabilities, the standards for preventing, detecting, and responding to nuclear terrorist activities remain quite poorly defined. National capabilities for strengthening nuclear security are uneven, as is the political will for making those improvements.

There is now a plethora of overlapping tools and instruments—some legally binding, others purely voluntary, and some unilateral, others multilateral—to deal with the burgeoning problems of nuclear security and terrorist threats. Yet there is no single coordinating body for the nuclear security agenda. Greater coordination, direction, and clarity of the task ahead are needed. In a new policy analysis brief from the Stanley Center, Jack Boureston and Andrew Semmel argue that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)—because of its established track record, its programs already in practice, its independence, integrity, and confidentiality—is best suited to take that leadership role. Making that a reality, however, will not be easy.