International Nuclear Security

Nuclear security is built upon the implementation of relevant international legal instruments, national nuclear laws, policies, regulations, and technical protection measures to prevent the theft or sabotage of nuclear material and nuclear facilities worldwide.

Effective nuclear security enables the peaceful use of nuclear energy, which helps to advance United Nations (UN) sustainable development goals, such as access to clean energy and climate action. Incorporating nuclear security concepts and technologies proactively into the next generation of nuclear energy technology and infrastructure will enhance U.S. competitiveness and help buyer countries to better meet their international obligations.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) Office of International Nuclear Security (INS) focuses on collaborating with partners on technical solutions for an integrated approach to nuclear security that best positions U.S. technologies for export consistent with international obligations and guidance. 

What is nuclear security?

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) defines nuclear security as “the prevention of, detection of, and response to, criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving or directed at nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities or associated activities.” 

Nuclear security is governed by several international instruments, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment (Convention or A/CPPNM). It obligates the 125 countries that are parties to the Convention to establish enforceable requirements to protect nuclear material and nuclear facilities against theft and sabotage.

NNSA and its national laboratories, through decades of experience securing domestic and international nuclear material, facilities and in transport, lead international efforts to prevent the theft and sabotage of nuclear material and facilities worldwide through bilateral and multilateral capacity building, technical exchanges and innovation. 

Why nuclear security?

In addition to meeting legally binding instruments, international guidance, and national requirements, effective nuclear security contributes to national security, which promotes nuclear power generation capabilities and is the foundation for technical cooperation in nuclear-related areas. 

A single nuclear security event at a nuclear power plant anywhere in the world would have a ripple effect on the viability of the entire nuclear power industry. Preventing nuclear terrorism, material theft, and radiological sabotage cannot be considered in isolation from developmental goals, such as providing clean energy sources through the peaceful use of nuclear technology.

Effective nuclear security planning and implementation reduces these risks and makes U.S. advanced nuclear reactor designs more competitive and their future hosts more resilient to evolving threats. It also better positions international buyer countries to meet both international and national nuclear security requirements and guidance, which ultimately upholds the nuclear security framework and helps it adapt to the next generation of nuclear infrastructure deployments.

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