REVIEW: Article

The World Institute for Nuclear Security

In the last 60 years, the world has developed many beneficial uses for nuclear energy—from generating electricity, to protecting water resources, to increasing crop yields and fighting diseases. But we all know that our continued ability to enjoy the beneficial uses of the atom depends on our corresponding ability to prevent the destructive use of the atom.

There is no threat more potentially devastating than a terrorist nuclear attack:  

  • Terrorists have been seeking nuclear and radiological weapons for more than ten years.


  • The nuclear material they need is housed in hundreds of facilities around the globe.


  • In seeking this material, terrorists will not go where there is the most material; they will go where that material is most vulnerable.  

Our global nuclear security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.  

I believe that we must be committed to the vision of a world in which all nuclear materials are safe, secure, and accounted for—from cradle to grave. 

That is why I was pleased to recently join the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Mohamed ElBaradei, US Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman, Ambassador Bengt Johansen of Norway and others in announcing the establish-ment of the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS), whose goal is to strengthen the physical protection and security of nuclear materials and facilities worldwide.  

The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), which I co-chair with Ted Turner, the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management and the US Department of Energy partnered together to develop and launch WINS, with the close coordination of the IAEA. Government and industry have added their voices and resources in support of WINS.  

The World Institute for Nuclear Security will bring together nuclear security experts, the nuclear industry, governments and international organizations to focus on rapid and sustainable improvement of security at nuclear facilities. WINS’s scope of work will be on both weapons-usable material and radioactive materials.

Security professionals are the people in the best position to know where the vulnerabilities are, how to improve security, and how to ensure that improvements are implemented quickly and effectively. Through WINS, these professionals will determine the world’s best security practices for dealing with nuclear facilities and materials and share that information with their peers worldwide. 

If this concept sounds somewhat familiar, it’s because after the Chernobyl nuclear accident, the nuclear power industry created an international organization—the World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO)—dedicated to sharing information in order to improve nuclear safety. WINS takes its inspiration from WANO’s important and effective safety work with nuclear power plants around the globe, and WINS will be dedicated to improving security across a broad spectrum of facilities.  The world can’t afford to wait for a “security Chernobyl” before we act. 

WINS will build on the fundamental and essential activities of the IAEA by working closely with and complementing its vital work. WINS will be headquartered in Vienna to ensure close coordination. 

Our ultimate goal is that every institution responsible for nuclear and radioactive material will join and participate in this organization—both to share what they know and to learn from others. Though the scope of WINS will be broad, its initial activities will concentrate on the most dangerous nuclear materials. WINS’s operating assumption and message to everyone handling nuclear materials is that a terrorist nuclear attack anywhere in the world will cast a dark cloud over the nuclear community—no matter where the material originated.  

NTI will continue to offer its encouragement and assistance to WINS in any way that is helpful, but WINS will be accountable and responsive to its membership, its international board and its participants. Dr. Roger Howsley, an internationally recognized security expert, has agreed to get us off to a running start as WINS’s first executive director.

WINS would not be possible without the vision, leadership and generosity of the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Pete and his Foundation enabled NTI to make a grant of $3 million to WINS to assist in the early stages of its birth, growth and independence. The Department of Energy is matching NTI’s gift with an additional $3 million. Norway has announced its support for WINS and an initial $100,000 contribution to support the participation of security professionals from developing states in WINS activities. WINS expects to leverage additional contributions from governments around the world and from the nuclear industry.

The world has already experienced a catastrophe that came from a lack of safety.  The world has never experienced a catastrophe that came from a major lapse in security.  The World Institute for Nuclear Security has been born to help ensure that we never do.  

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Co-Chairman, Nuclear Threat Initiative
The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS);
United States Senator, 1972-1996