National Progress Report: United Kingdom

Since the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the United Kingdom has strengthened nuclear security implementation, taken measures to build up the global nuclear security architecture and taken action to tackle the threat of nuclear terrorism. 

UK actions to enhance nuclear security worldwide 

The UK is committed to enhancing the security of the civil nuclear industry globally. Since 2014, we have:    

  • invested £20.8 million in Global Threat Reduction across 20 countries.  The UK’s Global Threat Reduction Programme, established in 2002, supports improvements in nuclear and radiological security worldwide. Our financial and expert assistance has protected facilities, strengthened security culture, disposed of sensitive material and countered nuclear smuggling.  This work has included:
    • physical security upgrades in a number of countries, including Tajikistan, the Philippines, Georgia and Kazakhstan.
    • expert advice and majority funding for the construction of a new £10 million facility in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. This ensured secure storage of up to 500,000 disused radioactive sources from across Ukraine, which may otherwise have been targeted by terrorists and criminals.
    • improving cooperation in countering nuclear smuggling in the Black Sea region, including through a regional conference in Georgia in February 2015, and a response exercise in Moldova in September 2015.
    • addressing emerging threats by hosting an international workshop in Vienna to explore these challenges and organising a seminar on the changing nature of proliferation threats with the UN Security Council’s 1540 Committee.
  • contributed international expertise. The UK participates in the Nuclear Security Guidance Committee to set international guidelines and best practice for nuclear security.  The UK provides experts to participate in International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) peer review missions to help States adopt best practice.
  • transported nuclear materials for consolidation. We provided a ship with unique security capabilities to move excess plutonium and Highly Enriched Uranium (HEU) from Germany and Switzerland to the United States as part of efforts to consolidate and minimise global inventories of nuclear material.

Support for international institutions

We have continued to work with international institutions to improve the security of nuclear material and knowledge.  Since 2014 we have:

  • supported the IAEA, providing over £5.8 million in funding and expertise. In 2015 alone, the UK was the second largest state contributor to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund. We also provided considerable technical expertise for high priority nuclear security projects, including on nuclear decommissioning to enable the removal of the last remaining HEU from Uzbekistan in September 2015;
  • led Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism work on emergency planning and response. The UK hosted a workshop in London in November 2015 for over 100 participants from 25 countries to develop good practice in responding to radiological and nuclear emergencies. A UK representative has also been appointed to the leadership team as Advisor to GICNT’s Implementation and Assessment Group Chair; and
  • supported INTERPOL’s Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit.  We have provided £650,000 to fund staff, workshops on counter nuclear smuggling and Operation Fail Safe (to support tracking of the transnational movement of individuals involved in the illicit trafficking).

Work to broaden and strengthen international agreements

The UK has implemented all key legal instruments governing nuclear security. Since 2014, we have:

  • encouraged and assisted other States to ratify the key instruments. In particular, the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.  We have funded the UN Office on Drugs and Crime to run a regional conference in Thailand and a workshop in Vienna for over 40 countries to promote ratification;  and
  • supported implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540.  We have hosted a visit to the UK by the 1540 Committee in November 2014; as a Vice-Chair of the 1540 Committee we guided development of its workplan; we have provided legislative assistance to help States meet their 1540 obligations and we funded visits by a former UN expert to help States develop first reports on national implementation. 

Domestic measures to enhance nuclear and radioactive material security 

The UK keeps the security regime at its nuclear sites under continuous review to ensure that it remains robust and effective. Since 2014 we have:

  • invited IAEA scrutiny as a contribution to raising global standards. In February 2016, we became the first nuclear weapon state to host a follow-up International Physical Protection Advisory Service mission, following the 2011 assessment of our largest civil nuclear site Sellafield;
  • continued to develop border and in-country detection infrastructure. Our detection capabilities are extensive and continue to improve using the latest science and technology research, and working with partners; and
  • continued to consolidate our nuclear material. Since 2013 the UK has targeted the consolidation of its unused ‘exotic’ fuel stores to allow security resources to be focused in a single location. The programme is scheduled to complete the majority of moves by the end of 2017.

Support for the Nuclear Security Summit process 

As part of our contribution to the Nuclear Security Summit process, we have:

  • led the development of the Action Plan for the United Nations. We chaired the drafting group for this plan; its effective implementation will be key to strengthening the global nuclear security architecture;
  • developed best practice on maritime transport and supply chain security.  We hosted two tailored workshops that led to the development of best practice guidance on measures to enhance supply chain security and the transportation of civilian nuclear material by sea.
  • inspired the first ever IAEA guidance on nuclear information security. Following our 2012 and 2014 Summit commitments, we continued to lead international action to ensure the protection of sensitive nuclear information. This culminated in the IAEA’s recognition that information security measures are an essential part of a State’s nuclear security regime with the publication of Nuclear Security Series no. 23-G in February 2015; and
  • funded in-depth analysis of progress on radiological security. We funded a Nuclear Threat Initiative report to highlight the measures signatories to the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit Gift Basket are taking in this area, published in March 2016.