Prevent, Counter, and Respond—A Strategic Plan to Reduce Global Nuclear Threats (NPCR)

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Cover of the FY2020 NNSA Prevent, Counter, and Respond—A Strategic Plan to Reduce Global Nuclear Threats report

The Department of Energy (DOE) performs a unique and indispensable role in reducing global nuclear and radiological dangers, contributing to U.S. national security and global security writ large. Chiefly performed through the work of DOE’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), these activities comprise the Prevent-Counter-Respond framework, which provides a dynamic defense-in-depth against current and long-term nuclear threats.

Under this framework, NNSA works to prevent would-be proliferant states and non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons or weapons-usable nuclear material (WUNM), counter efforts of both would-be proliferant states and non-state actors to acquire or develop these capabilities, and respond to nuclear incidents worldwide, whether deliberate terrorist acts or nuclear accidents. As part of an all-hazards emergency management program, and in close cooperation with our interagency and international partners, we continuously monitor the global landscape to ensure the United States can anticipate and respond to developments that may threaten the nation’s security.

DOE/NNSA’s threat reduction programs address a number of challenges, including inadequately secured nuclear and radioactive materials in regions of concern and increasing global stockpiles of WUNM. Growing interest in civil nuclear power, particularly in the developing world, could increase the number of latent nuclear-threshold states, underscoring the importance of DOE/NNSA’s contribution to strengthening the international nuclear safeguards regime. These countries may also have little or no experience in safely managing nuclear facilities and protecting nuclear materials, presenting a vulnerability that malicious actors may seek to exploit.

DOE/NNSA is also working to address threats posed by the spread of new nuclear technologies and manufacturing processes. As these capabilities continue to emerge, it will be incumbent upon the nuclear security enterprise to keep pace, assessing the security implications of new advances and developing measures to mitigate risks. No less important will be the need to maintain the scientific and technological base required to ensure that the United States does not fall victim to technology surprise.

DOE/NNSA’s national laboratories, plants, and sites possess an unparalleled level of scientific and technical expertise. These national assets are crucial to understanding the evolving threat environment and developing technical solutions to prevent, counter, and respond to nuclear threats. Consequently, ensuring that the nuclear security enterprise has the capabilities, including modern facilities and intellectual capital, needed to perform the vital mission of protecting the American people by reducing global nuclear threats is—and will remain—among our highest priorities.