A report issued Wednesday on the security of deadly nuclear materials found steady improvement, with seven countries in the last two years giving up most of their uranium and plutonium that could be readily turned into weapons. Their actions lowered the number of nations with appreciable fuel for atomic bombs to 25 from 32.
The nations that made the biggest gains were Belgium (up seven points), Canada (up six points) and Japan (up six points).
The United States lost one point and is now tied with Britain for 11th place. It fell because it excluded from nuclear safeguards a facility that handles atomic materials.
Worse, according to the authors of the report, the United States has not ratified two nuclear accords despite making commitments to do so. This “is particularly negative as other states block efforts to strengthen nuclear security, arguing that they will consider new initiatives only after the United States becomes party to the agreements,” the report said.
The seven countries removed from the list of those with bomb-making fuel were Austria, the Czech Republic, Hungary, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine and Vietnam. According to the report, their new status means they possess one kilogram (2.2 pounds) or less of materials that can fuel nuclear arms.
Nuclear security is typically a euphemism for a closed world of barbed wire and armed guards that never admits publicly to any problems. Behind the scenes, however, atomic insiders have long told of risky practices and security flaws that could let crucial ingredients for nuclear arms fall into the wrong hands.
In June, Mr. Obama announced that the United States would host what is expected to be the final security summit meeting, in 2016.