‘India dangerous weak link in n-security’

India has been ranked among countries with the weakest nuclear security in the world, in a US study released on Thursday. The number of countries possessing the makings of a nuclear bomb has dropped by almost one-quarter over the past two years, but there remain "dangerous weak links'' in nuclear materials security that could be exploited by terrorist groups with potentially catastrophic results, according to the study.

Among the 25 countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials, the study by the Nuclear Threat Initiative said the weakest nuclear security is in Israel, Pakistan, India, Iran and North Korea. It assessed factors such as accounting methods, physical security and transportation security. It ranked Australia as having the best nuclear security arrangements, followed by Canada, Switzerland, Germany and Norway. The US was ranked No. 11.

According to the study, Mexico, Sweden, Ukraine, Vietnam, Austria, the Czech Republic and Hungary have removed all or most of the weapons-usable nuclear materials on their territories since 2012. That has reduced the number of countries with one kilogram or more of weapons-usable nuclear materials, such as highly enriched uranium, to 25 from 32 two years ago, the study said. The Nuclear Threat Initiative is a private, non-partisan group that advocates reducing the risk of the spread of nuclear weapons.

"That's a big deal,'' said Page Stoutland, vice president of the group's nuclear materials security programme. "Getting rid of the materials is one less country where somebody could potentially steal weapons-usable material.''

The drop in the number of countries possessing such materials could be seen as encouraging for President Barack Obama's declared ambition to lock down all of the world's highly enriched uranium and plutonium.

There are an estimated 1,400 tons of highly enriched uranium and almost 500 tons of plutonium stored in hundreds of sites around the world.

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