In November 2015, up to 10 grams of the radioactive isotope iridium-192 were stolen from a storage facility near Basra, Iraq. The same month—and little more than two weeks after the Paris terrorist attacks—a suspect linked to those attacks was found with surveillance footage showing a high-ranking Belgian nuclear official. While the radioactive material missing in Iraq was eventually found (abandoned outside a gas station in a town nine miles from Basra), these two incidents have heightened fears that groups such as the Islamic State might obtain radioactive material and build a radiological dispersal device, commonly known as a dirty bomb.
Such incidents also emphasize why President Obama, in his 2009 Prague speech, said that the "most immediate and extreme threat to global security" was that terrorists might acquire a nuclear weapon. These concerns led him to initiate the Nuclear Security Summit process, which got under way in Washington the next year. But 2016 is both the last full year of Obama's presidency and the end of the summit process. The final summit—like the first, held in Washington—will help determine nuclear security's path going forward.
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