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Study: Australia ranks highest for nuclear materials' safety, North Korea takes last place

A new study ranks the safety of the 32 countries with nuclear arms material.

Japan nuclear plant 120112Enlarge
A workers is given a radiation screening as he enters the emergency operation center at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power station in Japan. Japan ranked 23rd in a new study which looked at the safety of the 32 nations that possess nuclear materials. (Stringer/AFP/Getty Images)

Australia takes first place in nuclear materials' safety, while North Korea lags in last, a new study by the Nuclear Threat Initiative has found. 

The study, released on Wednesday, tracks the 32 nations that have materials for nuclear weapons and rates the precautions each country has in place from best to worst. 

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The ranking is the first of its kind, and is a joint endeavor of the Nuclear Threat Initiative, a private advocacy group in Washington, and the Economist Intelligence Unit, a risk analysis company in London.

Their goals? To ignite a global conversation on how to promote security and encourage governments to strengthen protections against atomic terrorism, The New York Times reported

Of the countries with actual nuclear weapons, not just materials, Britain ranked the highest, the Christian Science Monitor reported. Japan ranked 23rd, behind nations like Kazakhstan and South Africa, and the United States tied for 13th place with Belgium. 

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The study used obscure public information to reach its conclusions; for example, general procedures for training guards and protecting sensitive sites, the Times reported. 

“There was no spying,” Leo Abruzzese, director of global forecasting at the Economist Intelligence Unit, told the Times. “It was pieced together." 

Despite a push by the Obama administration to spur international efforts to keep terrorists from getting their hands on atomic weapons, the report concludes that there is still no "global consensus about what the priorities should be or how materials should be tracked and protected," the Monitor reported. 

The study comes ahead of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, to be held in Seoul in March. Obama hosted the first nuclear security summit two years ago in Washington, a year after he called on world leaders to accelerate efforts to keep material and weapons safe. 

“We’ll never get this job done if we continue to operate behind closed doors,” Deepti Choubey, senior director for nuclear security at the Nuclear Threat Initiative, said Tuesday in an interview with the New York Times.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/business-tech/science/120112/study-nuclear-safety-rankings