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The Nuclear Threat Initiative, in a project led by former U.S. Sen. Sam Nunn and the Economist Intelligence Unit, aims to draw attention to steps that nations can take to ensure the safety of the world's most destructive weapons
Among 32 nations that possess at least one kilogram of weapons-usable nuclear materials, Australia was ranked as the most secure. It was followed by European nations led by Hungary, the Czech Republic and Switzerland.
Australia does not have nuclear weapons and supports their abolition. But it has a security alliance with the United States and holds the world's largest reserves of uranium.
On the bottom of the list, North Korea was ranked as the least secure of its nuclear material, edging out Pakistan.
The father of Pakistan's atomic bomb, Abdul Qadeer Khan, admitted in 2004 that he ran a nuclear black market selling secrets to Iran, Libya and North Korea but later retracted his remarks.
The index, which gave rankings on a scale of 100, also listed Iran, Vietnam and India below the 50-point threshold.
Of acknowledged nuclear weapons states, Britain scored best at 10th among the 32 countries. The United States ranked 13th.
The Obama administration is in advanced negotiations to share nuclear fuel and technology with Vietnam in a deal that would allow Hanoi to enrich its own uranium—terms that critics on Capitol Hill say would undercut the more stringent demands the U.S. has been making of its partners in the Middle East. The State Department-led negotiations could unsettle China, which shares hundreds of miles of border with Vietnam. It is the latest example of the U.S.'s renewed assertiveness in South and Southeast Asia, as Washington strengthens ties with nations that have grown increasingly wary of Beijing's growing regional might.
In Japan's most aggressive move to promote exports of nuclear technology since the Fukushima Daiichi accident in March, a Tokyo-based utility consortium signed a deal with Vietnam
Vietnam is negotiating with Russia to borrow $8 billion to build what will be the country's first nuclear-power plant, Ninh Thuan 1. (The proposed Japanese plant would be Ninh Thuan 2.) Russia's state nuclear-energy corporation, Rosatom, has been chosen to build the plant, with construction to begin in 2014 and be completed by 2020.