World Leaders Vow to Boost Nuclear Security
Four dozen world leaders meeting in
Speaking to reporters at a news conference at the close of the April 12-13 summit, President Barack Obama, who convened the event, said the participating nations “seized” the opportunity “to make concrete commitments and take tangible steps to secure nuclear materials.”
At a separate press conference, White House Coordinator for WMD Counterterrorism and Arms Control Gary Samore said one of the summit’s most important outcomes was eliminating doubts on whether the threat of nuclear terrorism “is really serious.” Another key result, he said, was the “consensus” that “the solution to the threat is actually pretty simple” because “[p]hysical protection is something that governments know how to do, something that private companies know how to do, if they invest the resources.”
Forty-seven national delegations—38 of them represented at the level of head of state or head of government—attended the event, as did the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and the United Nations. The participants agreed on a communiqué, which included an endorsement of Obama’s goal to secure all vulnerable nuclear materials in four years, first announced in April 2009 in
According to the
Twenty-nine countries announced what Samore called “house gifts,” or measures they have taken or plan to take to strengthen nuclear security.
President Dmitry Medvedev announced the shutdown of
At his press conference, Obama said the participants agreed “on the urgency and seriousness of the threat” and reached a “shared understanding of the risk.” The
Although he won praise at the summit for making the commitment, Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych was criticized for his decision by the opposition at home. Opposition leader Yulia Tymoshenko said in an April 16 statement on her Web site that his decision to give up HEU “is not in
The Chilean material left the country March 4 on two ships to the
The NNSA, a separately organized agency within the Department of Energy, administers the Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI). One focus of the GTRI is to secure HEU and plutonium from research reactors supplied by
Recently, the GTRI has also begun to cover “gap material”—HEU and plutonium from countries other than
The Chilean HEU consisted of two batches, 13.9 kilograms of British-supplied material enriched to 45 percent uranium-235 and 4.6 kilograms of French-origin material enriched to 90 percent uranium-235, the NNSA official said.
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Sarkozy proposed establishing an international tribunal to deal with states supplying nuclear materials to nonstate actors. He later said this could be accomplished “either by amending the statute of the International Criminal Court to broaden its powers or by establishing an ad hoc court to bridge the gap in international law.” Sarkozy said Obama asked the sherpas—the aides who do the preparatory work, including the drafting of statements, before a summit—to work with the UN secretary-general on this initiative. Samore, at the postsummit press conference, said the idea prompted “a very lively discussion,” after which “the leaders agreed that this is one of the things the experts will be discussing” in the meetings prior to the next summit, which
Speaking at an April 14 event at the Hudson Institute in Washington, Andrew Semmel, a former deputy assistant secretary of state for nuclear nonproliferation who attended the summit as an IAEA consultant, said a number of countries, including
Some countries pledged new resources to help the IAEA meet its responsibilities and agreed to hold regional or national conferences or meetings in support of nuclear security. The communiqué reaffirmed the “essential role” of the IAEA “in the international nuclear security framework and will work to ensure that it continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise needed to carry out its mandated nuclear security activities.”
Many states, including
Implementing the communiqué by following the specific steps outlined in the work plan will lead to “focused national efforts to improve security and accounting of nuclear materials and strengthen regulations at the national level,” said Laura Holgate, senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction, speaking at the same April 13 news briefing as Samore.
In the work plan, states agree to advance nuclear security with measures that include ratification and implementation of international treaties; support for UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires all states to put in place a wide variety of “appropriate effective” national controls over nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons and related materials and the means to deliver them; conversion of civilian facilities from HEU to non-weapons-useable materials; research on new nuclear fuels, detection methods, and forensic technologies; development of corporate and institutional cultures that prioritize nuclear security; education and training; and joint exercises among law enforcement and customs officials to enhance nuclear detection opportunities.
According to the communiqué, states “[r]ecognize that highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium require special precautions and agree to promote measures to secure, account for, and consolidate these materials, as appropriate.” They endorsed “strong nuclear security practices that will not infringe upon the rights of States to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes.” Although emphasizing “the role of the nuclear industry, including the private sector, in nuclear security,” the work plan “recogniz[es] that national governments are responsible for standard setting within each State.”
In response to a question about the numerous qualifying phrases in the communiqué, such as “where appropriate” and “where feasible,” Samore said that “the structure of nuclear security is fundamentally a sovereign responsibility of nation states.” He said it is not possible to get an international agreement to give the IAEA the same kind of authority in nuclear security that it has in nuclear safeguards.
The communiqué recognized “that measures contributing to nuclear material security have value in relation to the security of radioactive substances,” but the issue of radiological security was not on the summit’s agenda. Speaking at the same press conference as Samore and Holgate, Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, said the gathering focused on “the highest-consequence threat,” a nuclear explosion, which would result from a device made from plutonium or HEU “as opposed to a dirty bomb.”
At the Hudson Institute briefing, Semmel said several countries brought up the issue of radiological threats in the course of the meeting even though it was not on the formal agenda.
In the communiqué, the meeting participants said they “[r]ecognize the continuing role of nuclear industry, including the private sector, in nuclear security and will work with industry to ensure the necessary priority of physical protection, material accountancy, and security culture.”
Nuclear industry leaders met in a separate session April 14. That meeting, organized by the Washington-based Nuclear Energy Institute (NEI), drew more than 200 industry officials, NEI said in an April 15 press release.
In the release, NEI President and Chief Executive Officer Marvin Fertel praised Obama for being “able to elevate the issue of securing nuclear materials that are not secure now to such a high level.” Participants in the industry meeting agreed to form an executive task force to “look at how the industry can align with the goals of the communiqué and work plan,” the NEI release said. The industry leaders also agreed to improve the sharing of “lessons learned in securing materials” and to “strengthen engagement between industry and government,” NEI said.
A delegation of industry officials also met with Vice President Joe Biden April 14. After the meeting, Biden’s office released a statement saying that he “made clear that since roughly half of the world’s nuclear materials are in the hands of industry, public-private cooperation is essential to preventing the spread of nuclear materials to terrorists.” He “challenged the nuclear industry to prepare a set of best practices” by the 2012 summit.
A likely candidate to work with industry to meet that challenge is the Vienna-based WINS, the institute’s executive director, Roger Howsley, said in an April 20 interview. “Unless WINS takes a lead [role], I don’t know who is going to do it on behalf of the worldwide nuclear industry,” he said. That is not because of a “lack of will,” but because WINS was created “to fill a gap” and is already preparing a series of best-practice security guides, which should be completed by the end of 2011, he said. Those guides then will be turned into accredited training materials, he said.
Howsley noted that the Canadian, Japanese, and
As follow-up to the summit and preparation for the one in
In an April 22 interview, another White House official said it would be up to
Samore said at the briefing that “my prediction is that we are likely to have even more concrete results in 2012. We’ll be able to do better than we did this time because I think we’ve set a pattern; countries will want to come to the next meeting with even bigger and better house gifts.”
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