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Updated: April 2012
The Nuclear Security Summit
The goal of the summit process is to address the threat of nuclear terrorism by enhancing international cooperation to prevent the illicit acquisition of nuclear material by non-state actors such as terrorist groups and smugglers. The initiative began with an April 2009 call by U.S. President Barack Obama to hold a global summit on nuclear security in 2010 as part of an effort to "secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.”
The global stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium is estimated at approximately 2,000 tons. While the vast majority of that material is located in a handful of countries, namely the United States and Russia, the summit process recognizes the threat of nuclear terrorism as a serious global issue, requiring transnational cooperation. There have been 16 confirmed cases of unauthorized possession of HEU or plutonium documented by the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database since 1993, primarily in the former Soviet Union.
The summit process has featured two summits in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012, as well as several preparatory meetings between high-level national summit coordinators or sherpas. A third summit is scheduled for 2014 hosted by the Netherlands.
The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C., April 12-13, 2010. Forty-seven national delegations as well as the heads of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Union attended. With 38 nations represented at the head of state or head of government level, the gathering was the largest of its kind hosted by a U.S. President since 1945.
In order to build upon these efforts, the summit concluded with a communiqué embracing the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable weapons-useable nuclear material within four years, and a work plan, which identified existing international agreements and resources that are available to countries as they work to secure or eliminate their civilian stockpiles of this material.
The Washington Communiqué
The Washington Work Plan
The Work Plan lays out the specific steps for realizing the goals of the Communiqué, including ratification and implementation of international treaties; support for Security Council Resolution 1540; 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.
Washington Summit Country Commitments
In addition to signing the Communiqué and Work Plan, thirty countries announced 67 specific measures they planned to implement to support the goals of the summit. Prior to the Seoul summit, approximately 80 percent of these commitments were completed. Some of the key national commitments include:
Canada: Returning a large amount of spent highly enriched uranium fuel from their medical isotope production reactor to the United States; championing the extension of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; funding highly enriched uranium removals from Mexico and Vietnam; hosting and funding a World Institute of Nuclear Security best practices workshop in Ottawa; unveiling $100 million in new bilateral security cooperation with Russia
Chile: Removed all highly enriched uranium (18kgs) in March 2010
Kazakhstan: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor and eliminating remaining highly enriched uranium; cooperative work on BN-350 rector shutdown and fuel security; hosting a Global Initiative Activity in June; considering a International Nuclear Security Training Center.
Mexico: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor and eliminating remaining highly enriched uranium working through IAEA
Republic of Korea: Hosting 2012 Nuclear Security Summit; hosting a Global Initiative activity
Russia: Signing Plutonium Disposition protocol; ending plutonium production; contributing to International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund
Ukraine: Removing all highly enriched uranium by next Summit—half of it by year’s end
Vietnam: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor; joining the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism
Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor; joining the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear TerrorismSee a full list of national commitments
For a full accounting of the implementation of the 2010 national commitments, click here
In 2012, 53 heads of state and government along with representatives from the United Nations (UN), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), European Union (EU) and INTERPOL gathered for the second nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea. Participating countries included the 47 countries that attended the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit plus Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania. The meeting, held on March 26-27, sought to reaffirm commitments made during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit as well as outline future goals with respect to international agreements on nuclear security, radiological material security, and nuclear safety.
One of the primary objectives of the Seoul summit was to assess the progress that countries made toward the goal of securing all nuclear material world-wide since 2010. A report released in March 2012 by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security found that approximately 80 percent of the national commitments pledged at the 2010 summit were completed in the run up to Seoul.
While the 2012 summit remained focused on nuclear security, the scope of the agenda was expanded to include discussions on the security of radiological sources and sensitive information and the interface between nuclear security and safety. The nuclear security-safety nexus was raised in particular following the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. The summit produced a consensus communiqué that largely reiterated the goals and commitments from 2010.
Seoul Summit Outcomes
Key National Commitments and Accomplishments
Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam: joined the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.
Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United States: announced a joint project to convert the production of medical isotope molybdenum-99 from the use of HEU targets to LEU targets.
Czech Republic, Mexico, Viet Nam: converted their research reactors using HEU fuel to LEU fuel.
Israel: ratified the ICSANT; completed the repatriation of US-origin HEU spent fuel from its Soreq research reactor.
Ukraine: completed the removal of all HEU stockpiles.
Kazakhstan: secured spent nuclear fuel which contained enough HEU and plutonium to make several hundred nuclear weapons by moving them to a new long-term storage facility.
The Netherlands: will host the next nuclear security summit in 2014.
Pakistan: opening Nuclear Security Training Centers to act as a regional and international hub; deploying Special Nuclear Material Portals on key exit and entry points to counter the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.
Russia and the United States: HEU equivalent to around 3,000 nuclear weapons has been down- blended to LEU.