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Nuclear Nonproliferation

Resuming Negotiations with North Korea


The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from developing nuclear-armed ballistic missile systems is closing and Washington should explore every serious diplomatic overture from Pyongyang.


The window of opportunity to prevent North Korea from fielding nuclear-armed ballistic missiles is closing. Diplomatic engagement with North Korea has been scant in recent years. In response to Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile tests, the United States and other countries, through actions of the United Nations Security Council and independent policies, have adopted an approach of increasing political and economic isolation. Yet, during this time, Pyongyang has improved its nuclear weapons capability quantitatively and qualitatively.

The next presidential administration must prioritize reviewing and renewing Washington’s diplomatic approach to North Korea. With each successive nuclear and missile test, North Korea advances its knowledge and consolidates its capability. History has shown that it is far easier to convince North Korea to negotiate away a military capability it does not yet possess. Washington’s stated primary concern is a North Korean nuclear-armed intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). Pyongyang will achieve this capability if it is not reined in through a diplomatic agreement or understanding. Once Pyongyang achieves this status, the security balance in Asia will be disrupted and U.S. diplomats will be hard-pressed to convince North Korea to abandon the capability.

To read the full brief, click here.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the dangers posed by the world's most dangerous weapons. 

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Posted: June 24, 2016

New Report Calls for Russia and the West to Move Back from the Brink



The West and Russia need to build on existing arms control measures to avoid exacerbation of the increasingly tense relationship between them, according to a group of international security experts.


For Immediate Release: June 21, 2016

Media Contacts: Kingston Reif, Director for Disarmament and Threat Reduction Policy, Arms Control Association, (202) 463-8270 x104; Ulrich Kuehn, Researcher, Institute for Peace Research and Security Policy, University of Hamburg, +49 (1) 76 811219 75

(Mosow, Berlin, Washington)—A new report from a high-level group of international security experts from Russia, the United States, and Germany recommends that the West and Russia build on a number of existing arms control and confidence-building measures in order to avoid further exacerbation of the increasingly tense and dangerous relationship between Russia and the West, particularly along the border between Russia and NATO member states.

The third report of the Deep Cuts Commission describes 15 key recommendations to help address the most acute security concerns in Europe—particularly in the Baltic area—and increase U.S.-Russian nuclear transparency and predictability.

“The prime objective for the next few years should be limiting the potential for dangerous military incidents that can escalate out of control,” the authors argue. “Russia and the West must come back from the brink. They need to better manage their conflictual relationship. Restraint and dialogue are now needed more than ever,” they write.

The Commission’s recommendations include:

    • In order to reduce current security concerns in the Baltic area, NATO and Russia should initiate a dialogue on possible mutual restraint measures. All states should adhere to the NATO-Russia Founding Act. A NATO-Russia dialogue should aim at increasing the security of all states in the Baltic area by encompassing reciprocal and verifiable commitments. A sub-regional arms control regime could consist of interlocking elements such as restraint commitments, limitations, CSBMs, and a sub-regional Incident Prevention and Response Mechanism.
    • In light of the increasing dangers of military incidents between Russia, the United States and other NATO member states, the United States and Russia should revive a dialogue on nuclear risk reduction measures, capable of addressing risks posed by different sorts of emergencies in near real-time. The United States and Russia could consider creating a Joint Military Incident Prevention and Communications Cell with a direct telephone link between the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Russian General Staff, and NATO’s Supreme Headquarters Allied Powers Europe. Such a cell could be linked to or established in parallel with a new European Risk Reduction Center.
    • States-parties to the Treaty on Open Skies should pay more attention to the continued operation of Open Skies. They should strengthen its operation by devoting equal resources to upgrading observation equipment.
    • Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) participating States should consider measures to give effect to the principle of non-intervention into internal affairs. For this purpose, the OSCE could set up a commission which would carefully look into the issue from a legal point of view and explore possibilities for a new OSCE states-based mechanism. Beyond, OSCE participating States should prepare for a long-term endeavor leading to a Helsinki-like conference with the aim of reinvigorating and strengthening Europe’s guiding security principles.
    • The United States and Russia should commit to attempting to resolve each other’s compliance concerns with the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty by supplementing ongoing diplomatic dialogue with technical expertise, either by convening the Special Verification Commission or a separate bilateral experts group mandated to appropriately address all relevant treaty-related compliance concerns. Further on, the United States and Russia should address the issue of supplementing the treaty by taking account of technological and political developments that have occurred since the treaty’s entry into force.
    • The United States and Russia should address the destabilizing effects of nuclear-armed cruise missile proliferation by agreeing on specific confidence-building measures. Together with other nations, they should address the challenges of horizontal cruise missile proliferation by reinforcing the relevant Missile Technology Control Regime’s restrictions and by endorsing the inclusion of land-attack cruise missiles and unmanned aerial vehicles/unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UAVs/UCAVs) in the Hague Code of Conduct against Ballistic Missile Proliferation.
    • Moscow and Washington should exercise restraint in Russian and U.S. nuclear force modernization programs, remaining within the New START limits and acting consistent with the intent of the treaty. The United States should forego development of the LRSO and Russia should reciprocate by phasing-out of new nuclear-armed ALCMs. The United States should show restraint in ballistic missile deployments consistent with its policy of defending against limited threats. NATO should follow through on its commitment to adapt its ballistic missile deployments in accordance with reductions in the ballistic missile proliferation threats.

    • Russia and the United States should work toward early discussions on a possible follow-on strategic arms reduction treaty. They should be able to envision reductions to a level of 500 deployed strategic delivery vehicles and 1,000 deployed strategic warheads during the next decade. These discussions should explore options for exchanging measures of reciprocal restraint and seek to address other issues of mutual concern under a combined umbrella discussion of strategic stability.

Beyond these recommendations, the experts identify a number of additional measures which could foster confidence in and maintain focus on the goal of further nuclear disarmament.

The complete report is available online.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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Posted: June 21, 2016

A New Era for Nuclear Security

The six-year nuclear security summit process produced significant advances in preventing nuclear theft and sabotage. Countries must ensure that progress does not stall now that the summits have ended.

June 2016

By Martin B. Malin and Nickolas Roth

The 2016 nuclear security summit was a pivotal moment for the decades-long effort to secure nuclear material around the globe. More than 50 national leaders gathered in Washington for the last of four biennial meetings that have led to significant progress in strengthening measures to reduce the risk of nuclear theft.

These summits have played a critical role in nurturing that progress by elevating the political salience of nuclear security and providing a forum for world leaders to announce new commitments, share information, and hold one another accountable for following through on promised actions. 

The international community is now entering the post-summit era, in which nuclear security will probably receive less-regular high-level political attention than it has in recent years. Yet, there is still critical work to be done to reduce the danger that nuclear weapons or the materials needed to make them could end up in the hands of a terrorist organization such as the Islamic State. Governments still do not agree on what nuclear security priorities are most pressing or how best to sustain the momentum generated by the summits. As the era of summitry recedes, will states continue improving measures to prevent nuclear theft and sabotage, or will the summits turn out to have been a high-water mark for nuclear security efforts?

Progress at the 2016 Summit

Over the course of the summit process, the participating states committed themselves to dozens of cooperative initiatives seeking to strengthen aspects of nuclear security, reduced vulnerabilities in their security systems, and pledged to continue joint efforts through multilateral groups and international institutions. The 2016 summit, held March 31-April 1 in Washington, marked progress on all of these fronts.

Like the 2010 summit in Washington, the 2012 summit in Seoul, and the 2014 summit in The Hague, this year’s meeting produced a consensus-based communiqué. At the three most recent summits, smaller groups of participants also produced a series of joint statements and group commitments, or “gift baskets.”1 At this year’s summit, all but three states participated in at least one of 18 gift baskets or nine joint statements, which covered a range of areas, including insider threats, transport security, minimization of the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), and cybersecurity.2 Among the most important outcomes of the recent summit was the establishment of a contact group, which will meet annually to discuss nuclear security. 

Some of the major accomplishments of the summit are listed below. 

Strengthening the commitment to nuclear security. China and India joined 36 states that had signed on to an important 2014 summit initiative on strengthening nuclear security implementation.3 Members of this group committed to “meet the intent” of International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear security principles and recommendations, conduct self-assessments, host periodic peer reviews of their nuclear security, and ensure that “management and personnel with accountability for nuclear security are demonstrably competent,” along with several other actions. This was an important commitment for China and India, demonstrating a measure of transparency and reassurance on nuclear security. Prior to the 2016 summit, neither country had been open to participating in such initiatives although both nuclear-armed states face terrorist threats.4 

The summit process also helped to build support for a foundational and legally binding international nuclear security instrument. After more than a decade, the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) reached the required number of ratifications to enter into force in May. The amendment outlines nuclear security principles and requires states to establish rules and regulations for physical protection. It also requires a review conference five years after entry into force and, if members choose to have them, additional review conferences at intervals of at least five years.5 The amended CPPNM, now officially known as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities, could be a helpful tool for states to hold one another accountable for maintaining physical protection and strengthening norms. 

Reducing nuclear security vulnerabilities. In addition to announcing new commitments, the summits were occasions for states to report on steps they had taken to remove or eliminate HEU or plutonium, convert reactors, improve physical protection, strengthen regulation, and contribute support to the IAEA or other international nuclear security work.

At the recent summit, Japan and the United States announced the completion of a commitment they made in 2014 to remove more than 500 kilograms of nuclear weapons-usable material from Japan.6 Argentina announced it had eliminated the last of its HEU, making it the 18th state to clean out all of its nuclear weapons-usable material since the beginning of the summit process. Indonesia declared it had eliminated all of its fresh HEU and planned to get rid of all its HEU in 2016. 

China announced the opening of its nuclear security center of excellence. Since 2010, China has worked with the United States to build the center as a hub for training, bilateral and multilateral best practice exchanges, and technology demonstration.7 The center will help China test and strengthen its own nuclear security measures and will provide a venue for cooperation with others in the region and beyond. 

The White House reported that 20 states hosted or invited peer review missions through the IAEA or from other states. Many other states announced that they had strengthened nuclear security laws or regulations, upgraded physical security, or updated the list of threats against which their nuclear facilities must be protected.

Continuing the dialogue. An important new gift basket created a nuclear security contact group that will convene annually on the margins of the IAEA General Conference. The contact group will carry forward the consultative element of the summit process, providing a forum for senior government officials to meet and discuss current efforts, evaluate progress on previously made commitments, and identify future priorities. If states buy into the idea of the contact group and take action to strengthen it, the group, whose membership is open to states that did not participate in the summits, could be an important vehicle for sustaining international nuclear security cooperation.

The summit also produced statements on bilateral nuclear security discussions between key countries. For example, China and the United States agreed to increase cooperation on nuclear terrorism prevention and conduct an annual dialogue on nuclear security. 

In addition, summit participants agreed to action plans for the IAEA, the United Nations, Interpol, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Destruction, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT). The plans outline the roles these organizations will play in supporting ongoing nuclear security discussions now that the summits have ended. 

Gaps and Missed Opportunities 

In their communiqué, the participants in the 2016 summit pledged to “continuously strengthen nuclear security at national, regional, and global levels.”8 Striving for continuous improvement is the right way to frame the challenge of providing effective and sustainable nuclear security. Unfortunately, summit participants missed important opportunities to give added momentum to the effort. The following issues continue to require attention. 

Still no global standard for nuclear security. Although the amended CPPNM establishes general security principles, it lacks specific standards or guidelines and applies only to materials in civilian use. UN Security Council Resolution 1540 requires states to provide “appropriate effective” protection for all materials, among other relevant measures, but does not specify what constitutes appropriate effective protection.9 IAEA recommendations, to which dozens of states have now publicly subscribed, provide somewhat more specificity, but their implementation is voluntary. Although the summit process certainly helped produce a shared understanding of the importance of nuclear security, it fell short of producing a consensus on a meaningful minimum global standard. 

If a global standard was beyond reach during the summits, a public commitment to stringent nuclear security measures among the states possessing the biggest stocks of HEU and plutonium would have been a consequential step. Although China’s and India’s endorsements of the initiative on strengthening nuclear security implementation was an important development, Russia’s absence from the summit and Russia’s and Pakistan’s refusal to sign that statement is a significant gap in the patchwork of nuclear security commitments. 

Furthermore, the summit outcomes were not comprehensive. Although the summit communiqués explicitly covered “all” nuclear material, most of the concrete progress from the meetings focused on civilian materials, largely ignoring the roughly four-fifths of the world’s remaining HEU and plutonium that is controlled by military organizations.10 

A mixed picture on implementation. Nuclear facilities in many countries still are not protected against the full range of threats. States with large stocks of nuclear weapons-usable material still contend with corruption and extremism.11 On the ground, security upgrades remain urgently needed in many spots around the world. One indication of the extent of the inconsistent application of physical protection measures is that, after all of the high-level attention since the 2010 summit, at least six countries—Argentina, Brazil, the Netherlands, Slovakia, Spain, and Sweden—still do not have armed guards at their nuclear facilities.12 

The collapse of U.S.-Russian bilateral cooperation is particularly alarming. Without Russian and U.S. commitments to rebuilding their bilateral nuclear security relationship, it will be impossible for the two states that possess roughly 80 percent of the world’s weapons-usable nuclear material to reassure one another that their nuclear security is sound.

Slippage of consolidation and minimization goals. The Obama administration put laudable effort into cleaning out HEU and plutonium from many countries and minimizing the use of HEU elsewhere. Yet, political obstacles will likely make substantial additional progress more difficult than in the past, in particular for the hundreds of kilograms of HEU in Belarus and South Africa. Conversion of additional HEU-fueled research reactors to use low-enriched uranium fuel, particularly but not only in Russia, is hampered by technical challenges and political inattention. Moreover, summit participants failed to reach agreement, even in principle, on stopping or reversing the buildup of separated plutonium.13 

Continuing culture of complacency in some countries. The summits put the notion of nuclear security culture on the agenda for many countries where it previously had been neglected. Nevertheless, workers, managers, policy officials, and even national leaders in many places still dismiss the threat of terrorist theft or sabotage as remote or implausible.14 Many organizations handling nuclear weapons, HEU, or separated plutonium do not have specific programs focused on strengthening security culture. The IAEA has still not published its nuclear security culture self-assessment guide.15 The summit process helped spark interest in strengthening security culture, but much more work is needed.

Need for more-robust channels for dialogue. The political momentum created by the summits will not likely be re-created through other organizations, although the contact group, IAEA ministerial meetings, a review conference for the amended CPPNM, and other forums certainly will provide important opportunities for discussion, reporting on progress, and further cooperation.

The recent summit’s action plans did not significantly expand or strengthen the global nuclear security architecture. The IAEA has assumed greater responsibility for convening high-level discussions on nuclear security and has intensified its nuclear security efforts since the first summit. Yet, the agency still deals only with civilian material and has no authority to require states to take any action on nuclear security.16 The nuclear security capacities of the UN and Interpol are even less robust, and the multilateral groupings, the GICNT and Global Partnership, remain unchanged by the action plans the summit participants produced.

Finally, Russia’s absence from the recent summit may bode ill for the successful implementation of the summit action plans. Moscow’s leadership and cooperation in all of the organizations referenced in the action plans will be necessary for many key nuclear security steps. 

Progress in the Post-Summit Era

In the interest of promoting cooperation, the summits frequently focused on plucking low-hanging fruit, while failing to advance more-difficult discussions of threats and persistent challenges. Governments must focus not only on what is most feasible but also on what is most urgently needed in light of the evolving threats they face.17 

Nuclear security efforts should have a clear goal: ensuring that all nuclear weapons and the materials that could be used to make them, wherever they are in the world, are effectively and sustainably secured against the full range of threats that terrorists and thieves might plausibly pose.18 Building an international consensus around such a goal will be a major challenge for the next U.S. president and for like-minded leaders.

The 2016 summit communiqué alludes to the goal of continuous improvement. Achieving that goal will require work on several fronts. Here are some of the most important areas of focus.19

Building up the commitment to stringent nuclear security standards. A legally binding set of international standards for nuclear security is unfortunately out of reach for the present. Yet, a group of states like-minded emanating from within the contact group or a special working group of the GICNT could develop a set of principles and guidelines that they pledge to apply to all stocks of nuclear weapons, HEU, and plutonium and invite other states to join them. Such a commitment should include the provision of well-trained, well-equipped on-site guard forces; comprehensive measures to protect against insider threats; control and accounting systems that can detect and localize any theft of weapons-usable nuclear material; protections against cyberthreats that are integrated with other nuclear security measures; effective nuclear security rules and regulations and independent regulators capable of enforcing them; regular and realistic testing of nuclear security systems, including force-on-force exercises; a robust program for enhancing security culture; and regular assessments of the evolving threat of theft or sabotage. Following the example of the initial group of adherents, the accumulation of international support for more-comprehensive standards could grow over time. 

In the meantime, leading states that are bound by the amended CPPNM should push to universalize the treaty, and the states that have joined the initiative on strengthening nuclear security implementation initiative should encourage others to commit to implement IAEA recommendations and accept peer review. 

Implementing effective and sustainable security measures on the ground. Commitments to stringent standards are meaningful only if they translate into real improvements. Bilateral cooperation can help spur the actions that are needed. The United States should expand nuclear security cooperation with China, India, and Pakistan, sharing additional information on security arrangements without revealing sensitive information that would increase vulnerability to terrorist attack. The United States also will need to make a priority of discussions with a wide range of countries on enhancing their own nuclear security, providing resources when needed.

Despite tensions over Ukraine and other issues, Russia and the United States should agree to a package of cooperation that includes nuclear energy initiatives, which are of particular interest to Russia, and nuclear security initiatives, which are of particular interest to the United States. Although it is unlikely in the current political environment, one mechanism for achieving this goal would be to restart the U.S.-Russian Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Working Group, which facilitated dialogue from 2009 until it was suspended in 2014 because of tensions between the two countries. Cooperation should no longer be based on a donor-recipient relationship but on an equal partnership with ideas and resources coming from both sides.20

Increasing efforts to reduce the number of sites where nuclear weapons and weapons-usable materials are stored. Today there are fewer locations where HEU and plutonium can be stolen because of removals motivated by the summit process. The consolidation process must continue. Stringent security requirements can help to incentivize the process of consolidation, as can well-funded programs for conversion of HEU-fueled reactors and removal of material. Russia and the United States, as the countries whose nuclear stockpiles are dispersed in the largest number of buildings and bunkers, should each develop a national-level plan for accomplishing their military and civilian nuclear objectives with the smallest practicable number of locations. The United States and other interested countries should ensure that plutonium and HEU bulk processing facilities do not spread to other countries or expand in number or scale of operations and that no more plutonium is separated than is used, bringing global plutonium stocks down over time.

Establishing a nuclear security culture that does not tolerate complacency about threats and vulnerabilities. Every country with relevant materials and facilities should have a program in place to assess and strengthen security culture, and all nuclear managers and security-relevant staff should receive regular information, appropriate to their role, on evolving threats to nuclear security. At the same time, interested countries should launch initiatives to combat complacency, including a shared database of security incidents and lessons learned; detailed reports and briefings on the nuclear terrorism threat; discussions among intelligence agencies, on which most governments rely for information about the threats to their country; and an expanded program of nuclear theft and terrorism exercises.

Building up channels for dialogue. Countries must continue to share information and devise plans to meet current nuclear security challenges. The IAEA ministerial-level meetings on nuclear security will provide an important forum. If parties to the amended CPPNM elect to meet every five years to review progress, this process could create important opportunities to place high-level pressure on states to step up nuclear security commitments and implementation. 

A more comprehensive scope of cooperation, including on military materials, could take place in multilateral forums. The GICNT, co-chaired by Russia and the United States and still valued by both, consists of more than 80 states committed to the group’s statement of principles, which includes improving measures that reduce the risk of nuclear theft such as accounting, control, and protection of nuclear and radiological materials. The group has not focused on these preventive approaches so far, but it should in the future.21 This summer represents the GICNT’s 10th anniversary, which would be an excellent time to announce the creation of a GICNT working group focused specifically on strengthening security for nuclear materials and facilities. The GICNT could also be a useful forum for Russia and the United States to expand nuclear security cooperation.

The contact group created at the nuclear security summit this year holds promise for facilitating dialogue, sharing information, and germinating joint activities. Its openness to all IAEA members has the advantage of potentially attracting states beyond the ring of past summit participants. Its size and heterogeneity, however, may limit the depth and effectiveness of the discussions. The contact group should select an executive committee of member state representatives—perhaps former summit hosts plus Russia, if it chooses to join—to establish and coordinate its agenda for discussion.

Finally, summit-level nuclear security meetings could be continued on the side of Group of 20 meetings, perhaps once every four years. This would sustain the kind of executive-level political attention to nuclear security that summits provided. 

The nuclear security summits periodically pressed participants to commit themselves to new and stronger measures for preventing nuclear terrorism. They facilitated a process of stocktaking and reporting on the concrete actions participants had taken. Moreover, they were a vehicle for forging stronger international collaboration on bolstering nuclear security around the globe. States must continue to build on the progress they made through the summit process. If they do, the 2016 summit will mark the beginning, rather than the end, of a new era of continuous improvement in nuclear security.


1.   For a comprehensive assessment of progress in fulfilling commitments from the summits prior to 2016, see Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport, and Jenna Parker, “The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report on Joint Statements,” Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security, March 2015, https://www.armscontrol.org/reports/2015/The-Nuclear-Security-Summit-Progress-Report-on-Joint-Statements

2.   The three countries that did not join gift baskets were Gabon, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia. For a list of gift baskets and joint statements from the 2016 summit, see “2016 Washington Summit,” Nuclear Security Matters, n.d., http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/2016-washington-summit

3.   “Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation,” March 25, 2014, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/235508.pdf. Thirty-five countries signed the 2014 statement. Jordan joined in late 2015.

4.   See Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “India and the Nuclear Security Summit,” Nuclear Security Matters, April 26, 2016, http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/blog/india-and-nuclear-security-summ; Hui Zhang, “China Makes Significant Nuclear Security Pledges at 2016 Summit,” Nuclear Security Matters, April 8, 2016, http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/blog/china-makes-significant-nuclear-security-pledges-2016-summit

5.   For background on the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, see “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), n.d., https://www.iaea.org/publications/documents/conventions/convention-physical-protection-nuclear-material. For an argument that the review conferences envisioned in the amendment could help drive nuclear security progress, see Jonathan Herbach and Samantha Pitts-Kiefer, “More Work to Do: A Pathway for Future Progress on Strengthening Nuclear Security,” Arms Control Today, October 2015. 

6.   “Joint Statement by the Leaders of Japan and the United States on Contributions to Global Minimization of Nuclear Material,” April 1, 2016, http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/files/nuclearmatters/files/joint_statement_by_the_leaders_of_japan_and_the_united_states_on_contrib.pdf

7.   Office of the Press Secretary, The White House, “U.S.-China Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation,” March 31, 2016, https://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2016/03/31/us-china-joint-statement-nuclear-security-cooperation

8.   “Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communiqué,” April 1, 2016, http://nuclearsecuritymatters.belfercenter.org/files/nuclearmatters/files/nuclear_security_summit_2016_communique.pdf?m=1460469255.

9.   See Matthew Bunn, “Appropriate Effective Nuclear Security and Accounting—What Is It?” (presentation, “Appropriate Effective” Material Accounting and Physical Protection—Joint Global Initiative/UNSCR 1540 Workshop,” Nashville, TN, July 18, 2008), http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/bunn-1540-appropriate-effective50.pdf.

10.   For a discussion of security for military materials, see Des Browne, Richard Lugar, and Sam Nunn, “Bridging the Military Nuclear Materials Gap,” Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), 2015, http://www.nti.org/media/pdfs/NTI_report_2015_e_version.pdf. The 2016 summit communiqué reaffirmed that states had a fundamental responsibility “to maintain at all times effective security of all nuclear and other radioactive material, including nuclear materials used in nuclear weapons.” See “Nuclear Security Summit 2016 Communiqué.” 

11.   For a more complete discussion of the threats some countries with nuclear material face, see Matthew Bunn et al., “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 2016, pp. 39-52, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/PreventingNuclearTerrorism-Web.pdf

12.   For country information on physical protection, see the 2016 NTI Nuclear Security Index for sabotage, http://ntiindex.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/03/2016-NTI-Index-Data-2016.03.25.zip. Belgium has only recently added armed guards to its nuclear facilities. The Swedish regulator has ordered that facilities post armed guards by February 2017. See Steven Mufson, “Brussels Attacks Stoke Fears About Security of Belgian Nuclear Facilities,” The Washington Post, March 25, 2016; “Swedish Regulator Orders Tighter Security at Nuclear Plants,” Reuters, February 5, 2016, http://www.reuters.com/article/sweden-nuclear-security-idUSL8N15K3SS

13.   The 2014 summit communiqué states, “We encourage States to minimise their stocks of [highly enriched uranium] and to keep their stockpile of separated plutonium to the minimum level, both as consistent with national requirements.” “The Hague Nuclear Security Summit Communiqué,” March 25, 2014, http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/237002.pdf. In 2016, there was no mention of plutonium in the communiqué.

14.   Matthew Bunn and Eben Harrell surveyed nuclear experts in states with nuclear weapons-usable material and found that some respondents did not find certain threats credible, despite extensive evidence to the contrary. See Matthew Bunn and Eben Harrell, “Threat Perceptions and Drivers of Change in Nuclear Security Around the World: Results of a Survey,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 2014, http://belfercenter.ksg.harvard.edu/files/surveypaperfulltext.pdf.

15.   IAEA, “Self-Assessment of Nuclear Security Culture in Facilities and Activities That Use Nuclear and/or Radioactive Material: Draft Technical Guidance,” July 2, 2014, http://www-ns.iaea.org/downloads/security/security-series-drafts/tech-guidance/nst026.pdf

16.   See Trevor Findlay, “Beyond Nuclear Summitry: The Role of the IAEA in Nuclear Security Diplomacy After 2016,” Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School, March 2014, http://belfercenter.hks.harvard.edu/files/beyondnuclearsummitryfullpaper.pdf.

17.   For a discussion of how the threat of nuclear terrorism has evolved over time, see Bunn et al., “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism,” pp. 14-26, 133-143. 

18.   Ibid., p. 96.

19.   For the recommendations on which this section draws, see Bunn et al., “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism,” pp. 96-133. 

20.   For a more complete description of the end of nuclear security cooperation, see Nickolas Roth, “Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation: Rebuilding Equality, Mutual Benefit, and Respect,” Deep Cuts Commission, June 2015, http://deepcuts.org/files/pdf/Deep_Cuts_Issue_Brief4_US-Russian_Nuclear_Security_Cooperation1.pdf.

21.   Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), “Fact Sheet,” n.d., http://www.gicnt.org/content/downloads/sop/GICNT_Fact_Sheet_June2015.pdf. Although the GICNT terms of reference state that its activities do not involve “military nuclear programs of the nuclear weapon states party to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons,” the group’s statement of principles, which is the only document GICNT members are required to endorse, contains no such exclusion. See Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation, U.S. Department of State, “Terms of Reference for Implementation and Assessment,” November 20, 2006, http://2001-2009.state.gov/t/isn/rls/other/76421.htm; GICNT, “Statement of Principles,” 2015, http://gicnt.org/content/downloads/sop/Statement_of_Principles.pdf.

Martin B. Malin is executive director of the Project on Managing the Atom at Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. From 2000 to 2007, he was director of the Program on Science and Global Security at the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. Nickolas Roth is a research associate at the Project on Managing the Atom. Parts of this article draw from the authors’ article with Matthew Bunn and William H. Tobey in 2016 titled “Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?”

Posted: May 31, 2016

Momentum Builds for Nuclear Ban Treaty

A growing number of non-nuclear-weapon states are expressing support for the immediate commencement of negotiations on a legally binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons.

June 2016

By Kingston Reif

A growing number of non-nuclear-weapon states are expressing support for the immediate commencement of negotiations on a legally binding agreement to prohibit nuclear weapons, despite strong opposition from those states that possess nuclear weapons and many U.S. allies. 

The contentious debate over how best to advance nuclear disarmament occurred at a meeting last month of an open-ended working group on disarmament taking place in Geneva this year.

It remains to be seen how the final report of the working group will reflect the different views expressed and whether ban-treaty supporters will seek a mandate at the UN General Assembly meeting in New York this fall to start formal talks on a treaty.

In a working paper considered by the group during the first two weeks of May, nine states belonging to nuclear-weapon-free zones, including Argentina, Brazil, Indonesia, and Mexico, called for convening “a Conference in 2017 open to all states, international organizations, and civil society to negotiate a legally-binding instrument to prohibit nuclear weapons.”

The paper detailed elements that negotiators of a ban treaty might include in this instrument, such as a prohibition on possession, use and threat of use, acquisition, and “assisting, encouraging, or inducing, directly or indirectly, the engagement in any activity prohibited by the legally-binding instrument.” 

In addition, the paper argued that a ban treaty “would have a political as well as legal impact on the disarmament debate” and “would not need universal adherence to be negotiated nor to enter into force.” 

Meanwhile, a May 4 working paper submitted by Austria and co-sponsored by all 126 other endorsees of the so-called Humanitarian Pledge that emerged from a December 2014 conference in Vienna on the impact of nuclear weapons use urged states “to identify and pursue effective measures to fill the legal gap for the prohibition and elimination of nuclear weapons,” including “an additional legal instrument or instruments.” (See ACT, January/February 2015.)

The Austrian paper noted that “[a]chieving and maintaining a world without nuclear weapons will require a multitude of legal and non-legal measures” and that “the various approaches cannot be considered as mutually exclusive but as complementary.” 

Many supporters of the Humanitarian Pledge expressed their support for beginning negotiations on a ban treaty at the May meeting of the working group, but the Austrian paper did not explicitly endorse such a treaty as the most appropriate next step toward advancing nuclear disarmament, nor did it recommend specific elements a treaty should include. 

One member of a European delegation participating in the group told Arms Control Today in a May 11 interview that although a majority of UN member states support starting negotiations on a ban treaty, some pledge signatories within the Non-Aligned Movement have not yet decided whether to support a ban as a near-term step. 

During last year’s meeting of the UN General Assembly First Committee, UN member states voted to approve a resolution sponsored by Mexico creating the working group. (See ACT, December 2015.) It is open ended, which means that all UN members can participate. 

The creation of the open-ended working group grew out of the frustration of many non-nuclear-weapon states at the slow pace of nuclear disarmament. This has prompted these states to look for new and alternative approaches and venues to spur progress.

Under the resolution, the main mandate of the group is to “substantively address concrete effective legal measures, legal provisions and norms” necessary to “attain and maintain a world without nuclear weapons.”

The working group held its first meeting Feb. 22-26. Another set of meetings was held in Geneva during May 2-4 and 9-13. 

United States Skips Meetings 

Approximately 100 states sent delegations to the May session, but the nine states that have nuclear weapons declined to participate.

Blake Narendra, a U.S. State Department spokesperson, told Arms Control Today in February that the United States decided not to participate because the agenda and rules for the working group “will not result in constructive dialogue on nuclear weapons or conditions under which nuclear disarmament can best be achieved.” (See ACT, March 2016.

Washington also expressed concern that the working group would lay the groundwork for negotiations on a ban treaty, which it strongly opposes. 

Some diplomats questioned the U.S. decision not to participate in the working group. A second European diplomat told Arms Control Today that had a U.S. delegation attended the meetings in Geneva, it could have slowed or even stopped the growing momentum in support of ban-treaty negotiation. 

Umbrella States Oppose Ban

Although none of the nuclear-armed states are attending the working group meetings, many countries in Europe and Asia that rely on U.S. nuclear weapons for their protection are participating. 

These states, often referred to as “umbrella states,” repeatedly expressed opposition to commencing negotiations on a ban treaty. 

In an April 27 working paper, Canada disputed the existence of a “legal gap” that must be filled by negotiating effective legal measures such as a ban treaty. According to the paper, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) “provides a sufficient legal basis for achieving a world free of nuclear weapons.”

Canada also voiced concern that the premature negotiation of a ban treaty that does not include the participation of states that possess nuclear weapons “would intensify existing rifts among states on nuclear issues” and “have the unintended consequences of imperiling the stability achieved under” the NPT.

Most umbrella states instead backed a progressive “building blocks” approach to advancing nuclear disarmament. As described in a Feb. 24 working paper, the approach calls for the pursuit of “parallel and simultaneous” nonlegal and legal measures, such as reducing the risk of accidental or unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, reducing numbers of nuclear weapons, bringing into force the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, and commencing negotiations on a fissile material cutoff treaty. 

According to the paper, only after these steps had been achieved would it be feasible to pursue the “final building block” of an “internationally verifiable nuclear disarmament framework such as...a multilateral nuclear weapons convention.” 

Some countries suggested additional ideas to advance disarmament with the aim of bridging gaps between supporters of a ban treaty and the building blocks approaches. 

For example, Annika Thunborg, director of the department of disarmament, nonproliferation, and export control in the Swedish Ministry of Foreign Affairs, proposed in a May 11 statement that states pursue an instrument prohibiting the use or threat of use of nuclear weapons, which she argued would reduce nuclear weapons risks and “could gain support among both countries with nuclear weapons and countries in nuclear alliances.” 

Sweden also submitted a working paper co-sponsored by Switzerland proposing that states “initiate or engage in a process to reduce risks associated with nuclear armed cruise missiles,” including “actions to limit, prevent deployment of and lead to a ban on all nuclear armed cruise missiles.” 

Next Steps Uncertain

At the May 13 close of the most recent working group meetings, group chair Thani Thongphakdi, the permanent representative of Thailand to the United Nations in Geneva, noted that the debate “was not an easy one and if agreement could be observed on several important topics, there were also persisting differences in views and approaches on others.”

Thongphakdi said that he would prepare a “factual report reflecting as much as possible the discussions held and proposals made” and circulate a first draft to states no later than early August. 

The working group is scheduled to meet for its final session on Aug. 5, 16-17, and 19 to consider and adopt a final report. 

Some states warned against seeking “a lowest common denominator outcome” at the expense of accurately reflecting what transpired during working group deliberations. In a May 13 statement, Dell Higgie, New Zealand’s ambassador for disarmament, said her country would not support a report that “simply repeats steps we have already agreed to elsewhere.” 

She stressed “the importance of” the report emphasizing that the “clear majority” of states support “pursuing a negotiating process right now.” 

Whether the UN First Committee might take up a resolution this fall to authorize the beginning of a negotiating process of a ban treaty is unclear. 

Thomas Hajnoczi, the permanent representative of Austria to the United Nations Office at Geneva, said that such a resolution would be a “logical” next step, but said his country, which supports starting negotiations on a ban, had yet to begin detailed consultations with other countries on the matter.

Posted: May 31, 2016

Obama Addresses Hiroshima Experience

Barack Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima, where he honored the innocent victims of wars and the 1945 atomic bombings and called for renewed energy to eliminate the nuclear threat.

June 2016

By Daryl G. Kimball

On May 27, President Barack Obama became the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombing. The U.S. president’s visit followed the summit of the leaders of the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized nations in nearby Mie Prefecture, Japan.

In a solemn ceremony in the early evening, Obama along with Japanese Prime Minister Abe offered wreaths at the Cenotaph Memorial, which lies less than one kilometer from the aim point of the U.S. atomic bomb that devastated the city and its 340,000 inhabitants. 

An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki on August 6 and 9, 1945.

Following the wreath laying, Obama and Abe spoke before an audience of dignitaries, which included a small number of survivors from the bombing and the present-day mayors of the two cities.

Obama began by asking and answering the question, “Why do we come to this place, to Hiroshima?”

“We stand here in the middle of this city and force ourselves to imagine the moment the bomb fell,” Obama said. “We force ourselves to feel the dread of children confused by what they see. We listen to a silent cry. We remember all the innocents killed across the arc of that terrible war and the wars that came before and the wars that would follow.”

“Mere words cannot give voice to such suffering,” he noted. “But we have a shared responsibility to look directly into the eye of history and ask what we must do differently to curb such suffering again.”

In a powerful symbol of remembrance and reconciliation, the president also spoke briefly with survivors of the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings, known as hibakusha.

Sunao Tsuboi, chairman of the Hiroshima branch of the Japan Confederation of A- and H-bomb Sufferers Organizations, who was a 20-year-old student when the bomb hit, held on to Obama’s hand while they spoke.

“I am 91 years old, but your speech was so exhilarating, I will live long,” Tsuboi told Obama according to the Japanese broadcaster NHK. 

Obama also spoke with and embraced 79 year-old Shigeaki Mori, who campaigned for the recognition of 12 American prisoners of war who were killed by the bomb. 

“Some day,” Obama noted in his address, “the voices of the hibakusha will no longer be with us to bear witness. But the memory of the morning of Aug. 6, 1945, must never fade. That memory allows us to fight complacency. It fuels our moral imagination. It allows us to change.”

“Technological progress without an equivalent progress in human institutions can doom us,” the president warned. “The scientific revolution that led to the splitting of an atom requires a moral revolution as well.”

Obama’s historic side-trip to Hiroshima follows the path-breaking visit to Hiroshima last month by the foreign ministers of the G7 nations, including Secretary of State John Kerry, who became the first serving U.S. secretary of state to visit Hiroshima.

Obama’s historic visit to Hiroshima not only put a spotlight on the continuing risks posed by nuclear weapons and war, but on the U.S. nuclear policies and actions and the work left to be done to fulfill Obama’s stated goal of “the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” issued in 2009.

Addressing this question, Obama said, “We may not be able to eliminate man’s capacity to do evil, so nations and the alliances that we form must possess the means to defend ourselves. But among those nations like my own that hold nuclear stockpiles, we must have the courage to escape the logic of fear and pursue a world without them.”

“We may not realize this goal in my lifetime,” he continued, “but persistent effort can roll back the possibility of catastrophe. We can chart a course that leads to the destruction of these stockpiles. We can stop the spread to new nations and secure deadly materials from fanatics.”

Posted: May 31, 2016

U.S. Purchases Iranian Heavy Water

Washington agreed to purchase heavy water from Iran in April, but an Iranian official said in May that the export of the water was delayed...

June 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

Washington agreed to purchase heavy water from Iran in April, but an Iranian official said in May that the export of the water was delayed over Tehran’s concerns about receiving payment for the purchase. 

Iranian and U.S. officials signed the purchase agreement for 32 tons of heavy water for $8.6 million in Vienna on April 22, but Jaberi Ansari, spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, said on May 12 that the heavy water will not be shipped until after Iran receives payment from the United States. 

Heavy water, which can be used as a moderator for nuclear reactors that are particularly well suited for producing weapons-grade plutonium, contains an isotope of hydrogen called deuterium. 

The U.S. purchase of heavy water will help keep Tehran in compliance with a stockpile limit of 130 metric tons stipulated by the nuclear deal reached between Iran and the United States and its negotiating partners last July. (See ACT, September 2015.) Iran slightly exceeded the heavy water limit earlier this year. (See ACT, March 2016.)

Abbas Araghchi, Iran’s deputy foreign minister, said on May 12 that Iran was proceeding cautiously on the sale to ensure that there will be no problems transferring the U.S. payment to Iran. Despite sanctions relief granted under the nuclear agreement, Iranian officials have said that Tehran is having trouble clearing transactions. 

U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz told The Wall Street Journal on April 22 that the United States tested Iran’s heavy water and “it’s perfectly good.” Moniz also said the U.S. purchase would be a “statement to the world” that Iran’s heavy water can be purchased. 

The United States will ship the heavy water to the Oak Ridge National Laboratory in Tennessee. The heavy water will be used at U.S. research facilities, and some could be sold to private companies that use heavy water for industrial applications. 

The United States does not produce heavy water domestically. 

Iran began producing heavy water in 2006 for the nuclear reactor it was constructing at the Arak site.

As originally designed, the heavy water-moderated reactor at Arak would have produced enough weapons-grade plutonium in its spent fuel for roughly two nuclear warheads per year.

The new reactor will still use heavy water, but produce a fraction of the weapons-grade plutonium necessary for a bomb. 

After the reactor comes online, Iran must reduce its stockpile of heavy water from 130 metric tons to 90 metric tons. 

Ali Akbar Salehi, head of the Atomic Energy Agency of Iran, said on May 10 that Tehran and Moscow are discussing a sale of 40 metric tons of heavy water to Russia. At the time Arms Control Today went to press, the heavy water had not been shipped to the United States.

Posted: May 31, 2016

Arms Control Association Welcomes Obama’s Decision to Visit Hiroshima



Today the White House announced that on May 27 President Barack Obama will become the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombings seventy years ago.


Urges Concrete Steps Toward Nuclear Weapons Free World

For Immediate Release: May 10, 2016

Media Contacts: Daryl G. Kimball, executive director, 202-463-8270 ext. 107

(Washington, D.C.)—Today the White House announced that on May 27 President Barack Obama will become the first serving U.S. president to visit Hiroshima and its Peace Memorial Park, which honors the victims of the world’s first atomic bombings seventy years ago.

In an announcement of the visit, Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes wrote that the president will “reaffirm America’s longstanding commitment — and the President’s personal commitment — to pursue the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons,” and “offer a forward-looking vision focused on our shared future.”

“We applaud President Obama's decision to visit Hiroshima, in part to recognize the innocent victims of war and, in particular, the experience and work of atomic bomb survivors of Hiroshima and Nagasaki—the hibakusha—who have worked tirelessly to remind the world why nuclear weapons must never be used again,” said Daryl G. Kimball, executive director of the independent, non-partisan Arms Control Association.

“Just as importantly, he should use the opportunity to map out concrete actions the United States and other countries can and will pursue to move closer to a world free of nuclear weapons,” said Kimball, who visited Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August of last year.

“With just months remaining, Obama can still make a positive impact but only if he is more creative and is prepared to provide bolder leadership,” Kimball wrote in an editorial earlier this month, which describes key steps the president could announce.

As President Obama winds up his time in office, tensions with Russia are high, and further nuclear arms talks are on hold; no multilateral disarmament talks are underway; the door to further nuclear testing remains open; and a new technological arms race involving the world’s nuclear-armed states is underway

“Obama’s visit to Japan represents one of his last and best opportunities to take steps necessary to head off a new phase of global arms competition and establish a more meaningful legacy on nuclear disarmament,” according to Kimball.

Ten days after President Obama’s visit to Japan, on June 6, the Arms Control Association’s Annual Meeting will feature as keynote speakers Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes and one of the most prominent and active Hiroshima survivors, Setsuko Thurlow. Details are online here.


The Arms Control Association is an independent, membership-based organization dedicated to providing authoritative information and practical policy solutions to address the threats posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.

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Posted: May 10, 2016

Obama Hails Nuclear Security Milestone

A key nuclear security treaty achieved enough support to enter into force, President Barack Obama announced at the fourth nuclear security summit. 

May 2016

By Kelsey Davenport

An amended treaty setting standards for nuclear security received enough ratifications to enter into force, President Barack Obama announced at the fourth meeting of world leaders on nuclear security in Washington last month. 

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) confirmed the announcement on April 8, when Nicaragua became the 102nd state-party to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) to deposit its instrument of ratification for the 2005 amendment to the treaty. 

Two-thirds of the states-parties to the original CPPNM must complete the ratification process for a proposed amendment to be approved and take effect. The newly approved amendment will enter into force May 8.

The CPPNM amendment expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is in domestic storage, use, or transit. 

In an April 1 press briefing at the end of the two-day summit, Obama said that entry into force of this treaty will provide “more tools” in the event of the theft of nuclear materials or an attack on a nuclear facility. 

Since Obama hosted the first summit focused on preventing nuclear terrorism and securing nonmilitary nuclear materials in 2010, entry into force of the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM has been a key priority. After the initial call for ratification at the 2010 summit in Washington, it was reiterated at the subsequent gatherings in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014. At the 2012 summit, leaders set the goal of entry into force by the end of 2014. 

Several summit participants completed ratification of the amended treaty in the weeks leading up to the meeting, including Azerbaijan, New Zealand, and Pakistan. The United States, after committing to ratify the amended treaty at the 2010 summit, completed the process last July. 

IAEA Director-General Yukiya Amano said on April 8 that entry into force will “increase international cooperation in locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.”

National Commitments

Over the course of the six-year summit process, countries made more than 260 specific commitments to improve nuclear security, Obama said in his April 1 remarks. 

Beginning with the 2010 summit, each country was encouraged to make specific commitments to enhance nuclear security at each subsequent summit. Beginning in 2012, countries could also make commitments in coordination with other countries in the form of joint statements (see box below).

In addition to the elimination and consolidation of weapons-usable nuclear material, Obama noted that the summit commitments included state actions to improve nuclear security by strengthening regulations and physical security of nuclear facilities and multilateral cooperation to prevent nuclear smuggling.

A European official at the summit said on April 14 that some of the “more notable accomplishments” at this summit came from China and India, countries that have stockpiles of weapons-usable materials for civilian uses.

The official said these countries “finally stepped up” and joined one of the major multilateral initiatives to emerge from the summit process.

A 2014 joint statement committed subscribing states to meet the intent of the IAEA’s voluntary guidelines on nuclear security in their domestic laws and regulations. China and India did not sign the joint statement in 2014, but committed to it at this year’s summit.

An official from an Asian country pointed to an increased number of peer reviews as an important accomplishment of the summit process. He said that the summit process “transformed” the IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) from “a practice for states with security concerns to an accepted best practice.”

More than 20 countries, including China, France, Indonesia, Japan, the United Kingdom, and the United States, requested IPPAS missions over the course of the summit.

The Asian country official said that the summit process could have done more to encourage states to examine protections against cyberattacks or sabotage, which he identified as growing threats that “many countries are not prepared to combat.”

The UK did offer a joint statement on enhancing cybersecurity at nuclear facilities. It includes holding workshops to address areas at risk from cyberattacks and reporting to the IAEA on the progress made to address these threats. Twenty-eight countries signed on to the statement. 

Material Removals

One of the initial goals for the summit process that Obama announced in April 2009 in Prague was to “lock down” weapons-usable nuclear material in the civilian sector. When the summits began in April 2010, 32 countries possessed weapons-usable materials. By April 2016, that number had dropped to 22 countries. 

Obama said in his April 1 press conference that, over the course of the summit process, “more than 3.8 tons” of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium has been removed or secured. That is “more than enough to create 150 nuclear weapons,” he said. 

Notable Joint Statements from the 2016 Summit

When 52 countries met for the fourth nuclear security summit in Washington from March 31 to April 1, they had the opportunity to sign on to multilateral joint statements that targeted particular areas of nuclear security. These joint statements, or “gift baskets,” are voluntary commitments. More than a dozen new joint statements were offered at the summit. Some of the more important ones are summarized below.

Consolidated Reporting

Seventeen countries, led by the Netherlands, subscribed to a joint statement that integrates reporting requirements under treaties and other international instruments into a single consolidated national nuclear security reporting form. The form includes relevant requirements under the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which requires states to provide information on steps taken to put in place export controls and nuclear security measures. It also allows for the voluntary provision of additional information on domestic measures taken to enhance nuclear security. Subscribing states support the use of the model reporting form.


Twenty-eight countries signed on to a joint statement, led by the United Kingdom, that commits them to ensuring adequate cybersecurity at industrial control and plant systems at nuclear facilities. The statement includes plans for international workshops on threats, vulnerabilities, and incidents that can affect control systems.

Mitigation of Insider Threats

Twenty-seven countries committed to establishing and implementing national-level measures to mitigate insider threats. The measures outlined in the joint statement include implementing national-level policies on this issue, establishing trustworthiness programs, and developing a nuclear security regime for the protection of materials and facilities from insider activities. States also committed to supporting an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) training course on measures to prevent and protect against insider threats.

Preparedness and Response

Capabilities South Korea led 24 countries in supporting a joint statement in which they pledge to consider developing certain capabilities, such as establishing and maintaining national preparedness and response plans. The statement commits subscribing states to supporting international best practices on preparedness and sharing technical capabilities. The statement encourages national tabletop simulation exercises to ensure preparedness for and responses to incidents of nuclear or radiological terrorism.

National Nuclear Detection Architecture

Finland led 23 countries in a joint statement that commits the subscribing states to supporting and implementing the IAEA’s recommendations on nuclear detection and creation of national comprehensive and integrated nuclear detection strategies. Countries also pledged to share best practices and work on integrating border and interior detection capabilities.

    At the recent summit, Argentina announced that it had gotten rid of its remaining HEU, joining more than a dozen countries that removed all weapons-usable material over the course of the summit process. 

    With the elimination of Argentina’s remaining stockpile, South America is free of weapons-usable materials. 

    Indonesia committed at the summit to eliminate its remaining stockpile of HEU by this September, and Poland is scheduled to complete removal of its remaining stockpile before the end of the year. 

    While acknowledging that minimizing the number of countries with weapons-usable nuclear materials is significant, the European official said these efforts are “just a drop in the bucket” in comparison to the stockpiles of materials in the military sector.

    According to a January report from the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative, 83 percent of weapons-usable material is in military stockpiles. Military stockpiles were not targeted as part of the summit process. 

    During the summit, however, the United States released information on the security of its military stockpiles. A White House summary document released at the summit provided some details on U.S. security for these materials, which includes steps such as personnel reliability programs and physical protection measures that meet or exceed IAEA recommendations for storage of nuclear materials.

    In another step toward greater openness, Washington publicly released data on the size of its HEU stockpiles for the first time in 15 years. According to a White House press release on March 31, the United States had 586 metric tons of military and civilian HEU as of September 2013. The United States held 740 metric tons in 1996, according to the release.

    The European official said that Washington’s announcement of its stockpile size was a “positive step toward greater transparency” that he hoped would encourage similar steps from countries such as China and Russia. 

    The official also applauded Washington’s decision to explore using low-enriched uranium (LEU) fuel for naval reactors, which was announced at the summit. Currently, naval nuclear reactors for U.S. Navy ships and submarines use HEU. 

    Some countries, such as France, already produce submarines that use LEU.

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    Summit Looks Ahead Amid Concerns

    National leaders last month endorsed action plans for five key institutions and initiatives to carry on parts of the nuclear security summit agenda.

    May 2016

    By Kingston Reif and Daniel Horner

    The more than 50 national leaders who attended the recent nuclear security summit in Washington endorsed action plans for five key institutions and initiatives to carry on parts of the summit agenda amid concerns from some observers that momentum on this agenda will fade now that the summit process has ended. 

    In an April 1 press conference at the end of the two-day summit, President Barack Obama said that “one of the central goals of this summit was how do we build on the work that has been done so that we have an international architecture that can continue the efforts, even though this is the last formal leaders’ summit.”

    The meeting was the fourth and final biennial summit on nuclear security since Obama hosted the first one in April 2010 as part of an accelerated effort to prevent nuclear terrorism and secure civilian nuclear material worldwide. Subsequent summits took place in Seoul in 2012 and The Hague in 2014.

    The summit participants, comprising 52 countries and four international organizations, issued a consensus communiqué expressing their “collective determination to ensure political momentum and to continuously strengthen nuclear security at national, regional, and global levels.”

    To do that, the summit created action plans to highlight and augment the nuclear security roles of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Interpol, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. 

    In addition, 29 summit countries signed a joint statement creating the Nuclear Security Contact Group. The group, which will consist of an “informed senior official or officials” from each of the participating countries, is tasked with convening annually on the margins of the IAEA General Conference with the goal of keeping senior officials focused on nuclear security and advancing commitments made at the summits. 

    Some nuclear security experts warned that these efforts would not be enough to sustain the high-level attention necessary to further improve global nuclear material security in the future.

    Matthew Bunn, a professor of practice at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, said in an April 4 article published on the website of the school’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs that the communiqué offered “no firm new nuclear security commitments.”

    Bunn, a member of the Arms Control Association Board of Directors, added that the action plans for the five international institutions provided “few steps beyond what those institutions are already doing—certainly less than is needed to fill the gap left by the end of the summit process.” 

    In a commentary published on the website of the European Leadership Network, Miles Pomper, a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, said the end of the summit process “threatens to downgrade the issue from one of high politics to a technical concern that receives insufficient attention—until or unless there is a terrorist attack that uses such materials.”

    Central Role for IAEA

    The text of the action plan for the IAEA stressed the central importance of the agency in strengthening global nuclear security in the aftermath of the summits and the need to buttress the agency’s nuclear security role and capabilities. 

    In particular, the plan expressed strong support for the agency’s convening of a regular, triennial nuclear security meeting “to promote political commitment, enhance awareness and keep momentum on strengthening the global nuclear security architecture.”

    The IAEA held the first such meeting in July 2013. The second is scheduled for December 2016.

    The plan also calls on summit participants to provide “reliable and sufficient resources” for the agency and to use “information sharing mechanisms managed by the IAEA to build domestic, regional and international confidence in the effectiveness of national nuclear security regimes.”

    In addition, states are encouraged to collaborate with the IAEA “to raise awareness of the threat of cyber attacks with potential impacts on nuclear security.” The plan recommends that the agency “develop a methodology for states to report cyber or computer security attacks.”

    Trevor Findlay, an associate of the Belfer Center’s Project on Managing the Atom, said in an April 8 blog post published on the center’s website that the essential role given to the IAEA is noteworthy given “years of speculation as to whether and to what extent the Agency could or should take on the summits’ innovative, high-level approach and activities.”

    But he said the action plan “is more wish list than action plan.” Findlay added that the plan provides no new authorities or funding to the IAEA and missed an opportunity to propose that the agency’s voluntary recommendations on the security of nuclear and radiological materials ultimately evolve into legally binding standards. 

    Russian Objections

    With the exception of Russia, all of the countries from the 2014 summit attended in 2016. Russia announced in late 2014 that it would not attend the Washington meeting. (See ACT, December 2014.)

    At an April 7 event in St. Petersburg, Russian President Vladimir Putin said a main reason he decided not to attend was because Russia was invited to participate in the drafting of only one of the five action plans in the preparatory process leading up to the gathering. 

    “[A] big nuclear power like Russia cannot take part in an event such as this and not have the possibility to influence the drafting of the final resolutions,” Putin said.

    Russia remains a co-chair with the United States of the GICNT, a voluntary organization launched in 2006 to strengthen global abilities to prevent and respond to acts of nuclear terrorism. (See ACT, March 2016.)  The action plan for the GICNT emphasizes buttressing the national capacity of partner states in nuclear security, particularly in the areas of nuclear detection, forensics, and response.  

    In addition to not participating in the 2016 summit, Russia decided in late 2014 to end most nuclear security cooperation with the United States. (See ACT, March 2015.)

    In his article, Bunn said Washington should “put high priority on rebuilding nuclear security cooperation with Russia, on a different, more equal model.” 

    Given the threat posed by the Islamic State and the large stockpiles of nuclear weapons and material in Russia and the United States, cooperation between the two countries is essential, he said.

    Legal Standards 

    One of the most noteworthy achievements of the final summit was the announcement that the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) received the necessary ratifications to enter into force. (See ACT, May 2016.)

    The CPPNM amendment expands the original treaty to require parties not only to protect nuclear material in international transit, but also to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material that is in domestic storage, use, or transit.

    Some observers advocate negotiating more-comprehensive binding standards for securing nuclear and other radioactive material based on the IAEA’s currently voluntary guidance on nuclear security and creating a process to assess implementation and review those standards. 

    But in an email to Arms Control Today during the run-up to the summit, a senior White House official observed that it has taken more than 10 years to bring the CPPNM amendment into force and that only a fraction of IAEA member states have endorsed a document originating at the 2014 summit in which countries committed themselves to meet the intent of the IAEA’s voluntary guidelines in their domestic laws and regulations. That track record indicates that “there is not adequate support within the IAEA to create legally binding standards at this time,” the official said in the Feb. 12 email. 

    In remarks on March 30 at a high-level nuclear industry gathering held in conjunction with the governmental security summit, John Barrett, president and CEO of the Canadian Nuclear Association, said mandatory standards might be “too much too soon.” In the remarks and an interview afterward, he said binding standards might take some time to develop, as they often do not comport with the existing legal regimes in some countries.

    At least at first, the industry might take an approach of forming “coalitions of the willing,” in which some companies jointly agree to accept certain higher standards, he said. A slightly different approach would be to establish industry benchmarks or approved best practices, he said.

    In all of those cases, Barrett emphasized, companies not following the model should have to be able to answer the question, “If not that, then what are you doing” to achieve the same goal by different means?

    As part of a report for the industry meeting, a working group chaired by Barrett produced a “governance template” that poses a series of questions for organizations that are responsible for the security of nuclear and radiological materials. One question in the template asks how the organization’s board of directors carries out “effective governance and oversight” of the organization’s nuclear security program. It observes that boards of directors “are usually required by law to oversee risk, including security,” and asks, “Does your Board have a mechanism to review security policy and performance? If not, why not?”

    In a presentation at the March 30 session of the industry meeting, Roger Howsley, executive director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security, said that a goal for nuclear organizations is that they increasingly see nuclear security “as a strategic issue…rather than a regulatory burden.”

    Howsley elaborated in an April 14 email to Arms Control Today, saying that the organizations’ governing bodies should “really believe that the nuclear security arrangements for which they are responsible are key to business success and take a view on the risk and associated security measures, rather than just complying with security regulations on a compliance basis.”

    Posted: April 27, 2016

    Kerry, G7 Ministers Visit A-Bomb Site

    During a visit to Hiroshima last month, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

    May 2016

    By Daryl G. Kimball

    During a visit to Hiroshima last month for a meeting of foreign ministers from the Group of Seven (G7) industrialized countries, John Kerry became the first sitting U.S. secretary of state to visit the site of the atomic bombing in the Japanese city. 

    After Kerry and Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida toured the Peace Memorial Museum on April 11, the two men were joined by the foreign ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, the United Kingdom, and the European Union at the cenotaph in Hiroshima Peace Memorial Park to offer wreaths in honor of the people who died on Aug. 6, 1945, and in the years afterward.

    In remarks following the visit, Kerry said, “Going through the museum was a reminder of the indisputable truth that war must never be the first resort.”

    “What I got here was a firsthand sense of what happened in Hiroshima and what happens with a nuclear weapon, particularly in terms of its types of destruction,” Kerry said at an April 11 press briefing. “So for me, today really was…a moment of connecting to this place and to the feelings of the Japanese people and the terrible events of that day in a very personal and special way.”

    An estimated 240,000 people died by 1950 as a consequence of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki in August 1945.

    At the briefing, Kerry said that “the reason I thought that it was particularly important to come to Hiroshima and to come now was not just that Fumio Kishida and I work together and are friends and this is his home community and we have a G7 meeting here, but because we are engaged in this effort to try to reduce the threat of nuclear weapons and because we are trying to remind people of the power of reconciliation.”

    Kerry added, “Everyone should visit Hiroshima, and ‘everyone’ means everyone. So I hope one day the president of the United States will be among the everyone who is able to come here.” President Barack Obama is scheduled to attend the G7 summit that will be held May 26-27 in Japan’s Mie prefecture. 

    No sitting U.S. president or vice president has ever visited Hiroshima. While serving as speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) visited the Hiroshima memorial site in September 2008.

    The seven foreign ministers also issued a two-page joint declaration on nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation. The document reaffirmed their “commitment to seeking a safer world for all and to creating the conditions for a world without nuclear weapons in a way that promotes international stability.”

    The ministers declared, “No state should conduct a nuclear test explosion and all states should sign the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty without delay and without conditions.” They urged “all states to work with us on practical and realistic initiatives that can promote meaningful dialogue on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation among all.” 

    In the document, the ministers urged other political leaders to visit the sites of the two atomic bombings and concluded, “We share the deep desire of the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that nuclear weapons never be used again.”

    Posted: April 27, 2016


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