Anti-Nuclear Terrorism Principles Issued

Wade Boese

Led by the United States and Russia, 13 countries recently promulgated eight general principles for averting and responding to nuclear terrorism. The group will meet in February to discuss further actions.

The principles emerged from the inaugural Oct. 30-31 meeting in Rabat, Morocco, of the voluntary Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. Presidents George W. Bush and Vladimir Putin announced the initiative in July on the eve of the Group of Eight (G-8) summit in St. Petersburg. (See ACT, September 2006. )

In addition to host Morocco and the other six G-8 members—Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, and the United Kingdom—Russia and the United States invited Australia, China, Kazakhstan, and Turkey to participate in the meeting and the International Atomic Energy Agency to observe.

A Department of State official told Arms Control Today Nov. 18 that Moscow and Washington wanted to limit the initial meeting to a “manageable size.” Invites were extended to China and Australia, according to the official, because they are seen as “very important” to the initiative’s success, while Kazakhstan and Turkey are “important geographically.” The latter three countries also were among the first publicly to welcome the initiative’s unveiling.

The October principles outline basic steps governments should take to deny terrorists the means to conduct nuclear attacks as well as measures to mitigate the consequences if governments fail. The principles also emphasize developing capabilities to trace and prosecute terrorists and their accomplices or suppliers.

Many of the principles essentially have already been accepted in existing international agreements or legal mandates. The 2005 International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism obligates adherents to protect their radioactive material against theft, while UN Security Council Resolution 1540 and its successor, Resolution 1673, require all governments to take an array of steps to prevent nonstate actors from acquiring nuclear arms or biological and chemical weapons. (See ACT, May 2005 and May 2004. )

The State Department official said the U.S.-Russian initiative and its principles are to serve as a “vehicle” to help implement these other instruments. Ideally, the official said, the initiative will “foster activities” between not only governments but also between the private and public sectors to implement these international obligations and to take on additional responsibilities beyond them.

Undersecretary of State for Arms Control and International Security Robert Joseph, the U.S. co-chair of the initiative, said July 18 that participating governments would seek a work program at the inaugural meeting, but this is now the objective of the second meeting scheduled for February 2007 in Turkey. The Russian co-chair is Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak.

The work plan is expected to include exercises, information sharing, task forces, and workshops to promote the initiative’s goals. Participating states also will seek to agree on “terms of reference for implementation and assessment to support effective fulfillment of the initiative,” according to an Oct. 31 State Department press statement.

The initiative will be open to all countries that endorse the principles. The State Department official said that the aim is to create a “steady and growing network” of participants because “we cannot [combat nuclear terrorism] alone.”

Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Principles

The following eight principles were agreed to by the 13 countries participating in the inaugural October meeting of the voluntary U.S.-Russian Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

  1. Develop, if necessary, and improve accounting, control and physical protection systems for nuclear and other radioactive materials and substances;
  2. Enhance security of civilian nuclear facilities;
  3. Improve the ability to detect nuclear and other radioactive materials and substances in order to prevent illicit trafficking in such materials and substances, to include cooperation in the research and development of national detection capabilities that would be interoperable;
  4. Improve capabilities of participants to search for, confiscate, and establish safe control over unlawfully held nuclear or other radioactive materials and substances or devices using them;
  5. Prevent the provision of safe haven to terrorists and financial or economic resources to terrorists seeking to acquire or use nuclear and other radioactive materials and substances;
  6. Ensure adequate respective national legal and regulatory frameworks sufficient to provide for the implementation of appropriate criminal and, if applicable, civil liability for terrorists and those who facilitate acts of nuclear terrorism;
  7. Improve capabilities of participants for response, mitigation, and investigation, in cases of terrorist attacks involving the use of nuclear and other radioactive materials and substances, including the development of technical means to identify nuclear and other radioactive materials and substances that are, or may be, involved in the incident; and
  8. Promote information sharing pertaining to the suppression of acts of nuclear terrorism and their facilitation, taking appropriate measures consistent with their national law and international obligations to protect the confidentiality of any information which they exchange in confidence.