Kelsey Davenport and Daniel Horner
The Netherlands has agreed to host a nuclear security summit in 2014, the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs said in a Jan. 31 press release.
The invitation to hold the third such meeting was extended to the Dutch by the United States and South Korea. Washington was the site of the first nuclear security summit, in April 2010; Seoul is scheduled to host the second one March 26-27.
According to the Dutch press release, the Netherlands viewed the request to host the summit as “a sign of trust” and cited the prevention of nuclear and radiological terrorism as a “top priority” for the country. South Korea will transfer the chairmanship to the Netherlands at the Seoul summit, the release said.
The 2014 nuclear security summit could be the last, a prospect raised in comments last October by Gary Samore, the White House coordinator for arms control and weapons of mass destruction (WMD) terrorism. (See ACT, November 2011.) In comments Feb. 16 at a nuclear policy conference in Arlington, Va., Laura Holgate, the National Security Council’s senior director for WMD terrorism and threat reduction, said countries will “take stock” of where they are in 2014. Samore and Holgate are the top officials representing the United States at preparatory meetings for the Seoul summit.
In his April 2009 speech in Prague, President Barack Obama announced a four-year effort to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world.” The participants in the 2010 summit endorsed that goal.
Holgate said the benefits of “leader engagement”—bringing heads of states and government together to focus on nuclear security—would have to be weighed against the possibility of “leader fatigue.”
Fifty-three countries are expected to attend the Seoul summit, the summit secretariat said in a Feb. 23 press release, an increase of six from the roster at the Washington summit. The new countries are Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania, the release said.
Representatives from Denmark and Lithuania joined sherpas, or lead government negotiators, from the 47 Washington participants for a preparatory meeting on the Seoul summit in New Delhi, according to a Jan. 17 statement by Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai at the end of the two-day meeting.
The four international organizations that will attend the summit— the European Union, the International Atomic Energy Agency, INTERPOL, and the United Nations—also sent representatives to New Delhi.
In his statement, Mathai touched on several topics that were discussed and considered for inclusion in the summit communiqué. These topics include two areas, security of radiological sources and “strengthening the synergy” between nuclear safety and security, that are expected to receive greater attention in Seoul than they did at the Washington summit. The communiqué also is expected to contain measures on managing and minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), combating illicit trafficking, and promoting information security, transport security, and international cooperation.
The sherpas will meet one final time in Seoul prior to the summit to finalize the communiqué.
Meanwhile, the nongovernmental Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) called attention to the positive impact of the nuclear security summit process on fissile material security, saying in a January report that the summits “facilitated a growing awareness and understanding” of the potential threat posed by nuclear materials.
The focus of the report is the NTI’s Nuclear Materials Security Index, which the group prepared in collaboration with the Economist Intelligence Unit. The index analyzes and assesses conditions for nuclear material security in 176 countries.
The index assessed 32 countries possessing more than one kilogram of HEU or separated plutonium across five categories: quantities of nuclear materials and sites, security and control measures, adherence to global norms, domestic commitments and capacity, and societal factors. An additional 144 countries were evaluated on adherence to global norms, societal factors, and domestic commitments and capacity.
Although the report ranks countries by their scores in each category, the NTI said in a Jan. 27 statement that regardless of ranking, “all countries must do more” and that one of the main goals of the index was to facilitate discussion on nuclear material security priorities.
The report includes recommendations on actions that countries can take to strengthen nuclear material security. It describes the Seoul summit as a potential opportunity for creating a global system for “tracking, protecting, and managing” nuclear materials. This process would begin by establishing a global consensus on priorities, tracking actions taken by countries, and building international confidence through the promotion of increased transparency.
In a Jan. 11 press conference launching the index, former Sen. Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), the co-chairman and chief executive officer of the NTI, said he hoped the index would help “shape discussions” at the Seoul summit and serve as a guide for individual countries and the international community to “set up priorities beyond the summit.”
Nunn and NTI Senior Director for Nuclear and Bio-Security Deepti Choubey said there eventually should be a global standard for nuclear material security. With such a standard in place, “we’d be able to do a far better job of holding states accountable, and we’d also be able to track progress,” Choubey said. The index provides a “framework” to think about the issue, she said.