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Nuclear Security Summit at a Glance
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Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Director for Nonproliferation Policy, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: March 2016

The Nuclear Security Summits

The nuclear security summit initiative began with an April 2009 call by U.S. President Barack Obama to hold a global summit on nuclear security in 2010 as part of an effort to "secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.” The broad goal of the summit process is to address the threat of nuclear terrorism by minimizing and securing weapons-usable nuclear materials, enhancing international cooperation to prevent the illicit acquisition of nuclear material by non-state actors such as terrorist groups and smugglers, and taking steps to strengthen the global nuclear security system.

The summit process will end in 2016 at a fourth summit in Washington, DC March 31-April 1. The three previous summits were held in Washington D.C. in 2010, Seoul, South Korea in 2012, and The Hague, Netherlands in 2014.

Each summit has produced a consensus communique that reaffirmed the broad goals of the summits and encouraged states to take actions, such as ratifying key treaties or minimizing stockpiles of weapons-usable materials. These voluntary, caveated recommendations were enhanced by individual state-specific commitments make at each summit. These pledges, known as house gifts, included actions such as repatriating weapons-usable materials, holding trainings for nuclear security personnel, updating national laws and regulations, and taking steps to combat illicit trafficking. At each subsequent summit, states reported on the progress made toward fulfilling these commitments. All 53 participating states made national pledges at at least one summit.

At the 2012 summit in Seoul, groups of countries offered multinational commitments that targeted key areas of nuclear security. These joint statements, known as "gift baskets," are responsible for some of the most innovative and forward-leaning outcomes of the summit process. In 2012, 13 joint statements were offered. That number increased to 14 in 2014, with some gift baskets building off of 2012 statements and others targeting new areas. of the 53 countries, 48 participated in at least one joint statement. Additional national and multinational commitments are expected at the 2016 summit.

Leaders are also expected at the 2016 summit to approve approve five action plans for international organizations and initiatives to continue the work of the nuclear security summits. The five groups are the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Interpol, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

The Arms Control Association, along with the Partnership for Global Security, have published six reports that tracked progress made on national commitments and joint statements since the summit progress began. For more information on the outcome of each summit see: 

The Nuclear Security Summit: Accomplishments of the Process, March 2016

The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report on Joint Statements, March 2015

The Nuclear Security Summit: Assesment of Joint Statements, March 2014

The Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report, July 2013

The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments, March 2012

The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit: A Status Update, April 2011

Washington 2010

The first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington, D.C., April 12-13, 2010. Forty-seven national delegations as well as the heads of the United Nations, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and the European Union attended. With 38 of the 47 participating countries represented at the head of state or head of government level, the gathering was the largest of its kind hosted by a U.S. President since 1945.

In order to build upon these efforts, the summit concluded with a communiqué embracing the goal of securing the world’s vulnerable weapons-useable nuclear material within four years, and a work plan, which identified existing international agreements and resources that are available to countries as they work to secure or eliminate their civilian stockpiles of this material.

Countries were also encouraged to make individual commitments to strengthen nuclear material security domestically. These actions, referred to as 'house gifts' were announced at the 2010 summit. The pledges included commitments to ratify relevant nuclear security treaties, minimize and dispose of stockpiles of HEU and plutonium, enhance physial security of materials, and conduct trainings and workshops.

 

The Washington Communiqué

  • reaffirms the fundamental responsibility of states to maintain effective security of all nuclear materials and recognizes the need for cooperation in this area;
  • recognizes that highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium require special precautions and encourages the conversion of reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel and minimization of use of HEU, where feasible;
  • supports the objectives of international nuclear security instruments, including the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, as amended, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, as essential elements of the global nuclear security architecture;
  • reaffirms the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency in the international nuclear security framework and will work to ensure that it continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise to carry out its activities;
  • notes the positive contributions of mechanisms like the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, to build capacity among law enforcement, industry, and technical personnel;
  • recognizes the continuing role of nuclear industry in nuclear security; and
  • supports the implementation of strong nuclear security practices that will not infringe upon the rights of States to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and technology and will facilitate international cooperation in the field of nuclear security.

The Washington Work Plan

The Work Plan lays out the specific steps for realizing the goals of the Communiqué, including ratification and implementation of international treaties; support for Security Council Resolution 1540; conversion of civilian facilities from HEU to non-weapons-useable materials; research on new nuclear fuels; detection methods and forensic technologies; development of corporate and institutional cultures that prioritize nuclear security; education and training; and joint exercises among law enforcement and customs officials to enhance nuclear detection opportunities.

 

Washington Summit Country Commitments

In addition to signing the Communiqué and Work Plan, thirty countries announced 67 specific measures they planned to implement to support the goals of the summit. Prior to the Seoul summit, approximately 80 percent of these commitments were completed. Some of the key national commitments include:

Canada: Returning a large amount of spent highly enriched uranium fuel from their medical isotope production reactor to the United States; championing the extension of the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; funding highly enriched uranium removals from Mexico and Vietnam; hosting and funding a World Institute of Nuclear Security best practices workshop in Ottawa; unveiling $100 million in new bilateral security cooperation with Russia

Chile: Removed all highly enriched uranium (18kgs) in March 2010

Kazakhstan: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor and eliminating remaining highly enriched uranium; cooperative work on BN-350 rector shutdown and fuel security; hosting a Global Initiative Activity in June; considering a International Nuclear Security Training Center.

Mexico: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor and eliminating remaining highly enriched uranium working through IAEA

Republic of Korea: Hosting 2012 Nuclear Security Summit; hosting a Global Initiative activity

Russia: Signing Plutonium Disposition protocol; ending plutonium production; contributing to International Atomic Energy Agency’s Nuclear Security Fund

Ukraine: Removing all highly enriched uranium by next Summit—half of it by year’s end

Vietnam: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor; joining the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

Belgium, New Zealand, Norway, and the United Kingdom: Converting a highly enriched uranium research reactor; joining the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism

See a full list of national commitments

For a full accounting of the implementation of the 2010 national commitments, click here

 

Seoul 2012

In 2012, 53 heads of state and government along with representatives from the United Nations (UN), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), European Union (EU) and INTERPOL gathered for the second nuclear security summit in Seoul, South Korea. Participating countries included the 47 countries that attended the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit plus Azerbaijan, Denmark, Gabon, Hungary, Lithuania, and Romania. The meeting, held on March 26-27, sought to reaffirm commitments made during the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit as well as outline future goals with respect to international agreements on nuclear security, radiological material security, and nuclear safety.

One of the primary objectives of the Seoul summit was to assess the progress that countries made toward the goal of securing all nuclear material world-wide since 2010. A report released in March 2012 by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security found that approximately 90 percent of the national commitments pledged at the 2010 summit were completed in the run up to Seoul.

While the 2012 summit remained focused on nuclear security, the scope of the agenda was expanded to include discussions on the security of radiological sources and sensitive information and the interface between nuclear security and safety. The nuclear security-safety nexus was raised in particular following the March 2011 nuclear disaster in Fukushima, Japan. The summit produced a consensus communiqué that largely reiterated the goals and commitments from 2010.

 

Seoul Summit Outcomes

Seoul Communiqué

  • Reaffirms the fundamental responsibility of States to maintain effective security of all nuclear materials, including through the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) as amended, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT); reiterates broader participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; continued support of UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1977.
  • Reaffirms the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the international nuclear security framework including efforts to encourage States to consider establishing appropriate plans for the management of nuclear and radioactive materials; reaffirms increasing international cooperation to enhance States’ physical protection and accounting system for nuclear materials.
  • Encourages States to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), where feasible, and to convert reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel; urges states to secure nuclear materials and radioactive materials through proper transportation, accounting, consolidation and storage practices; emphasizes the need to develop national capabilities to combat illicit nuclear trafficking through utilizing nuclear forensics, investing in the promotion of a strong nuclear security culture, and preventing non-state actors from obtaining sensitive information.
  • Encourages efforts to control radioactive material, including through IAEA measures such as the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and the Guidance on the Import and Expert of Radioactive Sources.

 

Key National Commitments and Accomplishments

Argentina, Mexico, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Viet Nam: joined the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

Belgium, France, the Netherlands, and the United States: announced a joint project to convert the production of medical isotope molybdenum-99 from the use of HEU targets to LEU targets.

Czech Republic, Mexico, Viet Nam: converted their research reactors using HEU fuel to LEU fuel.

Israel: ratified the ICSANT; completed the repatriation of US-origin HEU spent fuel from its Soreq research reactor.

Ukraine: completed the removal of all HEU stockpiles.

Kazakhstan: secured spent nuclear fuel which contained enough HEU and plutonium to make several hundred nuclear weapons by moving them to a new long-term storage facility.

The Netherlands: will host the next nuclear security summit in 2014.

Pakistan: opening Nuclear Security Training Centers to act as a regional and international hub; deploying Special Nuclear Material Portals on key exit and entry points to counter the illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive materials.

Russia and the United States: HEU equivalent to around 3,000 nuclear weapons has been down- blended to LEU.

 

The Hague 2014

On March 24-25, 53 countries and representatives from four international organizations met for the third nuclear security summit in The Hague, Netherlands. The same 53 countries comprised the list of participants for the Seoul summit in 2012. The Netherlands laid out several goals for the summit, including; reducing stockpiles of nuclear materials, improving the security of nuclear and radioactive sources, increasing coordination with the nuclear industry, and improving international cooperation.

Similar to the past two summits, The Hague summit produced a consensus communique, new national commitments, and new multilateral commitments, known as "gift baskets" or joint statements.

Leaders also participated in a scenario-based policy exercise, during which they had the opportunity to think through responses to a radioactive device, and held a discussion on the future of the summit process. A fourth summit will be held in the United States in 2016, but it is unclear if that will be the final summit.

Ahead of the summit, nongovernmental organizations held an experts meeting in Amsterdam, as did the nuclear industry.

 

The Hague Summit Outcomes

The Hague Communiqué

  • Reaffirms the fundamental responsibility of States to maintain effective security of all nuclear materials, including through the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) as amended, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT); reiterates broader participation in the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT) and the G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction; continued support of UN Security Council Resolutions 1540 and 1977.
  • Reaffirms the essential role of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in the international nuclear security framework including efforts to encourage States to consider establishing appropriate plans for the management of nuclear and radioactive materials; reaffirms increasing international cooperation to enhance States’ physical protection and accounting system for nuclear materials.
  • Encourages States to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and to keep their stockpile of separated plutonium to the minimum level, both as consistent with national requirements; encourage the minimization of HEU through the conversion of reactor fuel from HEU to LEU.
  • Identifies a range of voluntary measures States may consider taking to show that they have established effective security of their nuclear materials and facilities while protecting sensitive information. Such measures include exchanging good practices, inviting IAEA review and advisory services and following through on recommendations, further developing training of personnel involved in nuclear security.
  • Supports a more intensive dialogue between operators and government bodies, including the national regulator, which should be functionally independent, with a view to improving nuclear security regulations and regulatory effectiveness.
  • Encourages states to take effective risk mitigation measures to ensure that the systems and networks of nuclear facilities are appropriately secured from cyber attack.

 

Key National Commitments and Accomplishments

Japan, Italy, and Belgium made commitments to remove excess highly-enriched uranium and plutonium.

The United States, South Korea, and the Netherlands led a joint statement supported by 32 additional states that committed participants to meet the intent of IAEA recommendations for nuclear security and take further steps to provide assurance of sound nuclear security practices.

The Netherlands headed a new gift basket on nuclear forensics, including a platform for sharing best practices in the event of a nuclear or radiological incident.

Belgium, Canada, and France completed steps necessary to ratify the 2005 amendment to the Conventional on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials

 Washington, DC 2016

The fourth and final summit will take place in Washington, DC March 31-April 1. Of the 53 states and four international organizations that attended the 2014 summit, all will attend except Russia.

A primary goal of the 2016 summit is to approve five action plans for international organizations and initiatives that will continue the work of the summit process. The five groups are the UN, the International Atomic Energy Agency, Interpol, the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons of Mass Destruction, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

National commitments and gift baskets are also expected. A gift basket on sustainability, that would commit officials from participating countries to meet yearly to review nuclear security progress, is reported to be under consideration.

Posted: April 14, 2014