ACA’s journal, Arms Control Today, remains the best in the market. Well focused. Solidly researched. Prudent.

– Hans Blix,
former IAEA Director-General

Nuclear Security Summit at a Glance
Share this

Press Contact: Kelsey Davenport, Nonproliferation Analyst, (202) 463-8270 x102

Updated: April 2014

The Nuclear Security Summit

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

The global stockpile of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium is estimated at approximately 2,000 tons. While the vast majority of that material is located in a handful of countries, namely the United States and Russia, the summit process recognizes the threat of nuclear terrorism as a serious global issue, requiring transnational cooperation. There have been 16 confirmed cases of unauthorized possession of HEU or plutonium documented by the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database since 1993, primarily in the former Soviet Union.

The summit process has featured two summits in Washington in 2010 and in Seoul in 2012, as well as several preparatory meetings between high-level national summit coordinators or sherpas.  A third summit is scheduled for 2014 hosted by the Netherlands and fourth summit will be held in the United States in 2016.

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 nations represented at the head of state or head of government level, the gathering was the largest of its kind hosted by a U.S. President since 1945.

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


The Washington Communiqué

  • 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 80 percent of the national commitments pledged at the 2010 summit were completed in the run up to Seoul.

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


Seoul Summit Outcomes

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.

Posted: April 14, 2014