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Building on the Success of the Nuclear Security Summit
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Statement by Daryl G. Kimball, Executive Director of the Arms Control Association and Peter Crail, ACA Nonproliferation Analyst

April 13, 2010

(Washington, D.C.) This week's unprecedented Nuclear Security Summit successfully focused international attention and action on a critical issue which has been absent from national agendas for too long: securing material that terrorists could acquire and use in nuclear weapons. The threat of nuclear terrorism has been called the ultimate preventable catastrophe because the math is simple: if terrorists or those who might aid them are unable to acquire the material, they have zero chances of building a weapon. The task, therefore, is to accelerate efforts to secure the material where it exists, dispose of it where possible, and limit its further production.

By gathering a representative group of global leaders, the summit was also able to point out that this risk of nuclear terrorism is a shared one and is not just a threat to the United States. The use of a nuclear weapon by terrorists anywhere would have an impact across the globe. And as dozens of countries around the world contain material that could be used in nuclear weapons, it is also a shared responsibility.

The summit communiqué and detailed work plan is therefore an important first step in carrying out the shared responsibility to secure nuclear material (specifically highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium) in a cooperative manner and on an accelerated, four-year timetable. Additionally, the specific national commitments and efforts by states such as Chile, Mexico, and Ukraine to abandon their civilian-use HEU have delivered clear and practical gains by taking such dangerous material out of circulation.

While it is vital that states cooperate to secure existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons-usable material, it is equally important that they devote renewed attention and energy to halting the production of even more weapons-useable material, which only increases the risk of nuclear weapons use and nuclear terrorism. For over the past 15 years, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States, have declared that they no longer produce fissile material for weapons, and China is also believed to have halted such production around the same time.

In addition to its leadership in calling for international cooperation to secure nuclear weapons-usable material, the United States should also seek a commitment from countries such as India and Pakistan that continue to produce fissile material for weapons to halt such production, pending the negotiation of a global, verifiable Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty.

Similarly, the United States should strongly discourage states such as France and Japan from continuing to separate plutonium as part of their spent fuel reprocessing program, and the United States should also urge states considering reprocessing to refrain from doing so. Indeed, as the future host of the 2012 nuclear security summit, South Korea could make a significant contribution towards the summit goal by announcing that it would not pursue any form of reprocessing.

The Nuclear Security Summit has been a success that will help advance President Obama's broader efforts to address threats posed by nuclear weapons. We call upon the U.S. Congress to fully support programs aimed at enhancing nuclear security around the globe and combatting illicit nuclear trafficking. The follow-up on the Nuclear Security Summit Work Plan will be crucial to securing all nuclear material in four years, and the United States and all of the participants must remain engaged to make that goal a reality.

Posted: April 13, 2010