The United States will host a nuclear security summit in Washington next March, the White House announced July 8.
The announcement, which came during the summit of the Group of Eight industrialized countries in L’Aquila, Italy, follows up on a point that President Barack Obama made in his April 5 speech in Prague on nuclear arms control, disarmament, and nonproliferation. (See ACT, May 2009.)
According to a White House summary of the planned event, the March summit “would allow discussion on the nature of the threat and develop steps that can be taken together to secure vulnerable materials, combat nuclear smuggling and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism.” Strong nuclear security is “essential for international security as well as the development and expansion of peaceful nuclear energy worldwide,” the summary said.
In a July 8 conference call with reporters, National Security Council Chief of Staff Mark Lippert said the goal of the meeting is to “raise the profile, discuss steps to move forward, and hope to end with some sort of communiqué pledging efforts to get to higher standards on these issues,” according to a White House transcript. He cited the need to “secure vulnerable nuclear materials and combat nuclear smuggling” as a key focus of the summit. In the Prague speech, Obama said he wanted to “secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years.”
The planned communiqué at the summit would include “best practices,” Lippert said. About 25-30 countries are expected to attend, he said.
European officials also have been emphasizing the importance of nuclear security.
In “The Road to 2010,” a paper laying out steps for the United Kingdom and other countries to take in preparation for the 2010 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said nuclear security should be considered a “vital fourth pillar” of a strengthened nuclear regime. Government officials and nonproliferation analysts often speak of the NPT as having three pillars: nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful nuclear energy.
Annalisa Giannella, personal representative to EU High Representative Javier Solana on nonproliferation of weapons of mass destruction, said nuclear security is “absolutely crucial.” Because the NPT obliges its parties to prevent proliferation, “one can argue that this obligation also implies the obligation to protect nuclear or radiological material,” she said in a July 20 interview.