Center for Arms Control

Fact Sheet: 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Results

August 2012

By Duyeon Kim


March 26-27, 2012 in Seoul, Korea


Leaders from 53 states and 4 international organizations (total 58 head delegates):

• Chair: Republic of Korea.

• Algeria, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, Czech Republic, Denmark, Egypt, Finland, France, Gabon, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Israel, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Pakistan, Philippines, Poland, Romania, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Turkey, UAE, UK, Ukraine, USA, Vietnam.

• United Nations (UN), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and European Union (EU).

• INTERPOL – added as agreed upon between the participating countries and international organizations.

*Note: North Korea and Iran are not participants to the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) Process because they are regarded as spoilers of summit objectives as well as distractions to the main focus of nuclear security.

** Note: “Sherpa” is a term given to the head delegate and “Sous Sherpa” given to the deputy delegate of each country’s Nuclear Security Summit Team. These deputies were in charge of setting the Summit agenda and drafting the Communiqué.



The 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit aimed to strengthen nuclear security commitments made at the 2010 Washington Summit. The objective of the summit process is to prevent vulnerable fissile materials that can be used to produce nuclear weapons from falling into the hands of terrorists and non-state actors with malicious intent. The nuclear terrorism threat is real. There have been 20 [1] confirmed cases of theft or loss of fissile material since 1993 [2]. Al-Qaeda is reportedly interested in obtaining WMD and the know-how to make them. There are over 100 civilian nuclear reactors in the world that still run on HEU; many civilian facilities that store fissile materials have less stringent security measures than military facilities.

President Barack Obama vowed to secure all nuclear materials within four years and work toward a nuclear-free world in his famous April 2009 Prague speech. He hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 attended by 47 states and three international organizations that produced a Communiqué and Work Plan, which included National Commitments (also called “house gifts”). At the end of the 2010 Summit, Obama asked South Korean President Lee Myung-bak to host the second summit.

The 2012 Summit occurred just over a year after the March 2011 Fukushima nuclear disaster, though many countries still continue to opt for nuclear power to meet their energy demands.

Prior to the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, over 90% of national commitments pledged at the 2010 Summit had been achieved. [3]


The value of the Nuclear Security Summit process is that it brings together:

  • Nuclear weapons states and non-nuclear weapons states.
  • Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty signatories and non-NPT states (India, Pakistan, Israel).
  • Countries with nuclear power and countries that want to possess nuclear power to meet their energy needs.

The process also provides an international forum at the highest level of government to strengthen global nuclear materials security and prevent nuclear terrorism. If the 2010 Washington Summit was the conceptualization summit, then the 2012 Seoul Summit was hoped for by experts and observers to be the implementation summit.

The third Nuclear Security Summit will be held in the Netherlands in 2014.

Pre-Summit Issues, Mixed Messages

  • Controversy: The United States (2010 Chair) and Korea (2012 Chair) were at odds over Seoul’s plans to include the nuclear safety and security interface on the 2012 agenda. The interface is the areas in which nuclear safety and nuclear security overlap. The NSS was originally intended to focus narrowly on nuclear materials security but in light of Fukushima, nuclear safety was included upon the realization that a Fukushima-like terrorist incident is plausible.
  • Some participants were against agreeing on specific guidelines at the summit to minimize the use of HEU in the civilian sector, preferring instead to deal with the issue at the IAEA.
  • Weeks prior to the summit, the United States and Korea articulated different goals for the Summit. Seoul officials said the 2012 Summit’s goal was goal-oriented, actionable commitments, while the United States claimed it was to review the past two years of nuclear security achievements.


March 26

  • Working Dinner: 2010 Progress Review

March 27

  • Plenary Session I: National Measures and International Cooperation to Enhance Nuclear Security, Future Commitments
  • Working Lunch: Nuclear Security and Safety Interface
  • Plenary Session III: National Measures and International Cooperation to Enhance Nuclear Security, Future Commitments


  • Summit focus largely on other issues unrelated to nuclear security, including:

- Leaders preoccupied by domestic agendas;

- President Obama’s open-mic gaffe assuring Russian President Medvedev of more political flexibility on missile defense in his second term;

- The media was also preoccupied by a North Korean announcement of its planned April rocket launch;

  • Russia’s pre-summit announcement implying that it was not prepared to make new commitments on HEU minimization placed a damper on the proceedings.


The 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit produced two documents: a Communiqué and Work Plan. “House gifts,” national commitments on nuclear security, were presented at the 2010 Summit. This year, there was one combined document, the Seoul Communiqué. The reason for not producing two documents is to ensure that detailed actions, which typically would be included in a separate document, are not treated as an Annex, or “side note.”

Three main umbrella issues were discussed at the 2012 Seoul Summit:

  1. Cooperative measures to combat the threat of nuclear terrorism.
  2. Protection of nuclear materials and related facilities.
  3. Prevention of illicit trafficking of nuclear materials.

Seoul Communiqué

Click here for the full text of the Seoul Communique.

  • Political commitment by and among heads of states
  • Identified 11 key areas of priority and importance:

1. Global nuclear security architecture

2. Role of IAEA

3. Nuclear materials

4. Radioactive sources

5. Nuclear safety and security

6. Transportation security

7. Combating illicit trafficking

8. Nuclear forensics

9. Nuclear security culture

10. Information security

11. International Cooperation

  • The drafting of the Communiqué was based on five underlying principles:

1. Placing nuclear security at the center of the discussion.

2. Ensuring continuity with the Washington Nuclear Security Summit, while at the same time making new progress.

3. Ensuring the voluntary nature of national commitments and participation.

4. Opting against the creation of a new regime.

5. Respecting President Obama’s vision to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years.

Supporting Documents

Click here for full texts of all supporting documents.

  • Achievements and Commitments by Participating States
  • Information on National Progress of NSS Participating States
  • Key Facts on the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit
  • National Statements - pledges by heads of state on how they will strengthen nuclear security.
  • Joint Statements – “gift baskets” or joint pledges among like-minded countries for collaboration.


Nuclear Safety-Security

  • First time inclusion in the summit process
  • Detailed action for synergistic implementation between safety and security
  • Includes spent nuclear fuel and radioactive waste

Nuclear Materials

  • HEU minimization target date: end of 2013
  • Removed 480 kg of HEU from 8 countries (~19 bombs) since the 2010 Summit

Radioactive Sources

  • Raised importance of radioactive sources (dirty bomb threat) since the 2010 Summit
  • Established national registers of high-activity radioactive sources
  • Enhanced collaboration with the IAEA

Gift Baskets

  • Joint pledges by like-minded countries; new concept since 2010 summit’s “house gifts”.

For example, Belgium, France, Korea, US agreed to a joint project to develop high-density LEU fuel to replace HEU fuels in high-performance research reactors.

Nuclear Security Architecture

  • Called for bringing the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials into effect by 2014
  • Note: The term “nuclear security governance” was changed to “nuclear security architecture” due to controversy over the definition of “governance” among some states that perceive it to have condescending nuances.


Sherpa and Sous-Sherpa Meetings:

  1. June 27-28, 2011 Seoul (Sous-Sherpas)
  2. October 4-5, 2011 Helsinki
  3. January 16-17, 2012 New Delhi
  4. March 23, 2012 Seoul


  • Maintaining a sense of urgency and awareness of the terrorism threat. A nuclear or radiological catastrophe will severely damage life and the economy.
  • Sustaining nuclear security initiatives and political will. The burden of proof will be on all states to implement their nuclear security pledges as well as on Seoul and Washington as incumbent and former Chairs to lead the process.
  • Summit fatigue among heads of state. There are already questions as to whether the Summit process should continue regularly or be absorbed by existing frameworks, for example within the IAEA.
  • Moving beyond the current voluntary and patchwork nature of the current material security architecture toward the creation of a more coherent, global regime and governance/architecture, beginning with the controversial issue of the development of a baseline international standard for the security of nuclear materials.
  • Ensuring states ratify two critical anti-nuclear terrorism conventions:

- Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) 2005 Amendment.

- International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT).

  • Sustaining Public attention and interest.
  • Crafting a future agenda. Discussions have emerged among participating states on the need to expand the agenda to include disarmament, safeguards, and non-proliferation issues.
  • Ensuring cooperation with the private sector to implement nuclear security measures. Governments can devise policies but the private sector plays an integral role in properly implementing them.
  • Future summit process. Questions have been raised as to whether the Summit process should continue in its current form or be absorbed by existing frameworks, such as the IAEA. Sustaining and increasing funding for nuclear security.



[1] The IAEA confirmed 18 cases from 1993-2003 but a recent joint study points to 20 cases to date: “The U.S.-Russia Joint Threat Assessment on Nuclear Terrorism,” Harvard University Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs-Institute for U.S. and Canadian Studies, May 2011, p. 19.

[2] Orlov, Vladimir, Al. “Illicit Nuclear Trafficking & the New Agenda,” IAEA Bulletin 46/1.

[3] 2012 Nuclear Security Summit Secretariat.

© 2014 Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation | 322 4th St., NE | Washington, D.C. 20002 | 202.546.0795

Contact Us | Privacy Policy | Site Map

Powered by ARCOS | Design by Plus Three