by John Isaacs and Leonor Tomero
December 9, 2009
2010 will be an important year for nuclear security and nonproliferation. Two events in particular will impact the global nuclear nonproliferation regime: 1) the Global Nuclear Security Summit and 2) the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference.
GLOBAL NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT
In April 2009, President Obama laid out a three-part strategy to address the nuclear threats facing the United States. The strategy consists of 1) proposing measures to reduce and eventually eliminate existing nuclear arsenals; 2) strengthening the Non-Proliferation Treaty and halting proliferation of nuclear weapons to additional states; and 3) preventing terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons or materials.
During the July 2009 G-8 Summit in Italy, President Obama reiterated his call for a summit to address the third component of his strategy. Originally slated for March 2010, the Global Nuclear Security Summit is now scheduled to take place in April 2010 in Washington, D.C. The United States will host over 40 nations and several international organizations.
The Global Nuclear Security Summit will focus on safeguarding against nuclear terrorism by bolstering international cooperation and improving security for nuclear materials worldwide. The summit will provide an opportunity to discuss practical ways to identify and disrupt illicit trade in nuclear materials. The White House explained that the summit will facilitate “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.”
In addition to combating nuclear terrorism, the Global Nuclear Security Summit will offer a valuable opportunity to break ground prior to the NPT Review Conference, where the expansion of peaceful nuclear energy will be an important topic. The summit will help build confidence that the right to peaceful nuclear energy contained in Article IV of the NPT can be exercised safely. It will also demonstrate that President Obama’s nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament agenda is a pragmatic program aimed at global security.
The specifics of the summit’s agenda have yet to be formally established. However, Russia has agreed to help the United States prepare. In addition, a preparatory meeting is scheduled to take place in Japan during December 2009 according to a statement by Thomas D’Agostino, the administrator of the U.S. National Nuclear Security Administration.
The summit will seek to transform the global nuclear security agenda, which is currently focused on bilateral nuclear reductions between the United States and Russia, into a truly multilateral effort.
The summit will reaffirm each nation’s responsibility to secure nuclear material on its own territory, to help nations which may lack the capacity to secure material to do so successfully, and to strengthen the institutions and initiatives that combat nuclear smuggling and theft, including the Global Threat Reduction Initiative, Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, and the Proliferation Security Initiative.
According to the White House, the end goal of the summit will be “a communiqué pledging efforts to attain the highest levels of nuclear security, which is essential for international security as well as the development and expansion of peaceful nuclear energy worldwide.”
Once loose nuclear material has been secured, the international community must ensure that it remains secure and must prevent new material from being created outside of safeguarded facilities. In order to address these requirements, President Obama is pushing for the negotiation of an effective and verifiable Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty (FMCT).
A FMCT would strengthen nuclear nonproliferation norms by adding a binding international commitment to existing constraints on production of weapons-grade fissile material. The treaty would ban the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.
New global norms are arising out of the necessity to maintain positive control over nuclear materials. Due to the national security implications of nuclear programs, however, questions about sovereignty will always be raised. As with any transitory period, there will be resistance from those who have a vested interest in the status quo.
Just as there has been disparity between nations enforcing UN Resolution 1540, so there will be disparity in carrying out any recommendations made by the Global Nuclear Security Summit. Simply put, the threat of nuclear terrorism is not evenly distributed across the spectrum of nations. Countries such as the United States are therefore likely to bear a lion’s share of the burden in implementing the recommendations of the Summit.