Below is the Fissile Materials Working Group’s response to the outcome of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, including reaction from Center Deputy Director Duyeon Kim.
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Seoul Nuclear Security Summit Delivers Modest Results
Experts Call for Bolder Action to Prevent Nuclear Terrorism
The communiqué and commitments world leaders agreed to today at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit mark a modest but important step forward in the effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the globe. However, bolder action is needed to effectively counter the threat of nuclear terrorism, according to the Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG), an international coalition of nuclear security experts.
“Several key steps should be taken prior to the next Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014. States should institutionalize binding, comprehensive standards for security that emphasize performance and accountability,” said Ken Luongo, co-chair of the FMWG and president of the Partnership for Global Security.
“The current nuclear material security regime is a patchwork of unaccountable voluntary arrangements that are inconsistent across borders,” Luongo said. “This system is not commensurate with either the risk or consequences of nuclear terrorism. Consistent standards, transparency to promote international confidence, and national accountability are additions to the regime that are urgently needed.”
Outcomes of particular note from the Seoul Summit include setting a target date of 2014 for bringing the amendment of the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) into force; the addition of several nations such as Italy pledging to eliminate their stocks of fissile material; and an agreement between the U.S., France, Belgium and the Netherlands to produce medical isotopes without the use of highly enriched uranium by 2015.
“These pledges represent the most concrete results from the summit and represent some useful steps forward,” said Miles Pomper, senior research associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies and FMWG Steering Committee member. “If they are to be realized, however, the White House will have to be more active than it has been in winning congressional support for appropriate legislation and sufficient funding.”
Duyeon Kim, deputy director of nuclear nonproliferation, at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation, lauded the inclusion of the nuclear safety and security interface in the Communiqué in the aftermath of Fukushima that demonstrated that a Fukushima-like terrorist attack is plausible.
“Notable achievements [in the Communiqué] is a consensus on and vision for strengthening nuclear safety-security as well as raising the importance of radiological security since the 2010 Summit,” Kim said. “Not only did world leaders acknowledge the overlap between nuclear safety and security, but they’ve agreed that the measures need to be incorporated in all stages including effective emergency preparedness. It’s an extremely significant first step but the key is implementing and sustaining measures that strengthen the nuclear safety-security nexus beyond 2014 as long as we opt for nuclear power to meet our energy needs.”
“Also, setting a target date to announce each country’s plans on minimizing the civilian use of HEU by the end of 2013 is a positive step forward but so far it’s an ‘encouragement’ to do so and the key is in the details, which are unclear.”
By the end of the four-year effort, there will be major progress in reducing the risk of nuclear theft and terrorism, said Matthew Bunn, co-principal investigator of the Managing the Atom Project at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs and FMWG Steering Committee member.
“But we won’t be done – keeping nuclear materials out of terrorist hands will require a culture of continual improvement sustained as long as nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them continue to exist,” Bunn said. “With at least two and probably three major terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons over the last 20 years, we cannot expect they will be the last,” Bunn said. “Despite the death of Osama bin Laden, the world is likely to be confronting the danger of nuclear terrorism as long as nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them continue to exist.”
Post-summit reactions from other FMWG members include:
* Alexandra Toma, FMWG co-chair and executive director of the Connect U.S. Fund: “Leaders should be proud of what’s been accomplished to date, but they must also be realistic that global nuclear security cannot be accomplished in four years, as they originally agreed. A challenge as great as global nuclear terrorism requires constant vigilance and further improvements to the current system, which still remains a patchwork of voluntary agreements. Let’s keep momentum going through the 2014 Summit in the Netherlands and beyond.”
* Sico van der Meer, research fellow, Netherlands Institute of International Relations Clingendael: “Improving global nuclear security is a long-term process, the problem will not be solved in only a few years. This is why the Netherlands is fully committed to organize the third Nuclear Security Summit in 2014. These high-level summits are the best guarantee to retain international attention.”
* Sharon Squassoni, director and senior fellow, Proliferation Prevention Program, Center for Strategic and International Studies, “The Seoul meeting demonstrates that summit diplomacy can only accomplish so much. States should use the time between now and the next summit to identify and target additional gaps in protection against nuclear terrorism as a high priority.”
* Nobuyasu Abe, director of the Center for the Promotion of Disarmament and Non-proliferation at the Japan Institute of International Affairs: “A willful and targeted act of terrorism would be more vicious than the natural disasters that may hit nuclear power stations or spent fuel storages. There is no unilateral solution to the shared global threat posed by nuclear terrorism. More countries must be enlisted in this truly global endeavor. Our best defense is a strong, united front to prevent nuclear terror.”
The FMWG, a nongovernmental coalition of over 65 U.S. and international expert organizations, aims to provide action-oriented and innovative policy solutions to counter the threat of nuclear terrorism. For more information, visit www.fmwg.org