by Kingston Reif and Duyeon Kim
NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT 1 YEAR ANNIVERSARYBy Duyeon Kim and Kingston Reif, April 11, 2011
One year ago, President Barack Obama hosted a historic Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism. The Summit proved to be a success in that it raised international awareness at the highest level on the need for global cooperation to prevent nuclear materials from falling into terrorist hands. While progress has been made, there is a danger that the nuclear material security effort will not be adequately resourced and implemented. The Washington Summit must not be viewed in retrospect as a high water mark. The Seoul Nuclear Security Summit next year will provide opportunities to advance and expand upon the agenda of the first Summit.
2010 NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT
The 47 world leaders endorsed President Obama’s four-year goal of securing all nuclear material worldwide and produced a Communiqúe, which called for a crackdown on nuclear trafficking, standards for securing plutonium and highly enriched uranium and support for past UN resolutions.
The world leaders also endorsed a detailed, non-binding Work Plan on steps to fully implement and augment compliance with existing nuclear security agreements and programs such as UN Security Council Resolution 1540, which makes it mandatory for all states to establish strict national controls to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups. The Work Plan also strengthened the four-year goal by calling for the consolidation of national nuclear storage sites and the conversion of reactors that use highly enriched uranium to use low enriched uranium.
Twenty-nine countries pledged over 50 specific commitments to secure or eliminate nuclear materials. Russia pulled the plug on its plutonium production reactor the week of the Summit. Canada, Chile and Ukraine were among countries pledging to get rid of their highly enriched uranium, a key ingredient in nuclear bombs. Mexico committed to converting its research reactor to use low enriched uranium, which cannot be fashioned into nuclear bombs.
Overall, the Summit was an incredibly important and successful first step. Another Summit will be held in the Republic of Korea in 2012. According to a joint report released today by the Arms Control Association and the Partnership for Global Security, roughly 60 percent of the national commitments made in Washington have been completed. For example, since the Summit, Serbia and Chile have given up their highly enriched uranium. Kazakhstan secured enough highly enriched uranium and weapons-grade plutonium to make 775 nuclear weapons. Ukraine removed over half of is highly enriched uranium in 2010, and has pledged to remove the rest by 2012. And thanks in part to the momentum generated by the Summit, Belarus pledged to remove all its highly enriched uranium (more than 280 kg worth) by 2012.
THE ROAD AHEAD
The future of global nuclear security poses both challenges and opportunities. The next Summit set for 2012 in the Republic of Korea will be an important opportunity to ensure full implementation of the Washington Summit agreements and to go beyond them.
Washington must continue to take the lead in implementing its four-year goal to secure vulnerable nuclear materials as pledged by President Obama in his 2009 Prague speech.
However, the international cooperative effort to secure all nuclear materials and keep the U.S. safe from nuclear terrorism is at a crossroads because the effort is in danger of not being adequately resourced.
Last year, the Obama administration requested a $550 billion increase over the previous year for the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account to accelerate efforts to lock down and eliminate nuclear materials around the world. However, due to partisan gridlock in Congress, since October 1, 2010, the government has been funded by a series Continuing Resolutions, which fund most government programs at last year’s levels, including the programs to secure and safeguard nuclear weapons and materials.
To make matters worse, the year-long continuing resolution passed by the House on February 19 cuts funding for NNSA’s Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account by 24% (nearly $650 million) below the Fiscal Year 2011 requested level. Over the weekend, House and Senate negotiators finally reached a deal on a spending bill to fund the government for the rest of the year. It remains to be seen what the final number will be for the Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation account.
Leaders in the Group of Eight (G8) must also extend the Global Partnership, which they failed to do last year, and seek to expand it to address nuclear security challenges beyond Russia, a process which has already begun, and to include new partners.
2012 NUCLEAR SECURITY SUMMIT
In Seoul next year, leaders at the Nuclear Security Summit should explore ways to expand the scope beyond the 2010 Washington agenda to address threats and challenges faced by the global community. This will prove to be necessary and inevitable should subsequent Summits be held. An expanded scope might include the security of radioactive sources for countries that do not possess nuclear weapons or fissile materials. Another initiative suggested by many experts would be to work toward an agreement on a universal standard for nuclear material security. Despite a myriad of national laws and international agreements, there is no one standard for how safe and secure nuclear materials need to be.
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear disaster, world leaders could also devise concrete steps to ensure the security of nuclear power plants since sabotage could recreate Fukushima-like conditions. They could also strengthen implementation of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. Finally, the Summit could strengthen the role of the IAEA as the overseer and advisor of nuclear security and ad hoc groups like the Nuclear Security Summit could help implement any new standards and guidelines.