The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments

Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport, and Margaret Balza

This report highlights the advances in global nuclear material security that have taken place around the world since the April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit (NSS). In particular, it tracks the national commitments implemented by 30 countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) ahead of the 2012 Seoul NSS.

Executive Summary:

  • A principle achievement of the 2010 NSS was gaining agreement by all 47 participating nations that nuclear terrorism is among the top global security challenges and that strong nuclear material security measures are the most effective way to prevent it.
  • More than 60 national commitments made by 2010 summit participants are detailed in the White House’s
  • highlights document and U.S. national statement that were released after the summit. Implementation of these commitments is tracked in this report.
  • Approximately 80 percent of national commitments from the 2010 summit have been completed, based on an assessment of open source documents as of February 2012. Important progress has been made in many areas, including ratifying international conventions, securing and removing highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium stocks, and establishing new training collaboration centers and opportunities.
  • Examples of completed national commitments include
    • development of new nuclear security centers of excellence, conferences, and training activities around the world by Canada, China, France, India, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, and the Republic of Korea;
    • removal of all HEU from Chile; and
    • new funding support for the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund, HEU reactor conversion and material removals, and anti-smuggling initiatives contributed by Belgium, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • The summit process has proven effective at strengthening the existing nuclear material security regime and quickly achieving progress on an unprecedented global scale. It is a unique vehicle with heads-of-state participation that holds great potential for building a stronger nuclear material security regime by breaking down the political barriers and combating bureaucratic inertia.
  • It is critical to recognize that the nuclear material security challenge will not be solved even after all the national commitments made at the 2010 summit are completed. National commitments represent neither an exhaustive nor encompassing list of actions necessary to close existing gaps in nuclear security and prevent nuclear terrorism. Leaders must acknowledge that nuclear material security is an ongoing, long-term issue and sustained attention is needed to ensure that its tools continually evolve to meet new, emerging threats.
  • The 2012 NSS will maintain a central focus on nuclear material security, but will also include a greater focus on radiological source security and the interface of nuclear safety and security. The tragic 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant reminded the world that nuclear crises do not respect borders and that people and the environment need to be protected from the harmful effects of uncontrolled releases of radiation. Multilateral actions are vital to protect the global public.
  • Summit organizers have indicated that the NSS process was not meant to be a permanent institution, and the final summit could be held in 2014 in the Netherlands. Leaders at the 2012 summit should acknowledge the value of this process in achieving global nuclear security progress and determine how best to adapt it to shape more global and sustainable nuclear material security governance structures into the future.

Full text available (PDF)

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