Nuclear Security Summit: Progress Report

Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport, and Sarah Williams

The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) process, which began in Washington, D.C., in 2010, has brought high-level attention to the issue of nuclear security and solidified the idea that the global community must work together to address the threat of nuclear terrorism. A second summit was held in Seoul in March 2012 and a third summit will take place in The Hague in March 2014. Since the Seoul summit, all 53 NSS participants have taken steps to improve nuclear security on a national, regional, or international level, but significant work remains.

This report seeks to provide a comprehensive overview of the progress states have made to improve nuclear security over the course of the NSS process, drawing specific attention to actions taken since the Seoul summit. It uses the progress reports submitted by participating states at the 2012 summit, statements made to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, IAEA Nuclear Security Reports, government press releases, and media reports to identify actions countries have taken in support of the summits’ goals. This approach aims to provide a complete record of achievements, but inconsistencies in how and what states report complicate efforts to evaluate progress using open sources.

The consensus communiqué from the 2012 summit called for states to announce plans to minimize their use of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) by 2013 and for the entry into force of the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) by 2014.

  • 18 of 22 NSS participants that possess at least a kilogram of HEU announced plans in Seoul or have taken actions since to minimize usage, repatriate fuel, and convert reactors.
    • Pledges were made by Australia, Hungary, Japan, and Vietnam to return HEU before the 2014 summit.
    • In April 2013, the Czech Republic became the 10th country to eliminate its entire HEU stockpile since the four year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials worldwide was articulated in April 2009. The 2010 NSS endorsed this objective.
  • Since the summit process began in 2010, 18 NSS participants have ratified the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM, while 17 NSS participants still need to act. Since the Seoul summit, a total of 16 countries have ratified the amendment, including eight NSS participants: Armenia, Belgium, France, Georgia, Israel, Mexico, Sweden, and Vietnam.

In addition to the HEU minimization efforts, Belgium and Italy are planning to repatriate plutonium ahead of the 2014 summit. Further efforts must be made at the next summit to encourage more countries to take similar steps to reduce plutonium stockpiles.
The summit process has highlighted the importance of strengthening the human dimension of nuclear security and the role of the IAEA in building national capacity. Since the Seoul summit:

  • 44 countries hosted nuclear security workshops, conferences, exercises, and centers. Several of these states are building long-term nuclear security training infrastructures by establishing centers of excellence, often in cooperation with the European Union, IAEA, or the United States.
  • 9 countries hosted, requested, or are preparing for IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions. Australia, the Republic of Korea, and the United States will receive IPPAS missions in 2013.

Combating nuclear smuggling is one important means for mitigating the risk of nuclear terrorism that countries have focused on throughout the summit process. Since the 2012 summit:

  • 22 countries took steps to prevent the smuggling of illicit radioactive materials by enhancing national and international transport security, expanding border controls, and developing new detection and monitoring technologies.
    • The U.S.-led Megaports Initiative expanded to include 45 ports in 32 countries.
    • The Republic of Korea and Vietnam launched a pilot program on real-time tracking of radiological materials.

Nuclear security is a serious global challenge that requires a global response to manage emerging threats. The progress made throughout the summit process is notable, but there is considerable work left to be done. The current global nuclear security system is a patchwork of laws, voluntary initiatives, and recommendations. The 2014 summit in The Hague will be an important milestone for both the summit process and the evolution of the nuclear security regime.
Summit participants should begin to define the future of nuclear security at the 2014 NSS, and not allow the summit process to end without outlining a strategy to address the structural deficiencies of the current nuclear security regime. It is critical that states do not shy away from bolder action to make progress sustainable and continuous as the four year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials comes to an end. The foundation of the regime needs to be strengthened, not just patched. NSS participants should push for a more cohesive, transparent, and effective nuclear security regime that includes more standardized reporting mechanisms and review measures to earn the confidence of the global community.

Full text is available here: (PDF) More NSS resources available here.

Video from the report release press conference available here.