Get ready, Washington: the traffic jams are coming. The cherry blossoms are in full bloom and delegations are arriving for a global summit to prevent nuclear terrorism.
After six years and three previous summits, the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit will bring more than 50 world leaders here on March 31 to tell us what all that time, money (and traffic) have achieved, and also to explain whether they have succeeded in closing yawning gaps in the global system to keep nuclear materials out of the hands of terrorists.
The glass is half full. More than 1,500 kilograms of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium have been recovered or eliminated. Fifteen countries have become HEU-free since President Obama launched the summit process in an April 2009 speech in Prague. These are important achievements, as HEU is the nuclear material a terrorist group is most likely to use in an improvised nuclear device.
The summits have also pioneered the use of regular, progressive commitment-making by participating states. All states have pledged at least one specific national action, known as a “house gift,” that they will take to improve nuclear security. More than 90 percent of the states also have banded together to offer multilateral commitments, known as “gift baskets.” These are statements of shared priorities, mutual goals and actions states will take together. Some 90 percent of states also have issued voluntary progress reports on their efforts.