The third Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) kicked off in The Hague on Monday, aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe. Leaders from 53 countries and 4 international organizations gathered to assess past achievements in safeguarding global nuclear security and to seek more actions in preventing nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.
The primary goal of the NSS 2014 was to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material in the world, improve security of all nuclear material and radioactive sources, and step up international cooperation.
Monday, participating countries presented their national statements on nuclear security, and then proceeded to discuss what they would do and how they would cooperate at the international level.
The U.S. announced their intention to establish an international research effort on the feasibility of replacing high-activity radiological sources with non-isotopic replacement technologies. The aim is to produce a global alternative by 2016, as an effort to help limit the prospect of “dirty bomb” attacks by working to phase out certain radiological materials.
United Nations Secretary-General, Ban Ki-moon, said that the primary responsibility lies with national governments to prevent non-state actors and terrorists from acquiring the most devastating weapons. “But international cooperation and assistance are indispensable“, calling on countries to do more to prevent and detect unauthorized acquisition of material outside of regulatory control.
One of the first important outcomes was the announcement that Japan will turn over hundreds of kilograms of sensitive nuclear material that could potentially be used in bombs, to the United States to be downgraded and disposed of. Also Italy and Belgium announced they had moved excess nuclear materials to the United States for disposal or downgrading under the terms of past agreements.
Twelve countries released a joint statement, marking the elimination of highly enriched uranium (HEU) from within their borders, in advance of the fourth Nuclear Security Summit to be held in 2016.
Although the agenda of the Summit was carefully prepared in advance, Russia’s takeover of Crimea did overshadow the agenda of the NSS. On the initiative of President Obama, the G7 states have decided to hold their own crisis talks on the sidelines of the summit.
The 2014 summit ended with a statement signed by all fifty three countries agreeing to keep looking for ways to protect nuclear material from terrorists. Thirty five countries pledged to turn international guidelines on nuclear security into national laws. The initiative also commits countries to open up their security procedures to independent review. Among countries that agreed were France, Britain, Canada, Israel and Japan. Even though member states have committed to such measures, one should keep in mind that this framework is not legally binding and therefore commitments are based on the States’ good will. Thus the latter cannot be enforced legally through international sanctions. Notwithstanding, Russia, China, India and Pakistan have not committed to such measures.
Four years ago, under the initiative of US President Barack Obama, the first Nuclear Security Summit was held in Washington D.C., which set in motion the nuclear security summit process. The summit has become an important platform to address nuclear security issues since its first meeting in Washington in 2010. The second meeting was held in Seoul in 2012. Since US President Barack Obama launched the series, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25.
During the final press conference, President Obama, chairman of the 2016 NSS in Chicago, announced it will be “transition” summit where heads of state will look to hand over responsibility for nuclear security to their ministers.
The final communique can be read here
The video of the opening ceremony can be watched here