Fourth and Final Nuclear Security Summit Shows Progress, Challenges

President Obama hosted the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit on March 31-April 1, 2016. The summit produced important achievements but also left gaps in the global nuclear security system unaddressed.

Achievements

Perhaps the most significant outcome of the summit was agreement on two ways to sustain momentum and progress on nuclear security after the summits.

First, 39 countries agreed to establish a “Nuclear Security Contact Group” to meet annually on the margins of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference to track implementation of summit commitments, discuss nuclear security-related issues, and build a strengthened nuclear security architecture. This Contact Group will be a vital bridge beyond the summits to sustain progress and makes it clear that countries recognize that the job of securing and eliminating nuclear materials is not yet finished.

Second, countries also agreed to advocate for an institutionalized, regular mechanism for long-term progress through a key international treaty—the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM). At the summit, President Obama announced that a key amendment to the CPPNM will soon enter into force, triggering a mandatory meeting in five years. The CPPNM also allows parties to request additional review conferences at intervals of five years or more, which NTI has recently advocated in Arms Control Today. In an “Action Plan” designed to strengthen the IAEA, countries supported this idea by agreeing to advocate for regular CPPNM review conferences.

Other key achievements:

  • Argentina downblended its last remaining highly enriched uranium (HEU), making the Latin America and Caribbean region HEU free.
  • The United States and Japan completed the removal of over 500 kg of HEU and plutonium from Japan’s Fast Critical Assembly, which is the largest materials removal effort of the entire summit process.
  • Twenty-two countries agreed to a comprehensive plan to minimize and eventually eliminate all civilian HEU.
  • Twenty-eight countries agreed to steps to strengthen the security of dangerous radiological sources, drawing on recommendations from NTI’s recently released Radiological Security Progress Report.

 Remaining Challenges

Despite these and other achievements, there is still no effective global system for securing all nuclear materials. Such a system would cover all weapons-usable nuclear materials, including those that are “military materials,” and would ensure that all states follow common international standards and best practices, and take reassuring actions to build confidence in the security of their materials. Most disappointing, the summits left unaddressed the 83% of global stocks of HEU and plutonium that are “military materials” and outside of existing international mechanisms. Except for statements by the United States and the United Kingdom on measures they are taking to secure their military materials, none of the other summit outcomes addressed this military materials gap.

 Read more

For more analysis and resources from NTI and our partners related to the Nuclear Security Summit and the need for a global system, see the following:

 

April 12, 2016
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President Obama hosted the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit on March 31-April 1, 2016. The summit produced important achievements but also left gaps in the global nuclear security system unaddressed.