NSS 2014: Significant Progress But More to Do

At the end of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in The Hague, 53 world leaders returned home having made a range of commitments to secure dangerous nuclear materials and prevent them from ending up in the hands of terrorists.  The Summit was significant in several ways:

  • Individual and group commitments by countries offered actionable—and ambitious—steps to reduce the risk of nuclear terrorism

  • A growing number of countries recognize the need for an international architecture, or global system, which holds all states accountable to a common set of standards and best practices.

Notable Commitments

Principles that NTI developed in advance of the Summit were reflected in the Summit Communiqué and key initiatives.  NTI’s Global Dialogue on Nuclear Security Priorities, which brought together officials from Summit countries, key outside experts and industry leaders, developed four key principles to guide a global nuclear materials security system:

  1. The system should cover all weapons-useable materials, including nuclear materials used for military purposes.
  2. The system should employ international standards and best practices.
  3. All states should commit to measures that reassure other states that their security practices are effective, while protecting sensitive information.
  4. All states should commit to reducing—and, where possible, eliminating—their nuclear weapons-usable materials to minimize the risks these stockpiles pose.

Key commitments and recommendations coming out of the Summit process were consistent with these principles:

  • The Hague Communiqué, the document that reflects the consensus position of the Summit participants, called for strengthened and comprehensive international nuclear security architecture.
  • In the same document, countries agreed to measures that build the confidence of others about the effectiveness of security without disclosing sensitive information.  This is a significant change in the nuclear security field.  
  • Thirty-five countries (two-thirds of Summit participants) agreed to put principles into practice by joining the “Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation” initiative advanced by the United States, the Netherland and the Republic of Korea. They pledged to improve the effectiveness of their nuclear security through internal assessments and peer reviews, then acting upon those recommendations.  They also committed to ensuring the IAEA’s voluntary guidelines are reflected in, or exceeded by, their regulations.  Finally, these countries also obligate themselves to ensuring those responsible for nuclear security are demonstrably competent—in other words, are qualified for security roles and professionally certified.  

NTI Index a Critical Tool

The 2014 NTI Nuclear Security Index emerged as an important tool for individual countries in reviewing their own actions and in assessing the status of nuclear security today.  Leaders from Australia, Canada, Denmark, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands and Poland cited the NTI Nuclear Materials Security Index in their opening statements, progress reports and other official documents.  Swedish Foreign Minister Carl Bildt also cited the Index in a tweet.

The Industry Summit

Effective nuclear materials security at the national and global levels requires efforts by many, including operators of nuclear facilities. The organizations and individuals responsible for “on-the-ground” security at nuclear facilities or during transport have a key role because that is where security procedures are put into practice and where a failure could be catastrophic.

Consistent with past Summits, The Netherlands organized an Industry Summit to engage industry leaders on their role in securing nuclear materials—an effort which reflected a deeper commitment by participants. Emeritus Board Member Susan Eisenhower gave a keynote address highlighting the industry's dual responsibilities to provide peaceful benefits of the atom and also to protect society against potential threats and misuse.  Roger Howsley, executive director of the World Institute for Nuclear Security, outlined efforts to promulgate best practices and launched the WINS Academy to create credible professional certification for those responsible for nuclear security within organizations.  Ken Ellis, managing director of the World Association of Nuclear Operators, speaking for himself, underscored the importance of the nuclear security mission and highlighted the need for nuclear industry to take a more active role in addressing gaps, rather than merely reacting to regulatory obligations.

NTI President Joan Rohlfing will serve on the advisory committee for the 2016 Industry Summit.

Looking to 2016

The clock is ticking on what may be the last Nuclear Security Summit, which will be held in the United States.  Leading up to this event, the consensus on key principles that emerged in 2014 must be turned into actions that create a sustainable nuclear materials security system.  U.S. leadership will be needed to meet ambitious goals, among them:

  • Turning the principles of The Hague Communiqué into a practical, effective system, one in which all participants are accountable for their responsibilities and commitments.
  • Engaging Summit countries in ensuring the security of all nuclear materials, including plutonium and the 85% of weapons-usable materials categorized as military or non-civilian and not covered by most current agreements and guideline

The United States also has important work to do on the domestic front.  One priority is passing the legislation necessary to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.  Without these actions, these agreements cannot take full effect globally, and the United States has less authority to urge other nations to do more.

Finally, all countries will need to meet their own commitments in acknowledgement that global security is only as strong as the weakest link in the chain.
 

April 2, 2014
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NTI's overview of the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit and the work ahead for 2016.

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Nuclear Threat Initiative