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Nuclear Security Summit Produced Results: State Department
The Global Nuclear Security Summit held one year ago in Washington significantly enhanced worldwide attention on the issue of protecting vulnerable nuclear materials from diversion, the Xinhua News Agency reported on Wednesday (see GSN, April 12).
Heads of state and top officials from 47 countries participated in the two-day summit convened by U.S. President Obama. The high-profile gathering produced a unanimous agreement to secure all vulnerable nuclear material caches within four years.
"Having such a high level of attention to the issue has really helped us to move these things forward," said Bonnie Jenkins, U.S. State Department coordinator for threat reduction efforts.
Since the beginning of the Obama administration, enough highly enriched uranium to build in excess of 30 nuclear warheads has been shopped back to Russia, with approximately 25 percent of that amount repatriated in the last 12 months, Jenkins said.
Some 20 nations are now understood to have rid themselves of their weapon-usable uranium through security operations under the U.S. Energy Department.
Before the 2010 event, Washington had made contact on nuclear security with nations including Chile, Kazakhstan, Libya, Romania, Serbia and Turkey.
"The summit was like a huge catalyst," Jenkins said. "It kind of shocked things and things started moving faster."
Twenty-nine nations at the summit offered to carry out 54 nuclear security actions.
"Even if all those commitments were implemented, they are not sufficient to prevent the nuclear terrorist danger," cautioned Kenneth Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security.
There is today enough weapon-grade uranium to build in excess of 60,000 nuclear weapons and the level of protections surrounding the material differs greatly from nation to nation, a report published earlier this month by Luongo's organization and the Arms Control Association concluded.
Participation in today's global nuclear security system is optional for nations. The regime also does not have uniform standards. There is inadequate transparency and no enforcement measure for ensuring countries are meeting a certain level of nuclear security, Luongo told Xinhua by e-mail.
A follow-on nuclear security summit is to be held next year in Seoul, South Korea. Nations are weighing if that gathering's agenda should be expanded to include securing radiological materials that could be used to construct a "dirty bomb" (see GSN, March 18).
"We are open to hearing about that, but whether it will be part of the summit is hard to say," Jenkins said. "We'll have to see how much time and energy all the countries want to dedicate to that."
Dirty bombs employ conventional explosives to disperse radioactive material across a wide area. Though significantly less lethal than a nuclear weapon, the comparative prevalence and easy access to materials to build a dirty bomb has made the likelihood of such an attack more likely than an atomic strike, according to experts (see GSN, March 18; Matthew Rusling, Xinhua News Agency, April 20).
Correction: An earlier version of this article should have stated that Pakistan participated in the 2010 Global Nuclear Security Summit.
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