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Organizer: International Accord Goal For 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

By Chris Schneidmiller

Global Security Newswire

WASHINGTON – Full implementation of a key nuclear materials protection measure that the United States and 32 other nations have yet to agree to would be a demonstration of success at the next and possibly last Nuclear Security Summit, the Dutch diplomat in charge of planning the event said on Thursday.

“My great hope is that we get enough ratifications for the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material,” said Piet de Klerk, the Netherlands’ ambassador to Jordan. “We have gotten 10 countries on board after [the 2012 summit in] Seoul, but the pace needs to quicken in the coming year.”

While it was the United States that initiated the Nuclear Security Summit process in 2010, it has yet to ratify a 2005 amendment to the CPPNM accord that requires nations to secure sensitive substances being used, held or moved within their borders. The original 1980 pact – which has 148 member states --put such requirements on international shipments.

Observers have criticized the Nuclear Security Summit process to date for emphasizing pledges of modest security goals from individual nations rather than broad, enforceable international agreements, so it is notable that a key diplomat involved with the process is highlighting the amendment’s entry into force as a measure of success.

There is significant value in broadening the convention’s scope “to all stages of working with nuclear material,” de Klerk told Global Security Newswire by e-mail on Thursday.

“We are aware of the fact that ratification processes in many countries are long and complex, and that the role of outsiders is limited at most,” he stated. “Nevertheless we hope to speed up some of these processes by supporting and co-organizing with the [International Atomic Energy Agency] outreach meetings … and by making demarches in the different capitals to engage the states that still have to ratify the amendment.”

The Obama administration hosted the first summit three years ago, bringing 49 leaders to Washington to draw attention to the potential for terrorists to gain control of weapon-grade materials used in the civilian and military sectors. The event secured dozens of national pledges aimed at deterring that threat. The follow-up meeting of 53 heads of state in South Korea produced additional agreements and expanded the threat assessment to cover other radiological materials used in various peaceful settings.

“I am confident that we can make The Hague NSS 2014 summit a success, in the sense that we will be able to agree on an outcome document that goes beyond the agreements in Washington and Seoul,” de Klerk said. “What I hope is that such an outcome document not only describes our common assessment of what has been achieved in the last four years … but that it also describes specific steps in which the nuclear security regime has been strengthened.”

Along with entry into force of the physical security convention amendment, de Klerk said he hopes the summit will end with consensus on measures nations can take to demonstrate to the global community that they are sufficiently guarding their nuclear materials. There is no transparency requirement among existing international nuclear security measures, which in any case are largely voluntary, according to issue experts.

Those assurances could involve submission of information on nuclear security programs, legislation and rules, or a willingness to accept peer review assessments, de Klerk said.

He said he also hopes for advancement in reducing the number of nations and facilities that hold plutonium or highly enriched uranium.

“I also expect progress on many other fronts: centers of excellence, forensics, protection of radioactive sources, cooperation between states and industry, etc.,” the diplomat wrote.

The number of participating states is expected to remain at 53, he said. That covers nearly all nations with nuclear material, he noted.

De Klerk could not say whether next year’s event would be followed by another summit in 2016, as some independent security specialists have urged.

“The key question will be whether there is added value in further summits. Clearly leaders need to speak out on this issue,” he stated. “We see a number of arguments why 2014 would be a logical end point, not least given that the [summits were] set up as a four-year exercise, and this week happens to be the [anniversary] of the Prague speech of President Obama in 2009 where he launched that four-year effort.”

NTI Analysis