U.K. Highlights Data Protection in Preventing Nuclear Terror

Preventing misuse of sensitive data is key to the fight against nuclear and radiological terrorism, the Korea Times on Thursday quoted the United Kingdom’s chief envoy to South Korea as saying ahead of this month’s Global Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul (see GSN, March 1).

“We need to secure information that terrorists could use to obtain nuclear material, to turn it into a radiological dispersal or improvised nuclear device, and to mount an effective attack,” Ambassador Scott Wightman told the newspaper via e-mail.

“We’re asking other participating states to join us in signing a voluntary joint statement, in addition to the general communique, which covers a range of subjects, promoting the importance of information security and to sign up to a menu of specific commitments that will improve national nuclear information security,” he said.

In excess of 50 nations are expected to send heads of state and top officials to the March 26-27 summit, nearly two years after the first such gathering in Washington. Global leaders in 2010 backed the goal of securing all vulnerable nuclear materials around the world.

The diplomat listed three key components to addressing the possibility that terrorists might acquire nuclear material.

There is the “risk that the global expansion in civil nuclear power programs increases the availability of fissile material to terrorists," he said. Also, “the rise of the Internet is adding to the availability of nuclear information and increases its potential." Finally, terrorists might avail themselves of “nuclear smuggling networks" (Philip Iglauer, Korea Times, March 1).

A senior South Korean diplomat said the final document issued by the summit is likely to address a number of issues, including the oversight, security and movement of sensitive substances, the Korea Herald reported on Friday. There could also be language on data protection, nuclear forensics and prevention of nuclear smuggling, according to Lim Sung-nam, Seoul's top nuclear negotiator and special envoy for Korean Peninsula peace and security matters.

“Those are the issues to be handled in concrete terms by the Seoul nuclear security summit,” he said on Tuesday during a meeting with diplomats from four of the five formal nuclear powers -- France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States. China did not send a representative (Kirsty Taylor, Korea Herald, March 2).

Meanwhile, two top U.S. State Department nonproliferation officials are expected in Brazil next week for talks on the nuclear security summit and other arms control matters, including the U.S.-Russian New START treaty.

The two-day trip by acting Undersecretary for Arms Control and International Security Rose Gottemoeller and Assistant Secretary of State for International Security and Nonproliferation Thomas Countryman is scheduled to begin on Sunday, according to a department press release (U.S. State Department release, March 1).

March 2, 2012
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Preventing misuse of sensitive data is key to the fight against nuclear and radiological terrorism, the Korea Times on Thursday quoted the United Kingdom’s chief envoy to South Korea as saying ahead of this month’s Global Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul.