Research Associate, The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies
The April 2010 Nuclear Security Summit: One More Step Toward the Mountaintop
In their landmark January 2008 Wall Street Journal editorial, the Four Statesmen—George Shultz, William Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn—urged world leaders to chart a course to the elusive "mountaintop" of a nuclear-free world. They listed as one important step along the way the acceleration of "work to provide the highest possible standards of security for nuclear weapons, as well as for nuclear materials everywhere in the world, to prevent terrorists from acquiring a nuclear bomb." Following the Four Statesmen's roadmap, in July 2009, President Obama proposed a summit to challenge world leaders to "discuss steps…to secure loose nuclear materials; combat smuggling; and deter, detect, and disrupt attempts at nuclear terrorism." As part of the broader nuclear disarmament goals he originally outlined in Prague, Obama convened this group to foster "an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years." On 12-13 April 2010, the United States hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington D.C., bringing together 49 world leaders in an effort to foster cooperation and consensus on one further step toward nuclear zero.
The Summit participants issued a broad Communiqué that affirmed their dedication to preventing nuclear terrorism and adopted the four-year timeline proposed by Obama. Participating countries and organizations also agreed on a more specific, but voluntary, Work Plan. Although many controversial issues bubbled beneath the surface of the Summit, the convened nations appeared to relegate such disagreements to the sidelines to support the relatively non-controversial goal of nuclear security. Following quickly after the signing of the New START Treaty between the United States and Russia, and the revamped U.S. Nuclear Posture Review, the Summit represents an effort by the U.S. administration to clearly indicate its dedication to nuclear security and its cooperation with other nations on steps toward nuclear disarmament ahead of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty's (NPT) Review Conference in May 2010. This issue brief examines the background and outcomes of the Summit and analyzes its ongoing importance.
International concern about terrorist acquisition of fissile materials, primarily highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium, accelerated after the attacks of 11 September 2001. Top Al Qaeda members have made no secret of their interest in acquiring nuclear weapons; most significant was Osama bin Laden's declaration that the acquisition of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) represented a "religious duty." In 2009, Al Qaeda's leader in Afghanistan directly referred to the use of nuclear weapons when he stated, "By God's will, the Americans will not seize the Muslims' nuclear weapons and we pray that the Muslims will have these weapons and they will be used against the Americans."
The short guidelines issued for the event, required each nation represented to appoint a "sherpa" to prepare its position prior to the Summit in Washington. Gary Samore, the sherpa for the United States, indicated there were three sherpa meetings and "a number of meetings of the sous-sherpas who get into the real details." Various governments, including Japan and the Netherlands, organized conferences to coordinate a more successful gathering in April and to begin formulating the Communiqué to cap the Summit. The Fissile Materials Working Group (FMWG) also conducted a pre-summit conference, "Next Generation Nuclear Security," with participants from various non-governmental organizations the day prior to the Summit.
The White House invited 46 countries to attend the Summit, including the four nuclear weapons NPT member states, three nuclear states not party to the NPT (Indian, Israel, and Pakistan), and several non-nuclear states that are NPT parties and members of the Non-Aligned Movement (the "NAM," comprised of 118 nations and 17 observers, maintaining independence from other major powers or alliances). Not every state with nuclear-related activities was invited. According to Laura Holgate, senior White House director for WMD Terrorism, "We couldn't invite every single country that has any nuclear connectivity, and so we were looking for countries that represented regional diversity where we had states that had weapons, states that don't have weapons, states with large nuclear programs, and small with small nuclear programs." Moreover, not every head of state that was invited accepted; in the most notable case, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu abruptly canceled his planned trip to the Summit, allegedly to avoid drawing questions about Israel's nuclear weapons and failure to join the NPT. The Deputy Prime Minister of Israel, Dan Meridor was sent by Israel in his stead. Another notable invitee who declined to attend the Summit was the United Kingdom's Gordon Brown, who pointed to his busy schedule with the upcoming elections as the reason for his absence. The United Kingdom instead sent Foreign Secretary David Miliband. The heads of three international bodies—the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the European Union, and the United Nations—attended.
The Obama administration specifically excluded from the guest list three countries not in compliance with their international obligations: Iran, North Korea, and Syria. The United States and other members of the UN Security Council are weighing additional sanctions against Iran for its failure to comply with earlier UN resolutions and IAEA investigations, aimed at curbing a possible nuclear weapons program. A week before the Summit, Iranian officials stated that any countries not included in the Washington nuclear summit would not be bound by the outcome, and that Iran would host its own two-day conference called "Nuclear Energy for Everyone, Nuclear Arms for No One" on 17-18 April. Iran announced that 60 countries had been invited, and China—a key holdout on new sanctions against Iran—had already agreed to attend.
The primary focus throughout the two-day event, despite a multitude of sideline issues, remained the threat from terrorist acquisition of unsecured nuclear material. On 12 April, Obama drew attention to the threat from Al-Qaeda as a motivating factor in securing loose nuclear material. "We know that organizations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to secure a nuclear weapon — a weapon of mass destruction that they have no compunction at using." This dire warning captured most of the press coverage during the Summit, and underscored the urgency felt by the U.S. administration on matters of nuclear terrorism.
The Nuclear Security Summit served as the staging point for the announcement of many on-going and new efforts to mitigate nuclear material dangers, as outlined below, but also included a short Communiqué setting out broad goals released on 13 April and an accompanying Work Plan with more specific, if voluntary, steps toward the goals. In the Communiqué, the countries assembled for the Summit agree they would "commit to strengthen nuclear security and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism," by endorsing Obama's initiative to secure within four years "all vulnerable nuclear material." The Communiqué notes the need to improve security and accounting for HEU and plutonium, and to strengthen regulations concerning such materials. Without committing nations to adherence to particular conventions or treaties, the Communiqué calls for "promoting universality of key international treaties on nuclear security and nuclear terrorism." The nations also "[reaffirm] the essential role" of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and call for the continued support of the agency to maintain its role in implementing nuclear security practices. They also note that additional radioactive materials (such as cesium and strontium) require similar security measures because of their potential use in dirty bombs.
Governments and international organizations have enacted various measures for the prevention of acts of nuclear terrorism. The Summit participants highlighted several of these measures in its Work Plan, released the second and final day of the event. Although none of the following conventions or initiatives is new, the Work Plan draws attention to the merits and areas of improvement for each.
UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1540 received special attention. The resolution itself calls on UN member states "to combat by all means, in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations, threats to international peace and security caused by terrorist acts," through measures that prevent non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons, their means of delivery, and related materials. The ineffective implementation of UNSCR 1540 worldwide gained attention as nations prepared to gather in Washington, D.C. for the Summit. Twenty-nine nations have not yet submitted reports, as mandated by the resolution in 2004. Countries of special concern include Niger and the Democratic Republic of the Congo, two primary sources of uranium, which can be enriched for use as fissile material as well as nuclear reactor fuel. The Summit's Work Plan underscores the importance of the resolution, in addition to advocating greater international cooperation through dialogue between member states and the 1540 Committee. The plan extends an offer of technical assistance to states requiring it, while reiterating the importance of timely reporting and full implementation of the resolution.
Two international conventions were specifically on the Summit agenda: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. The former includes 142 state signatories and governs the protection of nuclear material during international transport. The Summit drew attention to the Amendment to the CPPNM, which would enlarge the scope of the convention to include the protection of all "nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport." The Work Plan indicates the importance of the Convention and the need for quick ratification and early implementation of the 2005 Amendment.
The International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism calls for the investigation and criminalization of any acts related to nuclear terrorism; this convention has not yet entered into force. The Work Plan specifically calls on states parties to work toward universality and to collaborate in the effective implementation of the Convention. Other initiatives highlighted include the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the G-8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction.
The Work Plan also advocates increased state cooperation with the IAEA for "guidance and recommendations" related to nuclear security and praises IAEA efforts through its Nuclear Security Program as well as its 2010-2013 Nuclear Security Plan that encompasses lessons learned, international nuclear agreements, and a specific program implementation outline. The program itself aims to prevent, as well as detect and respond to, malicious acts utilizing nuclear or radioactive materials. It also strives to increase information coordination and analysis through bilateral and multilateral means.
In addition to encouraging better implementation of existing treaties and programs, the Work Plan urges participating states more broadly to cooperate with international organizations, governments, industries, academic institutions and other stakeholders in developing the human resources necessary to implement nuclear security measures. Such development would include networking, education and training, and national regulations to ensure the proper management of sensitive information.
The Work Plan underscores the necessity of information sharing in the fight against nuclear trafficking. The plan specifically points to nuclear detection and forensics as areas in which multilateral cooperation would benefit states. Cooperation in law enforcement among local, national and international agencies was also underscored as necessary in the prevention of nuclear trafficking. On the second day of the Summit, Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili disclosed that his country's security forces led a sting operation resulting in the confiscation of uranium enriched to weapons grade. The attempted black market sale highlights the importance, and urgency, of international cooperation on security measures to counter nuclear trafficking. Saakashvili further stated that eight confiscations of "enriched uranium" (not specifying the grade) took place in the last 10 years.
Taken as a whole, the Work Plan augments the Communiqué with its specific (though not mandatory) recommendations for states and provides a roadmap for cooperation with the IAEA. The plan provides recommendations for both domestic and international actions and gives nations a multitude of general suggestions for nuclear security efforts.
Several country leaders that gathered in Washington, D.C. for the Summit came prepared with plans that were, in some cases, a decade in the making. The Summit provided new impetus to announce on-going and new nuclear security efforts.
For a number of years, the United States has cooperated with other countries to transfer HEU to more secure locations and to convert reactors using HEU fuel to low-enriched uranium (LEU). In the past year, the United States has removed HEU from Romania, Taiwan, Libya, and most recently Chile. In an announcement timed to coincide with the run-up to the Summit, the U.S. Department of Energy heralded a successful February mission to remove 39.6 pound of HEU from Chile. In cooperation with the Chilean Commission of Nuclear Energy, U.S. officials removed 30 pounds of HEU from the La Reina Nuclear Center in Santiago, and approximately 9 ½ pounds of HEU and spent fuel from the Lo Aguirre Nuclear Center outside the city; the HEU packed in sealed casks had to be diverted to another port for shipment to the United States when the massive earthquake hit.
Several other countries also made public their plans to dispose of HEU and spent fuel. For more than 10 years the United States has been negotiating with Ukraine for the removal of its HEU and spent fuel to more secure facilities in Russia. Ukraine announced at the Summit that it would ship approximately 236 pounds of HEU and 123 pounds of spent fuel to Russia by the end of 2012. White House press secretary Robert Gibbs further indicated that Ukraine's civil nuclear facilities will instead begin to utilize LEU as fuel in place of the HEU. 
During the Summit, the United States, Canada, and Mexico announced a new agreement that calls for the conversion of HEU fuel at Mexico's nuclear research reactor to LEU. This project, to be implemented by the IAEA and funded by Canada and the United States through the Global Partnership and Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), will remove all sources of HEU from Mexico. Canada also agreed to provide funding under the GTRI for HEU disposition in Vietnam. The Canadian Primer Minister, Stephen Harper, additionally agreed to transfer inventories of HEU to the United States from the Chalk River Laboratories in Ontario. In reference to the attention his country is giving to the nuclear security issue, Harper stated, "Canada is actively participating in international efforts to help ensure that nuclear weapons materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists." The project is expected to begin in 2010 and run through 2018.
On 13 April, Russia and the United States announced the revival of a plan to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium by utilizing the material for MOX mixed oxide uranium-plutonium) fuel in civil power reactors. The newly signed Plutonium Disposition Protocol builds upon the original plans outlined by the 2000 Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA), in which both countries agreed to dispose of 34 metric tons of weapons-grade plutonium. The new protocol outlines specific measures, including increased monitoring and inspections, to "ensure that disposition of that plutonium is transparent and irreversible." The United States and Russia both encountered difficulties in the practical implementation of the PMDA in the past, largely due to budgetary issues. Disposition of the plutonium is not expected to begin until 2018. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev also announced the closure of a plutonium production plant in Zheleznogorsk, the last remaining of its kind in Russia.
The United States, in conjunction with Canada, also announced it would be encouraging nations to pledge $10 billion for the continued efforts of the G-8 Global Partnership Program. Additionally, U.S. officials announced efforts to increase security at nuclear sites, and indicated the IAEA would be involved in the security review of the U.S. neutron research center. The U.S. administration is also requesting congressional approval for greater funding for nonproliferation and anti-trafficking programs.
Various nations also agreed to either ratify or consider ratifying relevant conventions dealing with international security and nuclear terrorism. Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Georgia, and the United Kingdom all voiced support for ratification of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. Argentina, the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam endorsed the Statement of Principles of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. The following countries indicated they would ratify or consider ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material: Argentina, France, Germany, and the United Kingdom.
Many other nations indicated their dedication to funding efforts for international nuclear safety institutions. Belgium, Japan, the United Kingdom, Norway, and New Zealand all pledged funding efforts toward the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund, which provides for the work of the Agency's Nuclear Security Program. Nations also offered to lead IAEA international peer reviews, making available to inspectors sensitive nuclear facilities; among those participating are Britain, France, and the United States. Canada also indicated it would allocate $100 million toward a security cooperation agreement with Russia, and Norway will be donating $500,000 for efforts toward improving Kazakhstan's nuclear smuggling technology. Germany's donation of approximately $13.5 million to the IAEA for a new database for "slightly enriched materials" (as opposed to HEU or plutonium) underscores its concern regarding the threat of dirty bombs.
Finally, Malaysia, Egypt and Armenia vowed to enact new export control laws to limit nuclear trafficking. Malaysia, an important hub in the A.Q. Khan illicit nuclear trafficking network, approved a new export law curbing transfers of WMD-related material just days before the Summit. Obama held a bilateral meeting with Malaysia's Prime Minister Najib Razak, perhaps in recognition of that milestone. As at least one analyst has pointed out, building a rapport with NAM countries, such as Malaysia, will be crucial when the task of garnering support for sanctions against Iran arises. In the days after the Summit, Razak increased his vocal support for sanctions against Iran, and additionally announced Malaysia had stopped sending the country gasoline supplies.
During the Summit, Obama announced that South Korea had been chosen to host the second Nuclear Summit in 2012. South Korean President Lee Myung-bak stated that the North Korean leader would be welcomed at the next summit only if his country made substantial pledges toward nuclear disarmament during the Six-Party Talks. He also announced that Seoul would host the general assembly of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism in 2011 and would share its expertise and support the Summit's mission by setting up an education and training center on nuclear security in 2014.
In proposing the Nuclear Summit over a year ago, Obama appeared to carve out the narrow issue of nuclear security (as opposed to nuclear disarmament or nonproliferation) that would not prove controversial to participating states. Notably, both the Communiqué and Work Plan steer clear of nuclear security-related measures that have been contentious. Specifically, the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty was not mentioned by name in the Summit documents. Pakistan, a country whose nuclear facilities are vulnerable to attack by Al Qaeda and other extremist groups, has opposed the negotiation of the FMCT at the Conference on Disarmament.  Pakistan insists that it needs to increase its production of weapons-grade fuel to maintain parity with its rival India, which already struck a nuclear deal with the United States. On the eve of the Summit, Obama met privately with Pakistan's Prime Minister Yousaf Gilani to express his concern that Pakistan was blocking FMCT negotiations. During the run-up to the Summit, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon also voiced the necessity of continuing negotiations for a FMCT and suggested as a forum the UN General Assembly, scheduled to meet again in September to discuss the Millennium Development Goals.
Another controversial issue that shadowed the Summit proceedings involved the sanctioning of Iran's nuclear program; however, the issue only received attention in sideline meetings. Obama met with Chinese President Hu Jintao to urge him to support stronger UN sanctions against Iran. While U.S. officials suggested that the meeting led to Chinese agreement to help pursue sanctions, the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson asserted that "dialogue and negotiations" and not sanctions are the best way to deal with Iran's nuclear program. Russian President Medvedev also expressed doubt that agreement could be reached on new sanctions. The Russian position has included both limited support for sanctions and calls for further diplomacy, making its official position difficult to assess. Just prior to the Summit, Medvedev indicated Russia would support sanctions with "limits." Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan additionally indicated that his country would not be supporting sanctions. Reports at one point circulated that Obama discussed the issue with Erdogan and Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, although Turkey denied that such a meeting took place. Finally, German Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced support for sanctions against Iran during the course of the conference.
While the Work Plan encourages supplier countries to support adequate national security capacities, it does not mention compliance with Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) guidelines. Mention of the NSG might have raised a controversy over the waiver that the group, at the urging of the United States, granted to India a non-NPT party nuclear weapons state. The waiver allows India to receive nuclear technology and assistance, but has not been extended to other similarly situated countries such as Pakistan and Israel. North Korea's nuclear program and withdrawal from the NPT were mentioned only in passing by the host of the next summit, South Korea. All of these thorny issues, along with ratification of the CTBT, will most likely be vetted at the NPT Review Conference in May.
For all of its limitations, the Nuclear Summit served as an important signal that the United States was once again taking the lead on nuclear security and nonproliferation issues. Along with the new START Treaty and the Nuclear Posture Review, the Summit was meant to demonstrate to the participants of the upcoming NPT Review Conference that the United States takes seriously its NPT Article VI obligation to pursue nuclear disarmament. Moreover, the Summit focused attention on the growing threat of nuclear terrorism and provided an overarching framework drawing on existing initiatives for dealing with nuclear terrorism, trafficking, and security. The Summit was particularly timely because of the rapid expansion in the number of states expressing interest in pursuing nuclear energy programs. Most importantly the Summit brought together leaders of a broad range of nuclear and non-nuclear states that might not be included in other forums such as NPT conferences or the Nuclear Suppliers Group. The Summit resulted in a documented commitment from the state participants to strengthen their efforts to secure or eliminate HEU and plutonium. The gathering represented one more step in the ascent towards a nuclear-free world.
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