Addressing the Nuclear Industry Summit 2016, Sam Nunn said governments and industry must continue to work together to prevent nuclear and radiological terrorism; says U.S. and Russia have special responsibility to lead in nuclear security.
Senator Nunn said the Nuclear Security Summits have been responsible for increased security around the world.
“President Obama deserves our thanks and congratulations for launching the summit process in 2009 and for bringing unprecedented global attention to the risks posed by poorly secured nuclear and radiological materials. By any measure, the summits have made an important contribution to global security. Nations around the world deserve credit as well—and we owe particular thanks to past Summit hosts South Korea and The Netherlands for their strong leadership role.
“On the plus side:
- In 1992, 52 countries had weapons-usable nuclear materials.
- In 2010, the year of the first summit, that number stood at 35.
- Just six years later, we are down to 24, as eleven more countries have eliminated their stocks of highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
- In addition, a dozen more countries have decreased their stocks in the last four years.
“Those are all very solid steps in the right direction. Each step reduces risk. Each step is important.
“Many countries also have made new commitments to security, through voluntary steps like joining international anti-terrorism initiatives. For example, the international convention that mandates physical protection of nuclear facilities against sabotage and protection of nuclear materials in use, storage and during transit is getting closer to entry into force. This will address a significant gap in our global nuclear security architecture and achieve one of the summit’s goals—recognition of dangers and accountability in risk reduction.”
At the same time Senator Nunn raised serious concerns about the growing threat of nuclear terrorism at a time when the Summit process is coming to an end, specifically singling out cyber and radiological related threats. Nunn closed by calling on the leaders of the United States and Russian Federation to work together to keep the worlds’ most dangerous materials out of the hands of terrorists.
“The United States and Russia – which hold the vast majority of nuclear weapons and materials – have a special responsibility to lead. So it is particularly dangerous that relations between our countries have become so negative at a time when terrorist threats are growing.
“For more than two decades after the Cold War, the U.S. and Russia partnered to secure and eliminate dangerous nuclear materials – not as a favor to one another but as a common-sense commitment, born of mutual self-interest, to protect against catastrophic nuclear terrorism.
“Unfortunately, this common-sense cooperation has become the latest casualty of the spiraling crisis in relations among the United States, Europe and Russia. It is abundantly clear that unless we change course together, we risk leaving behind a more dangerous world for our children and our grandchildren.
“I also believe that rebuilding that trust is possible – step-by-step, by solving problems and reducing risks together. There are many challenges ahead, including finding ways to step back from another costly and dangerous arms race. In the immediate future, both the United States and Russia certainly should be able to agree that the threat posed by terrorist organizations affects the core national interests of our two countries.
“Although Russia is not participating in this last Nuclear Security Summit, they are here as observers and they deserve praise for cooperating with us on nuclear security over the last 20 years, particularly on securing and eliminating nuclear material globally.
“I recently suggested in both Moscow and Washington that President Obama and President Putin should announce a joint working group focusing of the terrorist threat. This group would include our Energy departments, Intelligence agencies, and Defense departments with a clear goal to prevent ISIS, al Qaeda or any other violent extremist group from getting possession of nuclear, radiological, chemical or biological weapons or materials. There is ample authority under UN resolutions for United States-Russia leadership.”
Senator Nunn closed by calling on leaders to continue the example they have set through the Summit process.
“My final point: The progress made through the Nuclear Security Summits and through your Nuclear Industry Summits shows what can be done when governments work together and when they work closely with the private sector.
We are in race between cooperation and catastrophe. We must run faster. I am confident with your help and commitment, we will.”