A Sustained Focus on Nuclear Security

On March 31-April 1, 2016, leaders and other high-level officials from 52 countries and four international organizations met in Washington, DC for the 4th Nuclear Security Summit, the last in this format. The Convention Center, where the Summit was held, was transformed to include a massive Summit Plenary Room, delegation meeting spaces, bilateral meeting spaces, a media wing, and other functional areas. Media interest was very strong, with news organizations interviewing officials throughout the Summit. What emerged from the discussions amongst these world leaders over those two days was a significant list of achievements that strengthened the global nuclear security architecture. Most importantly, countries and international organizations made commitments to set the stage for sustained work to advance the global nuclear security architecture beyond the 2016 Summit. 

We are familiar with the statistics, which are indicative of the impressive work that served as the foundations of the four Summits. The participants have made well over 260 national security commitments: establishing 15 Centers of Excellence; removing all HEU from 14 counties plus Taiwan; upgrading physical protection at numerous nuclear and radiological facilities; installing radiation detection equipment at hundreds of border crossings, seaport and airports; strengthening international organizations and initiatives; and the list goes on and on. Looking towards the future, the new commitments that were made are equally impressive, and will enable us to meet emerging challenges in an ever-changing environment. 

Summit participants made commitments in various forms and forums. The United States publicly released data on its national inventory of HEU for the first time since 1996, highlighting that we have down-blended 7.1 metric tons of HEU since September 20, 2013. This announcement demonstrates the importance that the United States attaches to transparency measures, without fear of revealing sensitive information. In addition, the United States released a fact sheet on the measures it has undertaken to ensure that its military nuclear materials remain safe, secure and under “positive control,” to include personal reliability measures, material minimization, material accounting and control, physical protection, and the promotion of security culture. This builds on our initial statement on the security of military nuclear materials at the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. We hope these examples of transparency both provide assurance to others that we are taking our responsibilities for security of military materials seriously, and show a path for others to take similar steps.

Summit participants weighed in on their own actions to help ensure the work of securing nuclear material. For example, China and India have both pledged to strengthen nuclear security implementation through subscribing to the 2014 Joint Statement on Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation (INFCIRC 869); Japan completed the removal of all highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium from the Fast Critical Assembly and pledged to convert the Kyoto University Critical Assembly; Argentina completed the downblending of all HEU from its territory, thereby making Latin America free of HEU; Switzerland removed all HEU and separated plutonium from its territory; Algeria has developed a work plan to strengthen national detection capabilities, particularly at its borders. Belgium has established a Cyber Security Centre under the authority of the Prime Minister. Canada has dedicated an additional CND $42 million in Global Partnership Program funding over the next two years. The Czech Republic is preparing a new Atomic Act and Regulation that addresses new aspects of nuclear security. Egypt is upgrading the physical protection systems of its first and second research reactors. Gabon is organizing a national workshop on domestic threats related to radioactive sources. India is equipping all major seaports and airports with radiation portals and detection equipment and established a counter nuclear smuggling team; INTERPOL has launched Project STONE, increasing the ability to control illicit nuclear trafficking; Malaysia will continue joint nuclear security exercises with Thailand at shared borders in 2016. Nigeria will continue cooperation with the United States on implementation of a Human Reliability Program for the Nigerian nuclear industry; Poland will host a follow-up mission of the IAEA Integrated Regulatory Review Service in 2017. And Singapore is establishing a border laboratory equipped with nuclear detection and analysis to interdict illicit activities at the border. 

Taken together, several common themes emerge. Over 40 Summit countries have engaged in capacity building, whether through training, Centers of Excellence, or exercises. Over 30 countries have updated national laws, regulations, or structures relating to nuclear security. Over 20 countries have held or invited peer review missions, either bilaterally or through the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) International Physical Protection Advisory Service. Eighteen countries have taken steps to increase the security of radioactive sources. Seventeen countries have been involved in removal or disposal of nuclear materials, or minimization of highly enriched uranium (HEU). Sixteen countries have ratified nuclear security treaties or taken particular steps to implement them. Fifteen countries have carried out physical security upgrades or acquired security or detection equipment. A dozen countries have joined or launched new international or regional structures to support nuclear security cooperation. Twelve countries have indicated their financial contributions to support bilateral or international cooperation in nuclear security. And 10 countries noted steps taken to support or implement United National Security Council Resolution 1540. These represent tangible, practical steps towards locking down nuclear and other radioactive material and building up the global nuclear security architecture.

Other commitments for future work are outlined within the 2016 Communique itself. In addition, the five institutional Action Plans provide concrete steps that Summit participants can promote in the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), United Nations, INTERPOL, Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. 

Joint Statements released at the Summit contain additional commitments that countries will implement following the Summit. For example, China and the United States will hold annual nuclear security dialogues and will expand cooperation on nuclear security activities. Kazakhstan and the United States have committed to work together on guard force training, inventory management systems, site and transportation security, cyber security, and cooperation to enhance the global nuclear detection capabilities. There are also 18 “Gift Baskets” reflecting collective commitments made by Summit participants in such areas as transport security, high-density fuel development, strengthening Centers of Excellence, insider threat migration, and cyber security. The Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection received its final required ratifications. We now have an amended Convention that will enter into force on 8 May 2016, when it will become legally binding and strengthens the original Convention by imposing requirements for physical protection of nuclear material for peaceful purposes in storage, use, and domestic transport and security at related facilities. 

These four Summits have strengthened significantly the global nuclear security architecture, but it will require sustained and continued action to keep it strong. While there are no concrete plans at this time for another Nuclear Security Summit in this format, some of the Summit participants have agreed to continue to work through a Nuclear Security Contact Group, to synchronize commitments made in the Summit process and take advantage of the developed networks and trust built up amongst the Summit participants over the past seven years. This Group will be open to any country who would like to help ensure that our efforts to secure nuclear materials around the world continue. The group will meet regularly to review Summit commitments and the global nuclear security architecture. The IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Security, to be held in December 2016, will provide yet another opportunity for the international community, including those who were not part of the Summit process, to focus high-level attention on nuclear security and the importance of concrete actions to reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism.

The full list of activities and programs that the participants, including the international organizations and initiatives, will implement following NSS-2016 is available at www.nss2016.org. The participants at this "transition" Summit remain fully committed to working together to sustain the process of securing nuclear materials well into the future.

About the Author: Bonnie Jenkins serves as Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs at the U.S. Department of State.

The 2016 Nuclear Security Summit provides a forum for heads of state and foreign ministers to reinforce our commitment to secure nuclear material, Washington, DC, April 1, 2016.
Posted by Bonnie Jenkins
April 21, 2016


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