Nuclear Security Takes a Big Step Forward

The threat of nuclear terrorism transcends borders. Given this reality, preventing nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists is fundamentally a shared responsibility. As President Obama noted in 2009, “One nuclear weapon exploded in one city -- be it New York or Moscow, Islamabad or Mumbai, Tokyo or Tel Aviv, Paris or Prague -- could kill hundreds of thousands of people.” 

On May 8, 2016, the global community took a giant step forward in protecting the world’s nuclear material and preventing nuclear terrorism with the entry-into-force of an amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM).

Amended in 2005, this international convention on international security established obligations for nations to protect the nuclear material they were transporting across international borders. This Amendment strengthened the treaty by adding requirements for states party to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear material in domestic use, storage, and transport -- not just international transit. 

Ambassador Henry S. Ensher, Chargé d'Affaires of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna, met with IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano on July 31, 2015, to deliver the United States' instrument of ratification for the 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. [U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna]

The Amendment legally binds the 102 signatory states to maintain even stronger standards of nuclear security than did the CPPNM. This is important: not only does it establish a high bar for global nuclear security, but it also strengthens our international legal framework.

While we celebrate this great news, we are not resting on our laurels. We want to encourage countries that have ratified the Amendment to fully implement it in all aspects.

In these efforts, the International Atomic Energy Agency continues to play an essential role, not only as the depository for the Convention, but also in providing needed outreach and technical assistance related to implementation. It also continues to assist all countries as they prepare for ratification.

In the coming months, the United States will work diligently with the IAEA to urge all countries to ratify both the CPPNM and the amendment. The march towards universality continues.

About the Author: Ambassador Henry Ensher serves as the Chargé d’Affaires to the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna.

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Trucks carrying containers with uranium at a port.
Posted by Henry Ensher
May 9, 2016

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