Seoul Nuclear Security Summit 2012: Positions and Prospects

Print Friendly

By
Air Commodore (R) Khalid Iqbal TI (M)[1]

Abstract

(The Seoul Summit was intended to be a mid-way progress review session between the Washington and Netherlands Nuclear Security Summits. Experts and analysts vary in their opinion of its effectiveness from ‘highly appreciative’ to ‘barely marginal’. Nuclear security faces daunting challenges due to a lack of political will. This issue has been politicized and application of remedies is discriminatory. In addition, It is not prudent to pursue a single series of “standards” for both nuclear safety and security. These two areas have divergent philosophies, causes, legal instruments and operational requirements, even though the two may share a degree of common risks. The way forward is through consultations, sharing best practices, peer review and by building a strong basis of understanding amongst the countries as well as within the countries. Above all, such arrangements must have universal participation and ownership.  – Author)

Introduction

Nuclear Security has always been a serious matter for the comity of nations.  After 9/11, a genuine worry emerged regarding the likelihood of nuclear terrorism.  Concerns of nuclear security are based on chances of theft of material, sabotage, unauthorized use of nuclear weapons, insider-outsider collaboration, etc. A need was, therefore, felt to fill the void that existed pertaining to the prevention of nuclear materials falling in the hands of non-state actors, especially terrorist outfits.

President Obama convened the first Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) on 12-13, April 2010. The Washington Summit underlined the need for putting in place minimum security standards for all nuclear reactors, plants, hospitals, and research laboratories. The participants realized that though many initiatives had been taken to handle various aspects of nuclear security, including nuclear terrorism, there was no synergy amongst these initiatives such as: the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540 Committee, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GICNT), the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction, and other similar treaty regimes. They are all striving relentlessly, however, with minimum coordination and communication.[i] They primarily dealt with nuclear security in the context of the state; therefore, ways and means had to be developed that would hold the concerned states responsible for implementing such security standards that make it impossible for non-state actors to have access to these materials and facilities. The first line of defense, of course, is to try to protect the material. In the event that this fails, strong fallback in terms of cooperation, both among agencies within each government as well as internationally, is essential.[ii]

The former Prime Minister of Pakistan, who was also ex-officio head of the “National Command Authority” (NCA), represented the country during both these summits, thereby, showing Pakistan’s unwavering resolve and abiding commitment towards nuclear security.

Threat Perception

Nuclear Security contains many aspects: nuclear weapons, nuclear power plants, research facilities, fissile material stockpiles, health and agriculture institutions using radioactive isotopes are some of the major areas of concern. Illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, technologies and expertise is another daunting challenge.  More than 100 countries are currently building or preparing to build nuclear facilities of their own. This rapid development of nuclear technology has resulted in the spread of nuclear materials worldwide in a variety of fields. According to the IAEA data, there were more than 2,000 cases of illegal trafficking, theft or loss of nuclear and radiological materials between 1993 and 2011; approximately 60 percent of the material has never been recovered[iii]. Trans-border movement of personnel and materials requires the cooperation of the concerned states to ensure nuclear security.[iv]

Nuclear weapons. These weapons are technologically very complex and need sophisticated delivery systems. All nuclear weapon capable states take utmost security measures to prevent their unauthorized usage. Only nine countries possess nuclear weapons. Building a nuclear weapon isn’t easy, yet, according to Matthew Bunn, an associate professor at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, a bomb similar to the one that was dropped on Hiroshima is “very plausibly within the capabilities of a sophisticated terrorist group.”[v][vi] Country wise nuclear weapons stockpiles in numbers are: Russia – 10,000; the US – 8,500; France – 300; China – 240; the UK—225; Pakistan—90 to 110; India—80 to 100; Israel—80; North Korea – fewer than 10. The geographical spread is shown in Fig 1.

Figure 1[vii]

Nuclear Material Stock piles.  There are around 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and 500 tons of Plutonium around the world, enough for approximately 126,000 nuclear weapons.[viii] Materials that can be used to make nuclear bombs are stored in scores of facilities spread across dozens of countries. If even a fraction of this fell into the hands of terrorists, it would be disastrous. Currently, there are no binding international agreements on how to protect nuclear materials. An amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) still needs to be ratified after seven years. Widespread fears linger about the safety of nuclear material in countries including the former Soviet states, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and India. Russia has the “world’s largest stockpiles in the world’s largest number of buildings and bunkers.” This coupled with corruption and a weak security culture and regulations is disturbing, to say the least. North Korea and Iran are viewed with concern because of fears of nuclear proliferation. However, according to Bunn, both play “small parts of the nuclear terrorism problem… North Korea has only a few bombs’ worth of plutonium in a tightly controlled garrison state,” and “Iran has not begun to produce weapons-usable material.” The Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) has ranked India among the top five nuclear security risks, stating that the government needs more transparency, more independence for its nuclear regulators and tighter measures to protect nuclear material in transit. India’s lax security was displayed in at least two incidents in recent years in which radioactive materials — from a hospital and a university laboratory — were discarded and later ended up in a scrap dealer’s shop[ix]. In January 2012 the NTI reported that 32 countries possess weapon-usable nuclear materials. Some countries, such as the United States, maintain strict controls. However others, including Russia and the former Soviet republics, have struggled to secure their stocks, raising fears of “loose nukes” falling into the hands of terrorist groups[x]. Some countries on the NTI list are a concern because of their government’s ties with militant groups or because of corruption among their officials. Others simply don’t have good safety practices.[xi] Recent nuclear scares include a suspected attempt by a crime syndicate in the eastern European country of Moldova to sell weapons-grade uranium to buyers in North Africa. Officials in the country told ‘The Associated Press’ that 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) of highly enriched uranium remains in criminal hands and is probably in another country[xii]. The investigation provided fresh evidence of a black market in nuclear material, probably linked to poorly secured Soviet stockpiles.

According to Kenneth Luongo, co-chair of the Fissile Materials Working Group, a Washington-based coalition of nuclear security experts, at least four terror groups, including al-Qaida and Japan’s Aum Shinrikyo doomsday cult, have expressed a desire to obtain a nuclear weapon.[xiii] Furthermore, according to Chang Soon-heung, a nuclear expert at the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and technology, unconventional weapons such as a single briefcase containing plutonium and a detonator may be an even bigger threat.[xiv]

Power Reactors. Last year’s meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima nuclear power plant shows how terrorists could launch a radiation hazard simply by sabotaging a facility’s functions. The first commercial nuclear power stations started operation in the 1950s. There are now over 440 commercial nuclear power reactors operating in 30 countries. They provide about 14% of the world’s electricity.  In addition, 56 countries operate approximately 250 research reactors and a further 180 nuclear reactors power nearly 140 ships and submarines. Fissile material pilfered from power reactors can be used for weapon applications. The Indian nuclear explosion of 1974 was carried out by clandestinely diverting the fissile material from a nuclear power reactor provided by Canada. Moreover, one of the nuclear explosions carried out by India in 1998 was based on reactor grade plutonium.  Hence, the danger that lies in civil application nuclear entities is much more than that arising from nuclear weapons.  A global outlay of nuclear power plants is illustrated below[xv]

Fig. 2[xvi]

Note: The map shows the commercial nuclear power plants in the world. Research reactors are not considered nuclear power plants

Operating reactors, building new reactors    Operating reactors, planning new build       No reactors, building new reactors

No reactors, new in planning     Operating reactors, stable     Operating reactors, decided on phase-out

Civil nuclear power is illegal    No reactors

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), there are currently 436 nuclear power reactors in operation, worldwide. There are at least 40 other nations that will either continue with their nuclear reactor programmes or would go ahead with plans to build new nuclear facilities. A recent report by the World Energy Council, pointed out that, as of March, 2011, a total of 547 reactors were being proposed, planned or were under construction.  As of February, 2012, that number stands at 558.[xvii]

Illicit trafficking

Export control regimes, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), Australia group, Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR) and Wenesaar group, have not been able to evolve a foolproof multilateral and universally acceptable export control regime. A vast inventory of dual usage technologies, materials and machines make a foolproof control over strategic technologies a pipe dream.[xviii] Generally speaking, commercial interests of the member states of these regimes override non-proliferation considerations. From January 1993 to December 2011, a total of 2164 incidents were reported to the ITDB. Of these 399 involved criminal activities like: illegal possession, movement or attempts to illegally trade in or use nuclear material or radioactive sources. Sixteen incidents involved HEU or Plutonium. There were 588 incidents that involved the theft or loss of nuclear or other radioactive material; 1124 cases accounted for other unauthorized activities.[xix] During 2011, 147 incidents were confirmed to the ITDB; none was from Pakistan. Of these, 20 involved possession and related criminal activities, 31 involved theft or loss and 96 involved other unauthorized activities. During this period, four incidents involved HEU, one of which was related to an attempted sale and three were related to other unauthorized activities. There were also seven incidents involving IAEA Category 1-3 radioactive sources; five of which were thefts. These reported incidents indicate that availability of unsecured nuclear and other radioactive material persists; and that individuals and groups are prepared to engage in trafficking of such materials.[xx]

Inter-Summit Progress

During the inter-summit period of two years, substantive progress was made in some areas pertaining to global nuclear material security. The landmark achievement of the Washington summit was reaching a unanimous realization that nuclear terrorism was one of the most serious global security challenges warranting strong safeguards to thwart it.  More than 60 national commitments were made by the first summit. Of these, approximately 80 percent were completed before the second summit. Significant progress was made in a number of domains like: ratification of international conventions, securing and removing HEU & Plutonium stocks, and setting up centres of excellence for training collaboration in; reactor conversions and shutdowns; new national laws; Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism (GINT); G-8 Global Partnership; preventing nuclear smuggling.  Benchmarks achieved in the context of national commitments are: development of nuclear security centers of excellence, organizing conferences and training around the world; removal of all HEU from Chile; additional support for the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund, HEU reactor conversions; anti-smuggling initiatives, etc.[xxi]

The challenges would continue, however, even after the execution of all national level commitments made at the first summit. These commitments were not comprehensive enough to plug all the gaps and prevent nuclear terrorism. Nevertheless, the summit helped in speeding up action by circumventing political and bureaucratic barriers.  Leaders at the 2012 summit acknowledged the value of the summits. The NSS process, however, was not meant to be a permanent institution, and the next summit to be held in 2014 in the Netherlands could be the final gathering[xxii].

Politicization of the Cause

A number of events preceded the first NSS which gave the impression that it may be a weapons biased security initiative. In April 2009, President Obama had articulated the ‘Prague Agenda’. In September 2009, the UNSC adopted ‘Resolution 1887’ in support of a world without nuclear weapons. In an unprecedented show of support to the cause of NPT, President Obama had chaired this extra-ordinary session of the UNSC. Again, in September 2009, he announced a new approach to missile defense in Europe – the ‘Phased Adaptive Approach’. Other important events were signing of the ‘Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty’ (START) with Russia, and ‘Nuclear Posture Review’ (NPR) as an integral part of America’s ‘Quadrennial Defence Review’ (QDR)[xxiii].

Forty seven countries were invited to attend the Washington NSS. Iran and North Korea were not invited. This created a negative impact on the universal acceptance of the cause. Iran organized its own Summit in Tehran on 17-18 April, 2010. This was a quick rebuttal to the Washington NSS. The two-day high profile nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation conference, with the motto of “Nuclear Energy for All, Nuclear Weapons for None”, was attended by many high-level officials and eminent experts from about 60 countries.[xxiv] Iran has adopted a posture of nuclear defiance; North Korea was already doing that for decades. Both were not invited to the Seoul summit as well.

North Korea upstaged the Seoul summit agenda.  Just 10 days prior to the Summit, it announced the launching of a satellite into space. It moved its rocket into position just before the summit opened.[xxv] The head of the Iranian space agency, Hamed Fazile said that the Iranian shuttle, Kavoshgar-5 (Explorer-5), carrying a monkey, would be launched into space during march-August, 2012.[xxvi]

Pre Summit Positions:

America

The Washington summit had come out with a long list of actions that the participating governments had committed to undertake; the Seoul summit was to evaluate the implementation of those commitments. The Seoul meeting was expected to provide an opportunity, for the participating countries to make further commitments. America wanted to portray that its efforts on behalf of nuclear security and safety are also a part of its commitment to peaceful nuclear energy as an important part of its own energy policy as well as recognition of nuclear energy as an important part and resource of energy around the world. It planned to reinforce its commitment towards denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.  A series of bilateral and multilateral meeting were planned to deal with agenda related and other issues.  Besides North Korea, there was a desire to embarrass Iran and project the two as a potential danger to nuclear security.[xxvii]

Pakistan

While Pakistan supports international focus and efforts to advance the objectives of nuclear security, it shares the IAEA view that “responsibility for nuclear security rests entirely with each State.”  At the international level, the IAEA has a leading and central role in evolving guidelines, recommendations, codes, and guidance documents in the area of nuclear security. Pakistan shares IAEA concerns over the continuing duplication of nuclear security related activities. For the last 37 years, Pakistan has successfully operated civil nuclear power plants. Pakistan successfully carried out stress tests on its civil nuclear power plants immediately after the Fukushima reactor incident.[xxviii] Pakistan has raised a new force to safeguard its nuclear installations.[xxix] The new “Special Response Force” will be part of the security force of the SPD, which is responsible for maintaining nuclear arsenal.[xxx]

Pakistan has developed effective command and control systems and export control regimes to protect nuclear materials.[xxxi] It plans to enhance the current level of 750 MWe nuclear power generation capacity to 8800 MWe by the year 2030. Unanimous approval by the IAEA Board of C-3 and C-4 Safeguards Agreement reflected international recognition of Pakistan’s expertise in the safe and secure operation of nuclear power plants. Pakistan hopes that considerations of nuclear safety and security would facilitate, not hinder, the pursuit of peaceful uses of nuclear energy for advancing the development agenda and offsetting environmental degradation[xxxii].

India

Ahead of the Summit, India voiced concerns over Pakistan’s nuclear programme, saying that it had “very little confidence” in the capabilities of its western neighbour on securing its atomic assets. The possibility of “insider threat” was the prime concern among the Indian establishment.[xxxiii] Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said, “I will highlight the high priority we attach to nuclear security, safety and non-proliferation.”  Singh stated in his statement at the summit that nuclear terrorism “remains a continuing concern,” and that it was vital to reassure the public on issues pertaining to safety measures.[xxxiv] Singh said that the summit had become “even more important” after the devastating Fukushima accident in Japan last year. India has been caught in the backlash against atomic power caused by the meltdown of the Fukushima plant. India hopes to produce 63,000 megawatts of nuclear power by 2032 — a nearly 14-fold increase from its current levels. Nuclear energy has been a priority for India which led to its ‘Agreement 123’ with the US.[xxxv]

Iran

Iranian Foreign Minister, Ali Akbar Salehi, declared that his country will not be swayed from its nuclear path by sanctions. He indicated Iran’s commitment to go ahead with the P5+1 initiative to resolve the impasse. He said the sanctions may have caused small problems but ‘we will continue our path’.[xxxvi] Earlier in a reconciliatory tone, Iran had asked the international community to provide it 75 Kg  of  20% enriched Uranium for sustained functioning of its cancer facility in Tehran so that it could abandon its uranium enrichment programme.[xxxvii]

Mini Summits, Appraisals & Commitments

Obama’s Meeting with Pakistani PM Gilani. Other than reiterating the commitment to nuclear security and the Nuclear Security Summit, there wasn’t a discussion of additional civilian nuclear cooperation. United States is currently engaged in a partnership with Pakistan to address its urgent energy needs in ways that do not necessarily involve civil nuclear cooperation.

Joint Statement on National Legislation for Nuclear Security. The governments of Australia, Canada, Finland, Hungary, Japan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, the Philippines, Poland, Republic of Korea, Spain, Turkey, United Kingdom, United States and Vietnam, affirmed their support to the initiative of Indonesia to draw up a National Legislation Implementation Kit on Nuclear Security. This could help other states develop a more comprehensive national legislation on nuclear security in accordance with their respective internal legal processes. [xxxviii]

Multinational Statement on Nuclear Information Security. All participants (31 counties participated, notable among the non-participants were: India, Pakistan, North Korea, Iran and Israel) reaffirmed their commitment to the security of nuclear information. Participants encouraged the concerned states to continue to develop and strengthen national and facility level measures for the effective management of such information consistent with the IAEA General Conference Resolution on Nuclear Security (GC(55)/Res/10) and bearing in mind the International Telecommunication Union Resolution 174.[xxxix]

Performance Review: United States-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group. The US-Japan Nuclear Security Working Group announced that it has successfully fulfilled its responsibility through achievements in the following areas:[xl]

  • Research and Development of nuclear forensics, measurement and detection technologies, and sharing of investigatory best practices.
  • Cooperation on safeguard implementation.
  • Sharing best practices for nuclear security in new facility designs.
  • Cooperation on transport security to reduce the chances of theft or sabotage.
  • Convert reactors to reduce the use of HEU and complete down-blending operations.
  • Integrating response forces into dealing with theft and sabotage at facilities.
  • Joint study on management of HEU and Plutonium.
  • Reduction of material attractiveness.

Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers. Algeria, Australia, Canada, Chile, Czech Republic, Germany, Hungary,  Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Pakistan, Ukraine United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, and the United States noted their intent to collaborate in the form of the International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSCs); aiming to build-up a cadre of highly qualified and well trained nuclear security personnel, provide specific technical support required for effective use and maintenance of instruments and other nuclear security technical systems, and provide scientific support for the detection of and response to nuclear security events in a country[xli].

Cooperation at Semipalatinsk Site. The Soviet Union conducted about 500 nuclear tests, 70 of them in the open air at the Semipalatinsk Test Site (STS), located in Kazakhstan. As a result, about 1.5 million people had been affected by radiation. The polygon was closed by the President of Kazakhstan, Nazarbayev, 20 years ago. Since then, in collaboration with Russia and the United States, Kazakhstan has been working to rehabilitate the territory around the site.  Around 1,100 warheads that had been deployed on military missiles have been taken care of. Since 2004, the three counties have been able to rehabilitate approximately 3,000 square kilometers of the 40,000 square kilometers affected by radiation.[xlii]

Plutonium Removal from Sweden. Sweden has been a global leader of nonproliferation, and was one of the first countries to return HEU based spent fuel under the US Foreign Research Reactor Spent Nuclear Fuel (FRR SNF) Acceptance Program. At the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the United States and Sweden announced the successful removal of plutonium from Sweden.[xliii]

Belgium and Nuclear Security. Belgium’s nuclear program covers all aspects of the nuclear fuel cycle, including reprocessing. Belgium announced that it will work jointly with the United States to eliminate excess HEU and plutonium by the next NSS in 2014[xliv].

Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. The 24 countries called, the ‘Partners of the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction’, supported the Summit’s goal of securing vulnerable nuclear material and radioactive sources around the world.    The Global Partnership countries have contributed more than $55 million to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) since 2010. [xlv]

Provision of Medical Isotopes. The United States announced an agreement with Belgium, the Netherlands and France to supply highly enriched uranium for European medical isotopes over the next two years in order to provide a supply for cancer and heart disease patients as European medical facilities transition away from using highly enriched uranium[xlvi].

Statement of Activity, Cooperation to Counter Nuclear Smuggling. A group  of counties (comprising of Jordan, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Malaysia, Philippines, Sweden, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America) declared that they have taken steps to build national capacities to counter nuclear smuggling.  Jordan, Canada, the Czech Republic, Finland, Georgia, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Japan, the Republic of Korea, Lithuania, Philippines, Sweden, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom and the United States of America pledged to take steps towards building these capacities by the 2014 NSS.[xlvii]

Joint Statement on Nuclear Terrorism. The governments of the United States, United Kingdom, and the French Republic declared to share the responsibility to strengthen international measures designed to secure sensitive information, technology or nuclear material from access by terrorists, and to develop emergency response measures.  [xlviii]

Seven-Nation Statement on Nuclear Security Outreach Efforts. The governments of Chile, Poland, Nigeria, Thailand, and Morocco hosted regional outreach meetings as a forum to discuss nuclear security challenges in each of their particular regions.  The United States and the Republic of Korea, as hosts of the 2010 Summit and the 2012 Summit, have convened informational meetings at the IAEA and the UN as part of the Summit Outreach efforts. The statement said, “We strongly welcome and promote the continuation of these outreach efforts as we continue to implement the 2010 Communiqué and Work Plan, the 2012 Communiqué, and as we prepare for the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit”.[xlix]

Mexico, U.S., Canada on Nuclear Security. The Governments of Mexico, the United States, and Canada announced the completion of an important joint nuclear security project to convert Mexico’s research reactor from HEU to LEU. [l]

Misc Steps for Nuclear Security. Georgia and Moldova have taken action to seize HEU from the black market to prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.  Jordan has also announced it is creating a counter-nuclear-smuggling team.[li]

Obama at Nuclear Security Summit’s Opening Plenary Session

President Obama delivered his keynote address at the plenary session. It was an all-encompassing narrative articulating the American vision of nuclear security. “When I hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit two years ago in Washington, there were those who questioned whether our nations could summon the will to confront one of the gravest dangers of our time…that’s exactly what we’ve done… Today, here in Seoul, we can answer with a resounding yes. ..We are forging new partnerships.  We are removing nuclear materials, and in some cases, getting rid of these materials entirely.  And as a result, more of the world’s nuclear materials will never fall into the hands of terrorists who would gladly use them against us…”[lii]

Achievements of Seoul Summit

While experts praised the Seoul Summit, some also doubted whether countries would meet the 2014 deadline for securing the world’s nuclear material. The summit ended with a joint declaration, the “Seoul Communiqué.”  Excerpts from the opening remarks of the communiqué are[liii]:-

“We, the leaders, gathered in Seoul on March 26-27, 2012, renew the political commitments generated from the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit to work toward strengthening nuclear security, reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism, and preventing terrorists, criminals, or other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear materials… Defeating this threat requires strong national measures and international cooperation… We reaffirm our shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear nonproliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy…We stress the fundamental responsibility of States, consistent with their respective national and international obligations…We likewise recognize the fundamental responsibility of States to maintain effective security of other radioactive materials. We reaffirm that measures to strengthen nuclear security will not hamper the rights of States to develop and utilize nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Noting the essential role of the IAEA…we further stress the importance of regional and international cooperation… Noting the Fukushima accident of March 2011 and the nexus between nuclear security and nuclear safety… sustained efforts are required to address the issues of nuclear safety and nuclear security in a coherent manner…We welcome the information on the progress made in the field of nuclear security since the Washington Summit provided by the participants at this Seoul Summit.”

Areas under Focus

A year-long preparatory process had identified 11 core themes for nuclear security: Global nuclear security architecture; role of the IAEA; nuclear materials; radioactive sources; nuclear security and safety; transportation security; combating illicit trafficking; nuclear forensics; nuclear security culture; information security; and international cooperation. The Seoul Summit agreed to make every possible effort to achieve further progress in these areas:[liv]

Strengthening of Global Nuclear Security Architecture. Application of multilateral instruments which address nuclear security, like the amended CPPNM, and the ICSANT shall be emphasized and states shall be urged to accelerate their domestic approval of the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM by 2014. Support for the UNSC Resolutions 1540 and 1977 was reinvigorated. Intent was shown to use the IAEA Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities (INFCIRRev.5) document and related Nuclear Security Series documents by reflecting them in national practices. Wider participation in the GICNT and the Global Partnership and its extension beyond 2012 was appreciated. It was desired that the IAEA continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise. To this end, countries in a position to do so and the nuclear industry were urged to increase voluntary contributions to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund.

Safe keeping of Nuclear Materials. Countries were urged to consider the safe, secure and timely removal and disposition of nuclear materials from facilities no longer using them and to minimize the use of HEU, through conversion of reactors from HEU to LEU fuel, while taking into account the need for assured supplies of medical isotopes by the end of 2013. Another desired action was to promote the use of LEU fuels in commercial applications and cooperate on high-density LEU fuel to support the conversion of research and test reactors. States were asked to secure radioactive material, while bearing in mind their uses in industrial, medical, agricultural and research applications and to continue to work towards the process of ratifying or acceding to the ICSANT; reflecting relevant IAEA Nuclear Security Series documents in national practices, encouraging cooperation on advanced technologies and systems, sharing best practices of management of radioactive sources, and providing technical assistance to states upon their request.

Nuclear Security and Safety. It was affirmed that nuclear security and nuclear safety measures should be designed, implemented and managed in nuclear facilities in a coherent manner to maintain effective emergency preparedness and response and mitigation capabilities.

Transportation Security. The participants agreed to continue efforts to enhance the security of nuclear and other radioactive materials in domestic and international transport, and share best practices and cooperate in acquiring necessary technologies.

Inventory Management. States were urged to establish effective national nuclear material inventory management and tracking systems.

Combating Illicit Trafficking.          States were encouraged to develop national capabilities to prevent, detect, respond to and prosecute illicit nuclear trafficking by utilizing legal, intelligence and financial tools and participating in the ITDB programme. They were further encouraged to cooperate amongst each other and with ‘INTERPOL’s Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit’ and the ‘World Customs Organization’.

Strengthening Nuclear Forensics.    The summit encouraged states to develop and enhance nuclear forensic capabilities through development of a common set of definitions and standards, research and sharing of information and best practices.

Nuclear Security Culture. Promotion and sustenance of a strong nuclear security culture was stressed and sharing of best practices was desired.

Information Security. States were asked to continue developing and strengthening national and facility-level information management systems consistent with the IAEA General Conference Resolution on Nuclear Security and the ‘International Telecommunication Union’ Resolution 174.

International Cooperation. The international community was encouraged to increase international cooperation and provide assistance, upon request, to countries in need. IAEA was asked to continue to lead efforts to assist states, upon request. Need was reemphasized for public diplomacy and outreach efforts to enhance public awareness.

Post Summit Appraisal.

The Republic of Korea did a commendable job in steering the process in the right direction. One of its striking features was that the deliberations were kept away from multilateral politics. South Korean officials had made it clear that the Summit was not aimed at halting the proliferation of nuclear technology and weapons, though some countries attempted to revert to that issue.[lv] The Korean Foreign Minister advised that “there are other international forums for that, particularly at the United Nations.”[lvi] The summit acted as a catalyst in creating sharp awareness about the need to upgrade physical protection at nuclear sites and secure nuclear fuels against theft and sabotage.[lvii] The summit process tried to create a shared space for discussion and coordination. It also acknowledged the central and integrating role of the IAEA. Concrete measures were suggested to further empower the IAEA. By learning from each other in these areas and by moving in tandem, nations will take effective measures to enhance nuclear security. The most important agreement reached was to promote a nuclear security culture and to anchor it in social values, shared by societies at large.[lviii] Nuclear safety was not on the agenda of the Washington Summit, but after the Fukushima accident, it became imperative to address the safety aspects in one form or the other. The Summit chose to address this concern by intersecting nuclear safety and nuclear security. Conveners of the Summit had no intention to create a new regime or parallel international institution. The core objective was to give a strong political impetus to nuclear security through concerted national action. The overall objective was to encourage peer review of the efforts being made at the national level and to internalize best practices in order to fortify safeguards around nuclear sites and stockpiles.[lix] Pakistan did not pursue a civil nuclear agreement with the United States.

Critics have pointed out that the communiqué was long on commitments but short on specifics and that it amounted to little substantial progress. Experts said modest progress had been made in Seoul and that many of the tough issues to fully solve the problem had not been addressed, with countries unwilling to make binding and transparent agreements. Ken Luongo, co-chair of the Fissile Materials Working Group, a group of non-proliferation experts, said, “The current nuclear material security regime is a patchwork of unaccountable voluntary arrangements that are inconsistent across borders.” He further stated that, “Consistent standards, transparency to promote international confidence, and national accountability are additions to the regime that are urgently needed.”[lx] The final communiqué also omitted a reference to the need for “concrete steps” towards a world without nuclear weapons, a phrase which had been included in a draft statement dated March 21.[lxi] The leaders merely stated that they reaffirm their “shared goals of nuclear disarmament, nuclear proliferation and peaceful uses of nuclear energy.” A Seoul government official told the media that some nations had been uncomfortable about expanding the scope of the summit into nuclear weapons reduction and disarmament, and the call for concrete steps.[lxii] Global concerns over North Korean and Iranian nuclear ambitions saw little open debate at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit. To be fair, this nuclear stalemate was expected.[lxiii]

There is a need for an all-inclusive approach. Some nuclear capable counties are being excluded from the summit process and this will most definitely lead to gaps within any global efforts made in the nuclear security domain.  In addition, there is a desire to create more structures at the cost of duplication of effort and dilution of focus. Efforts by states against non-state terrorist entities, in the context of nuclear security, is a race against time. Unless a comprehensive and wholesome approach is adopted, the gaps in these efforts would eventually be exploited.


[1] The author is a former Assistant Chief of Air Staff, Pakistan Air Force. He is a Policy & Strategic Response consultant at the Islamabad Policy Research Institute (IPRI).


[i] Masood Khan, “A creative multilateral effort”, The Nation (Islamabad),27 March 2012. Massod Khan is Pakistan’s ambassador to China and Pakistan’s chief negotiator on Nuclear Security Summit.

[ii] Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State.  Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html,

[iii]China Daily March 28, 2012. (report: Security and safety nexus, reproduced by The Nation (Islamabad)

[iv] Ibid.

[v] Christopher Boden and Foster Klug, “Summit seeks to deter nuclear-armed terrorism” by Associated Press. (http://news.yahoo.com/summit-seeks-deter-nuclear-armed-terrorism-113250867.html (accessed on March 28, 2012)

[vi] BBC,  World leaders: Nuclear terrorism a ‘grave threat’:  http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17520156 (accessed on 27 March 2010) source: Federation of American Scientists.

[vii] Ibid.

[viii][viii]China Daily March 28, 2012. (report: Security and safety nexus, reproduced by The Nation (Islamabad)

[ix] Ibid.

[x] Ibid

[xi] Ibid.

[xii] Ibid

[xiii] Ibid

[xiv] Ibid

[xv] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_by_country (Accessed on April 02, 2012)

[xvi] Ibid.

[xvii] Ibid.

[xviii] Togzhan Kassenova, “Preventing WMD Proliferation, Myths and Realities of Trade Control”, January 25, 2012.

[xix] “Illicit Trafficking Data Base”, http://www-ns.iaea.org/security/itdb.asp (accessed on April 14, 2012).  Established in 1995, the ITDB is the IAEA’s information system on incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities and events involving nuclear and other radioactive material outside of regulatory control. The ITDB is a unique asset helping participating States and selected international organizations to combat illicit nuclear trafficking and strengthen nuclear security. It is also an essential component of the information platform supporting the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Plan 2010–2013. The ITDB facilitates the exchange of authoritative information on incidents among States. As of 31 December 2011, 113 States participate in the ITDB Programme. In some cases, non-participating States have provided information to the ITDB. The scope of the ITDB information is broad. It includes, but is not limited to, incidents involving illegal trade and movement of nuclear or other radioactive material across national borders. The scope also covers incidents involving unauthorized acquisition (e.g. through theft), supply, possession, use, transfer or disposal—intentional or unintentional—of nuclear and other radioactive material with or without crossing international borders. The scope also covers unsuccessful or thwarted incidents of the acts detailed above, as well as the loss of material and the discovery of uncontrolled material. States are also encouraged to report incidents involving the intentional offering for sale of benign material that is purported to be nuclear or otherwise radioactive, i.e. scams.

[xx] Ibid.

[xxi] Michelle Cann, Kelsey Davenport and Margaret Balza,  “The Nuclear Security Summit: Assessment of National Commitments( An Arms Control Association and Partnership for Global Security Report”,  Updated March 2012) , 1.

[xxii] Ibid.

[xxiii] National Security Strategy’; The White House,‘Office of the Press Secretary’, 27 May, 2010. (http://www.whitehouse.gov/blog/2010/05/27/a-blueprint-pursuing-world-we-seek).

[xxiv] Tehran Times(Tehran, Iran), April 19, 2010.

[xxv] Foster Klug “ North Korea’s rocket plan hijacks nuclear summit” Associated Press, March 26, 2012.

http://news.yahoo.com/north-koreas-rocket-plan-hijacks-nuclear-summit-115826659.html (accessed on March 28, 2012).

[xxvi] Ibid.

[xxvii] Ibid.

[xxviii] The Nation (Islamabad), March 25, 2012.

[xxix]Pak adds new force to safeguard nuclear arsenal, http://spearheadresearch.org/SR_CMS/index.php/internationalaffairssecuirty/pak-adds-new-force-to-safeguard-nuclear-arsenal (accessed on April 04, 2012).

[xxx] Ibid.

[xxxi] Ibid.

[xxxii] Ibid

[xxxiii] Pakistan Observer (Islamabad) March 26, 2012.

[xxxiv] The Newspaper (Abu Dahbi), March 25, 2012.

[xxxv] Ibid.

[xxxvi] Pakistan Observer (Islamabad) April 4, 2012.

[xxxvii] Bakhtawar Mian, “China has no hegemonic designs,” Dawn (Islamabad), March 30, 2012.

[xxxix]White House, Office of Press secretary, “Multinational Statement on Nuclear Information Security”, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012( accessed on March 27, 2012).

[xl] White House, Office of Press secretary United States, “Japan Nuclear Security Working Group”, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012( accessed on March 27, 2012)

[xli]White House, Office of Press secretary United States, “Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers”, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012( accessed on March 27, 2012).

[xlii]White House, Office of Press secretary United States, “Leaders’ Comments on Cooperation at Semipalatinsk Site”, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012( accessed on March 27, 2012).

[xliii] Ibid.

[xliv] Ibid.

[xlv] White House, Office of the Press Secretary, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012, “Global Partnership Against Spread of Nuclear Weapons,”  http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html (accessed on March 28, 2012). The 24 Partners in the Global Partnership are: Australia, Belgium, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, the European Union, Finland, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Republic of Korea, Russian Federation, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, and the United States.

[xlvi] Ibid.

[xlvii] “Statement of Activity, Cooperation to Counter Nuclear Smuggling” U.S. Department of State.  Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.htm (accessed on march 29, 2012).

[xlviii] “Joint Statement on Nuclear Terrorism”, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html (accessed on March 30, 2012).

[xlix] “Seven-Nation Statement on Nuclear Security Outreach Efforts,” (Distributed by the Bureau of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.html,  (accessed on March 26, 2012). Seven counties were: the United States, Chile, Poland, Nigeria, Morocco, Thailand, and the Republic of Korea.

[l] Ibid.

[li] Ibid.

[lii] White House, Office of Press secretary United States, “Remarks by President Obama at opening Plenary Session of the Nuclear Security Summit”, America.govCompList@STATE.GOV, March 27,  2012.   http://iipdigital.usembassy.gov/iipdigital-en/index.htm (accessed on March 29, 2012). Text of the speech is: “Thank you very much, President Lee, for welcoming us here today and for the extraordinary hospitality and accommodations that have been provided by the Republic of Korea. We are very grateful to you, and we are grateful to the Korean people for the outstanding leadership in bringing us here together in Seoul. Like the G20 summit two years ago, this gathering is a tribute to the nations that contribute to security and peace that’s playing a leading role around the globe and that’s taking its rightful place on the world stage.  When I hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit two years ago in Washington, there were those who questioned whether our nations could summon the will to confront one of the gravest dangers of our time.  In part because it involves a lot of technical issues, in part because the world was still grappling with a whole host of other issues like the economy and the global recession, there was some skepticism that we would be able to sustain an effort around this topic.  But that’s exactly what we’ve done[lii]. We’ve agreed that nuclear terrorism is one of the most urgent and serious threats to global security.  We agreed to the goal of securing the world’s nuclear materials in four years.  We committed ourselves to specific and concrete actions.  And to get this done, we agreed a new effort of sustained and effective international cooperation was required, that we would need to create an architecture in which we could share best practices, help to enforce many of the commitments that we had already made, and continue to improve every aspect of this issue. Over the past two years, the questions have been different — would we back up our words with deeds; would we sustain our cooperation.  Today, here in Seoul, we can answer with a resounding yes.  We are fulfilling the commitments we made in Washington.  We are improving security at our nuclear facilities. We are forging new partnerships.  We are removing nuclear materials, and in some cases, getting rid of these materials entirely.  And as a result, more of the world’s nuclear materials will never fall into the hands of terrorists who would gladly use them against us. Of course, what’s also undeniable is that the threat remains.  There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials, and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places.  It would not take much — just a handful or so of these materials — to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.  And that’s not an exaggeration; that’s the reality that we face. And that’s why what’s required continues to be a serious and sustained effort, and why I’m so encouraged by the excellent participation today, which is, again, a testimony to President Lee’s leadership.  More nations have come to the table — this time, more than 50 — not to talk, but to take action.  As a consequence of this summit, more commitments will be made — more real, tangible steps.  As a consequence, more of our citizens will be safer from the danger of nuclear terrorism. I think we all understand that no one nation can do this alone.  This is one of those challenges in our interconnected world that can only be met when we work as an international community.  And what we did in Washington, what we’re now doing in Korea, becomes part of a larger global architecture designed to reduce the dangers of nuclear weapons and nuclear terrorism, but also allows us then to more safely and effectively pursue peaceful uses of nuclear energy. So, again, I want to thank President Lee for his leadership. I want to thank all the leaders who are participating here today. I know people’s schedules are extraordinarily busy.  We’ve come a long way in a very short time, and that should encourage us.  And that should not lead us to complacency, however; it should fortify our will as we continue to deal with these issues. I believe we can maintain that will and that focus.  I believe we must, because the security of the world depends on the actions that we take. So, President Lee, thank you again

[liii]Sreeja Vn, “Seoul Security Summit Declaration” International Business Times, March 27,2012 ,http://www.ibtimes.com/articles/320035/20120327/seoul-nuclear-security-summit-declaration-full-text.htm(accesed (accessed on 28 March, 2012.). Release by Yonhap News Agency, Seoul, South Korea.

[liv] Ibid.

[lv] Ibid

[lvi] Jun Bong-Geun, “Expectations of the Seoul Security Summit’”, The News International (Islamabad). March 22, 2012.

[lvii] World leaders: Nuclear terrorism a ‘grave threat’: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-17520156(accessed on 27 March 2010)

[lviii] Masood Khan, “A creative multilateral effort

[lix]Ibid.

[lx] Ibid.

[lxi] Ibid.

[lxii] The Nation (Islamabad, March, 19, 2012).

[lxiii] Benjamin Ho, “Back to the Drawing Board”, April 3, 2012. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University document No. 059/2012. Benjamin Ho Tze Ern is an Associate Research Fellow with the Centre for Multilateralism Studies at the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University.