Leaders pledge to build on security summit series

04 April 2016

World leaders attending the last in the current series of Nuclear Security Summits on 1 April pledged to establish a high-level group to sustain and take forward work to build a strengthened and comprehensive global nuclear security architecture.

Barack Obama bids farewell to President Xi Jinping of China at the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit (Image: The White House/Pete Souza)

A joint statement issued on the final day of the two-day summit, held in Washington DC, said that while the Nuclear Security Summit process has led to "significant achievements" in nuclear security at national, regional and global levels, the work of building a "strengthened, sustained and comprehensive global nuclear security architecture" of legal instruments, international organizations and initiatives, internationally accepted guidance and best practices "requires continuous attention".

To that end, governments - of Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Belgium, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Hungary, India, Italy, Japan, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Lithuania, Mexico, Morocco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Nigeria, Norway, Romania, Poland, Singapore, Spain, South Korea, Sweden, Switzerland, Thailand, Ukraine, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, the USA, Vietnam - and international organizations Interpol and the United Nations, committed to establishing a Nuclear Security Contact Group and to designate "appropriately authorized and informed senior official or officials" to participate in it.

The group is to convene annually on the sidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) General Conference, and in connection with other related meetings "as may be useful". The IAEA General Conference is usually held at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters in September.

The Contact Group will discuss a "broad range of nuclear security-related issues" and identify "emerging trends that may require more focused attention". It is tasked with "promoting and assessing" the implementation of nuclear security commitments including those made through the Nuclear Security Summit process. It may also may make recommendations on convening any future summits.

The series of four Nuclear Security Summits was instigated by US President Barack Obama as a forum to discuss at the highest level the need to secure nuclear material and prevent nuclear terrorism, with the first summit held in held in Washington DC in 2010. Subsequent summits were held in Seoul, South Korea in 2012 and The Hague, the Netherlands in 2014.

Leaders attending the summit released a communiqué reaffirming their commitment to "shared goals" of nuclear disarmament, nuclear non-proliferation and the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and also reaffirmed that measures to strengthen nuclear security "will not hamper the rights of States to develop and use nuclear energy for peaceful purposes". However, they said that more work must be done to prevent "non-state actors from obtaining nuclear and other radioactive materials, which could be used for malicious purposes".

The communiqué also reaffirmed the IAEA's "essential responsibility and the central role" in strengthening the global nuclear security architecture, developing international guidance, and facilitating and coordinating nuclear security activities among international organizations and supporting the efforts of individual states to fulfil their nuclear security responsibilities.

Amendment to Physical Protection convention soon

Addressing the summit, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that the agency had played "the leading role as the global platform for strengthening nuclear security", but called for states to make increased use of the agency's services, especially its database on illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material.

Amano also drew attention to the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), which broadens the scope of the original 1987 convention focusing on the physical protection of nuclear material during international transport to cover nuclear facilities and nuclear material for domestic use. Amano said that the 2005 amendment, which requires countries to establish appropriate physical protection regimes for nuclear material, would reduce the likelihood of terrorists being able to detonate a 'dirty bomb' and the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant.

With Azerbaijan, Cameroon, Kuwait, the Marshall Islands, Montenegro and Serbia joining the list of adherents during the course of the summit, the amendment now only requires two more adherents before entering into force. "Entry into force of the Amendment has been a painfully slow process," Amano said in his address to the summit.

Researched and written
by World Nuclear News