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Jakarta Post

Leaders agree to cut dangerous nuke material

  • Yohanna Ririhena

    The Jakarta Post

The Hague   /   Thu, March 27, 2014   /  11:03 am

World leaders gathering at the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in The Hague, The Netherlands, have agreed to take concrete measures to reduce the amount of dangerous nuclear material '€” highly enriched uranium and plutonium '€” that could be used by terrorist groups to create a nuclear weapon.

In the final communique, the NSS countries agreed to keep quantities of nuclear material as low as possible, and to reduce them where possible.

'€œThe smaller the amount of nuclear material, the smaller the risk,'€ leaders said on Tuesday.

Leaders underlined concrete steps needed to further reduce the threat of nuclear attack. Therefore, countries that use highly enriched uranium or plutonium as fuel for power generation will limit the quantity as much as they can.

The agreement covers not only nuclear material that can be used for making nuclear weapons, but also other radioactive materials, such as low-enriched uranium, cobalt-60, strontium-90 and caesium-137.

Many of these materials have useful applications in hospitals, industry and research, but they can also be used with ordinary explosives to make a '€œdirty bomb'€.

The final communique represents a major step forward from agreements made at earlier summits in Washington (2010) and Seoul (2012). All participating countries have endorsed the communique, including the US and Russia. Relations between the two are tense given the Ukraine crisis and the two have disagreed over an initiative by the US, the Netherlands and South Korea to incorporate the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) security guidelines into national rules.

All participating countries will implement the guidelines of the agency. In addition to the agreements in the final communique, 35 countries have undertaken to incorporate the IAEA guidelines into their national legislation. The guidelines will be binding for these countries, which will also engage IAEA teams to assess the security of nuclear materials.

Despite progress since the first NSS, leaders said challenges remained and pointed to the need to enhance international cooperation to ensure dangerous material did not fall into the wrong hands.

Experts said leaders had taken '€œmoderate steps'€ not '€œmajor steps'€ to reduce the threat. Therefore, they said, bold and concerted action was needed.

'€œJust as you can'€™t download anti-virus software then call your system secure, countries can'€™t simply subscribe to the existing nuclear security measures and still be prepared for new and emerging threats,'€ Michelle Cann, a senior policy analyst at the Partnership for Global Security, said on the sidelines of the NSS.

The NSS, launched by US President Barack Obama in 2010, has promoted international action to prevent terrorists from obtaining bomb-grade nuclear material or other radioactive substances, but the need for action remains urgent.

In The Hague, Obama announced the necessity of an architecture for continuous improvement in nuclear security beyond the 2016 summit in Chicago.

A research fellow at the Asan Institute for Policy Studies, Shin Chang-hoon, noted that Obama was thinking about a sustainable nuclear security system post-2016, so creating the architecture would be his homework.

'€œA sustainable, global nuclear security architecture is a long-term aim. The short-term and practical approaches are to keep carrying out what was agreed to in the previous three summits,'€ Chang said in a press release of the Fissile Materials Working Group, a coalition of more than 70 leading experts and NGOs worldwide in nuclear security.

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