On April 5, 2009, President Obama gave a speech in Prague, calling nuclear terrorism "the most immediate and extreme threat to global security," and hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) in Washington, DC in April 12-13, 2010. Additional summits took place in Seoul in 2012 and in the Hague in 2014. Additional documents are available on the State Department website.
The summit aims to secure nuclear material and encourage collaboration between countries to eliminate nuclear weapons. Countries report on their progress in securing their nuclear materials.
The NSS 2014 final communiqué contains new agreements that build on the results of earlier summits in Washington and Seoul. Here are some examples:
- The smaller the amount of nuclear material, the smaller the risk. The NSS countries have therefore agreed to keep the quantities of nuclear material as low as possible, and to reduce them where possible. Countries that use highly enriched uranium or plutonium as fuel for power generation will limit the quantity involved as much as they can.
- The agreements cover not only nuclear material that can be used for making nuclear weapons (highly enriched uranium and plutonium), 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 'dirty bomb'.
- All participating countries will implement the guidelines of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). In addition to the agreements in the final communiqué, 35 countries have undertaken to incorporate the IAEA guidelines into their national legislation. The guidelines will therefore be binding on these countries, which will also engage IAEA teams to assess the security of nuclear materials.
- Nuclear forensics is an important tool for tackling criminal misuse of nuclear materials. It can identify the origin of nuclear material and the route it has taken.
- The participants have laid the basis for an efficient and sustainable nuclear security architecture, consisting of treaties, guidelines and international organisations. The IAEA plays a pivotal role in this regard. An important new element is the agreements on the steps that countries can take to enhance confidence in one another's nuclear security measures. Greater mutual trust will allow even more efficient cooperation and make it easier to assess whether the nuclear material in the world is well secured.
- As regards industrial uses of nuclear materials, government and business must work together closely. The security of nuclear material must be governed by law, without businesses and institutions being hampered by unnecessary rules.