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Arms Control and International Security: Taking Stock of the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Summit

Ambassador Bonnie D. Jenkins
Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programs , Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Council on Foreign Relations
Washington, DC
April 10, 2012


I am very glad to have this opportunity to discuss the recent Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul and how its outcomes have advanced President Obama’s four-year effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world.

I would like to thank the Council on Foreign Relations, Stewart Patrick, and the International Institutions and Global Governance program for inviting us to speak to you this morning

The think tank and NGO communities have played an important role in the Summit Process by providing expert advice to Summit nations, organizing high-level conferences, publishing independent reports on nuclear security such as the recent NTI report, and hosting round tables such as this. Those of us in the government working these issues look forward to continuing this engagement in the lead up to the 2014 Summit in the Netherlands.

This morning I am going to: briefly provide some background on the origins of the Summit process, and here I will be brief since many of you already have a background on the summit, then talk briefly about the foundational success of the 2010 Summit, and finally highlight some of the key takeaways I saw coming out of last month’s Summit.

2010 Summit

In April 2009 in Prague, President Obama shared his vision for a world without nuclear weapons, free from the threat of nuclear terrorism, and united in our approach toward shared nuclear security goals.

To achieve this goal, the President announced an international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years and to organize a summit on nuclear security.

The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, DC brought high-level attention and prominence to the issue of nuclear security as over 50 world leaders developed a common understanding of the threat posed by nuclear terrorism and agreed on effective measures to prevent nuclear terrorism.

The 2010 Summit produced a Communiqué and detailed Work Plan that articulated a common commitment to focus collectively on minimizing the use and locations of sensitive nuclear materials and continually exchange information on best practices and practical solutions. It also listed a number of activities nations can engage to promote nuclear security. These include not just direct efforts of securing the material at the site and converting reactors from HEU to LEU, but such efforts as ratifying relevant treaties and joining relevant initiatives and funding the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund.

At the 2010 Summit, several nations made national commitments regarding activities they would do to promote nuclear security and the 2012 Summit provided the opportunity to hear whether countries in fact lived up to those commitments.

2012 Summit

I was fortunate to be in Seoul last month where 58 world leaders stood united in their continued commitment toward nuclear security. The Seoul Summit was another milestone in our global efforts at securing vulnerable nuclear material and preventing nuclear terrorism. The Summit consisted of a number of progress reports made by participants, a number of “gift baskets” made by several nations and a number of joint statements.

Progress Reports
Regarding the progress reports on efforts made by participants based on their 2010 commitments; 90 percent of the country commitments made in Washington have already been fulfilled. I won’t go into them in detail but they are on the Department of State hosted Nuclear Security Summit website. Each leader made statements at the Summit that outlined concrete steps taken to promote the security of nuclear materials.

Gift Baskets
These include the following: National Legislation Implementation Kit on Nuclear Security, led by Indonesia. Several nations joined the statement in support. The kit would help States develop a more comprehensive national legislation on nuclear security in accordance with their own respective internal legal processes. States that signed up this gift basket agreed to work with IAEA to explore concrete ways forward to develop the kit.

Nuclear Security Information led by the United Kingdom focused on the need to prevent non-state actors from obtaining information, technology, or expertise required to acquire or use nuclear materials for malicious purposes, or to disrupt information technology based control systems at nuclear facilities. This gift basket focused on national guidance and grading system for nuclear information security.

Cooperation on Counter Nuclear Smuggling; Nations that signed on to this gift basket have taken steps to build national capacities to counter nuclear smuggling. These include increased law enforcement and intelligence efforts to investigate nuclear smuggling networks, increasing use of radiation detection systems and measures to find materials outside of regulatory controls, etc. These states pledged to continue these efforts in the future, promoting the security of nuclear materials while in transit and establishing and coordinating centers of excellence.

Joint Statements
Some of the joint statements include the following:

Trilateral Announcement by The United States, Mexico, and Canada on the completion of a joint nuclear security project to convert the fuel in Mexico’s research reactor from HEU to low enriched uranium.

Joint Statement on Outreach efforts: Importance of continuing efforts to reach those nations that did not attend the Summit (Thailand, Morocco, Chile, Poland and Nigeria).

Joint Statement by France, Belgium, the Netherlands and the US on HEU minimization. Belgium, France and Netherlands agreed to convert the use of HEU to LEU by 2015. The US will provide limited exports of HEU to Europe until those nations complete this conversion in 2015 to ensure a reliable source of medical isotopes. These countries plan to remove excess scrap material from Europe and ship to the US.

The United States, Russia and Kazakhstan unveiled the near competition of a joint project to eliminate the remnants of past nuclear testing activities at the former Semipalatinsk nuclear test site. More than dozen weapons worth of nuclear material was removed from the area and other nuclear material is now safely secured.

Other significant accomplishments include:

  • We’re also using every tool at our disposal to break up black markets and nuclear material. Countries like Georgia and Moldova have seized highly enriched uranium from smugglers. Jordan and others are building their own counter-nuclear smuggling teams within a global network of intelligence and law enforcement.
  • 20 New Nations joined the amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material with the total now of 55 nations.
  • 14 new nations ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism with a total now of 79 nations.
  • 10 additional nations are in the process today of ratifying these two conventions. The United States and Sweden announced the successful removal of plutonium from Sweden. We’re moving forward with Russia to eliminate enough plutonium for about 17,000 nuclear weapons and turn it into electricity.
  • Since the April 2009 speech of President Obama, efforts significantly accelerated to remove all HEU from 8 countries over a two-year period. HEU has now been removed from 21 countries: Brazil, Bulgaria, Chile, Columbia, Denmark, Greece, Latvia, Libya, Mexico, Philippines, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovenia, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Taiwan, Thailand, Turkey and Ukraine.
  • All U.S. domestic research reactors that could be converted with existing, licensed fuel are operating on low enriched uranium.
  • We’ve seen a number of major accomplishments since the 2010 Summit in relevant initiatives, for example:
    • The extension of the 24-member G8 Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction. A statement was released by the G-8 Global Partnership of contributions by partners to the IAEA Nuclear Security Fund NSF of over $55 million since 2010.
    • Expanded membership of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism with 6 new countries joining (Argentina, Mexico, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam).
    • The extension of UN Security Council Resolution 1540. We are working very closely with our international partnerships to help implement and coordinate assistance requests for United Nations Security Council Resolution 1540.
  • Summit participants also discussed some topics new to the Summit process such as nuclear safety and radiological terrorism.

At the end of the Summit, countries agreed to a detailed Communiqué that sets out 11 priority areas in nuclear security that reflect some of the gift baskets: the global nuclear security architecture, the role of the IAEA, security, accounting, and control of nuclear materials and minimizing the use of highly-enriched uranium, radioactive sources, nuclear security and safety, transportation security, combating illicit trafficking, nuclear forensics, nuclear security culture, information security and international cooperation.


Through the Summit process, the international community has made great strides in the effort to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear weapons. Taken individually, these Summit initiatives may seem like small steps, but they add up to a significant shift.

We recognize that work still needs to be done. Nuclear material continues to be stored without adequate protection, at risk of exploitation by terrorists and criminal gangs that have expressed an interest.

We look forward to working with our international partners and the NGO community to further secure vulnerable nuclear material and make progress toward the President’s nonproliferation agenda.

The Netherlands – a steadfast partner and strong leader on nuclear security goals – will host the next Nuclear Security Summit in early 2014. I believe that in two years time we will have together made significant progress in improving nuclear security and making the world a safer place for all of us.

Be sure to regularly visit our website at for the latest news and information on these efforts.