Summit: Global effort required to protect nukes, keep material from terrorists’ hands

By Robert Burns, AP
Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Summit: Global effort required to protect nukes

WASHINGTON — The 47 nations at President Barack Obama’s Nuclear Security Summit agreed Tuesday that all countries are responsible for safeguarding nuclear weapons and materials and keeping them out of terrorists’ hands, citing a new reality in which terror concerns outweigh worries about attacks by nuclear powers.

The communique, to be announced late in the day, also directs the global community to work in concert against the sale or theft of nuclear materials, with nations cooperating more deeply with the United Nations and its watchdog arm, the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The final document closes the two-day gathering that was called by Obama to focus world attention on the dangers of terrorists obtaining nuclear materials.

Addressing the conference, Obama framed the problem as a “cruel irony of history” — nuclear dangers on the rise, even after the end of the Cold War and decades of fear stoked by a U.S.-Soviet arms race. A terrorist group in possession of plutonium no bigger than an apple could detonate a device capable of inflicting hundreds of thousands of casualties, he said.

“Terrorist networks such as al-Qaida have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it,” he told the opening session, which convened under tight security at the Washington Convention Center. “Were they to do so, it would be a catastrophe for the world, causing extraordinary loss of life and striking a major blow to global peace and stability.”

The summit communique said all participating countries endorsed Obama’s call for securing all vulnerable nuclear materials within four years, although the document and a supporting statement were short on details of how that would be achieved.

They nations’ leaders said they would share information on detection and means of preventing nuclear trafficking.

Spelling out specific actions to be taken, the summit countries said they would “work together to achieve universality” of the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, but there was no mention of additional countries formally ratifying the convention. The work plan also underscored the importance of a 2005 amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material.

A separate U.S. statement said legislation to bring American laws into line with these treaties had been submitted to the Congress.

The U.S. also committed to requesting an “advisory mission” from the International Atomic Energy Agency to review physical security at a nuclear facility of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

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