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Diplomacy in Action

Nuclear Security Summits

Date: 04/13/2010 Location: Washington, DC Description: The Nuclear Security Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., April 13, 2010.  © White House Image/Chuck Kennedy

The Nuclear Security Summit at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., April 13, 2010. 


In his 2009 Prague speech, President Obama stated that nuclear terrorism “is the most immediate and extreme threat to global security.” To mitigate this threat, the President urged that “we act with purpose and without delay,” announcing “a new international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear material around the world” that would begin with “a Global Summit on Nuclear Security that the United States will host.”

By focusing high-level attention on the threat of nuclear terrorism, the Nuclear Security Summits are designed to energize, enhance, empower, and elevate the many existing multilateral, cooperative institutions and structures aimed at securing nuclear materials and preventing nuclear smuggling. In March 2010, nearly fifty heads of state gathered for the inaugural Summit in Washington, the largest gathering of world leaders since the founding of the United Nations. A second Summit was held in Seoul in 2012, a third is set to take place in The Hague in 2014, and as President Obama announced in Berlin in June 2013, his intention is to host a fourth Summit in the United States in 2016.

The two Communiqués produced at the 2010 and 2012 Summits and the Washington Work Plan from the 2010 Summit garnered high-level commitment to advance concrete plans and actions to achieve key nuclear security goals, including:

  • Minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU);
  • Bolstering security at nuclear facilities through international instruments and organizations such the International Atomic Energy Agency;
  • Instituting measures to detect and prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials; and,
  • Establishing Centers of Excellence in participating states that address the need for capacity building, technology development, and coordination of assistance on nuclear security.

In addition to joining in the Summit Communiqués and Washington Work Plan, many participating countries voluntarily pledged to take specific actions to increase domestic nuclear security and to work through bilateral or multilateral mechanisms to improve security globally. According to research organizations that track Summit commitments, 95 percent of commitments made in Washington have been completed as of 2013. Tangible nuclear security achievements include:

  • Removal and/or disposition of over 2.8 metric tons of vulnerable HEU and plutonium material.
  • Completely removing HEU from 11 countries – Austria, Chile, the Czech Republic, Libya, Mexico, Romania, Serbia, Turkey, Ukraine, Vietnam,  – and Hungary.
  • Verified shutdown or successful conversion to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel use of 24 HEU research reactors and isotope production facilities in 15 countries, including Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, China, the Czech Republic, Hungary, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Poland, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States.
  • Completion of physical security upgrades at 32 buildings storing weapons-usable fissile materials.
  • Installation of radiation detection equipment at 250 international border crossings, airports, and seaports to combat illicit trafficking in nuclear materials.

The 2014 Summit is expected to build upon this impressive track record of the previous two Summits by forwarding new ideas, commitments, and actions that will further strengthen nuclear security around the globe.


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