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Diplomacy in Action

Welcome and Introductory Remarks at the Countering Nuclear and Radiological Smuggling Workshop

Simon Limage
Deputy Assistant Secretary for Nonproliferation Programs, Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation
Institute for Transuranium Elements
Karlsruhe, Germany
February 11, 2014


(As Prepared)

Good morning. Thank you, Dr. Fanghänel, for your kind introduction. I would also like to thank the European Union, the European Commission, and specifically the Joint Research Centre’s Institute for Transuranium Elements, for opening these impressive facilities to host this workshop — which marks a significant step toward strengthened capacities to counter transnational nuclear and radiological smuggling. I would also like to recognize all of the workshop participants — representing more than 35 Nuclear Security Summit countries and international organizations — who have traveled from around the world to contribute to this week’s activities. I believe the work we do together this week will represent a significant step toward preventing terrorists, criminals and all other unauthorized actors from acquiring nuclear or radioactive materials that could be used in nuclear weapons or radiological dispersal devices. Achieving this objective remains one of the most important security challenges that we all face in the years to come, and I am proud to be a part of this important work.

Through our collective efforts in support of the Nuclear Security Summit process, our governments have together made great strides in creating and promoting global awareness of, and cooperation on nuclear security. Steps taken by the international community since the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington four years ago have been extensive. Within the United States, we have taken steps to further strengthen our domestic nuclear security framework. Internationally, important work done by programs such as the Department of Energy’s Material Protection, Control and Accounting program and the Global Threat Reduction Initiative and Department of Defense’s Cooperative Threat Reduction program have resulted in nuclear facilities that are more secure today than ever before.

At the first Nuclear Security Summit, Leaders from participating governments endorsed a Work Plan that included promoting national capacities in the areas of nuclear forensics, and exploring ways to enhance cooperation among local, national and international customs and law enforcement bodies to prevent illicit trafficking and acts of nuclear terrorism.

At the Seoul Summit in 2012, our leaders outlined specific steps that we have taken and intend to take — both collectively and individually — to meet these goals. Some of these steps are reflected in the 2010 and 2012 Nuclear Security Summit Communiqués, and in the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit “Statement of Activity and Cooperation to Counter Nuclear Smuggling.” Over the past several years, our governments have pursued many counter nuclear smuggling activities at the national and international levels that reinforce Summit objectives. Our activities here this week will further complement the commitments and steps our Leaders pledged at the Summits.

Now as we prepare for the third Nuclear Security Summit next month in The Hague, we must not only consider the progress we have made, but also acknowledge the work that remains to be done to prevent nuclear or radiological terrorism. Current and past inabilities to secure nuclear and radioactive materials continue to mean that materials are vulnerable to theft, or are now already outside regulatory control, and vulnerable to terrorists or other malicious actors. Despite our many nuclear security successes, the threat that highly enriched uranium or plutonium could be obtained by terrorists or other criminals intent to cause harm continues to represent one of the most pressing threats to global security.

As President Barack Obama stated in 2012, “There are still too many bad actors in search of these dangerous materials, and these dangerous materials are still vulnerable in too many places. It would not take much -- just a handful or so of these materials -- to kill hundreds of thousands of innocent people.”

Seizures of weapon-grade nuclear material in Georgia in 2010 and Moldova in 2011 suggest that such materials remain in illegal circulation on the black market, and we must work together to locate and secure materials currently outside regulatory control. To do this, we must take action to investigate smuggling networks, remove trafficked material from the black market and arrest the individuals involved—which is the focus of our work this week.

One of the most successful methods for recovering nuclear or radioactive material outside regulatory control focuses on establishing national mechanisms to bring together law enforcement, intelligence and technical experts to investigate nuclear smuggling networks. This national-level effort might utilize, for example, information collectors to gather data on nuclear smuggling networks; intelligence analysts to review this information and look for connections between cases and individuals involved; law enforcement officers to conduct investigations and arrest smugglers; and technical experts to conduct nuclear forensics analyses of materials that are seized.

In addition to national-level competencies in all of these areas, international information-sharing mechanisms are integral to ensuring information on seized materials and the criminals who traffic them is made available to the relevant law enforcement and technical experts working to prevent these activities in the future. The International Atomic Energy Agency’s Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) is recognized as the most well-established information-exchange mechanism for incidents involving nuclear and radioactive materials that have fallen outside regulatory control. Within the global law enforcement community, INTERPOL’s Operation Fail Safe provides a mechanism for sharing information on known nuclear smugglers with police officers around the world. I would encourage all of you to consider participating in this newly created program that fills a unique information-sharing gap in addressing the nuclear and radiological smuggling threat. We are honored to have representatives from each of these agencies deliver the keynote address for us this morning, and participate in the week’s events by sharing their expertise in this important area of international security.

This week, all of you will work together to explore new and emerging techniques for investigating nuclear smuggling networks, detecting nuclear and radioactive materials outside regulatory control, and analyzing seized material to trace its illicit movement.

The hands-on demonstrations, exercises, and scenario-based activities that you will participate in this week represent a collective next step toward advancing key capabilities to counter nuclear and radioactive materials smuggling and reduce the threat of nuclear terrorism. Together, we can—and will—make the world a safer place. Thank you.

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