Nuclear Security Summits

Nuclear Security Summits | Purpose

Nuclear Security Summits

Nuclear Security Summits purpose is to prevent non-state actors, particularly terrorists, from acquiring nuclear material

US President Obama in 2010
Nuclear Security Summits | Objective
To secure all vulnerable nuclear material in four years
Nuclear Security Summits | Success Stories

  • 175 tonnes of highly enriched uranium (HEU)—enough for 7,000 nuclear weapons—has been removed or down-blended (mostly from Russia)
  • 30 countries have eliminated HEU
  • Radiation detection equipment has been installed at 329 international border crossings, airports and seaports to prevent, detect and respond to trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material.
  • Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM), is now only eight signatures shy of entering into force .
  • International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT) has been signed by 103 of the 193 United Nations members.

Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM)

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was signed at Vienna and at New York on 3 March 1980. The Convention is the only international legally binding undertaking in the area of physical protection of nuclear material. It establishes measures related to the prevention, detection and punishment of offenses relating to nuclear material.

International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT)

The Nuclear Terrorism Convention (formally, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism) is a 2005 United Nations treaty designed to criminalize acts of nuclear terrorism and to promote police and judicial cooperation to prevent, investigate and punish those acts

Nuclear Security Summits | Paradigms yet to achieve
Generic Paradigms

  • 1,400 tonnes of HEU and 500 tonnes of plutonium—enough for about 200,000 simple fission-type nuclear bombs is still held by more than 30 countries.
  • Possibility of terrorist attacks on nuclear facilities has not been eliminated

Paradigams In Terms Of Multipolar World

  • Absence of Russian President Putin (over strategic differences with the US) indicates progress towards cause is susceptible to overall state of bilateral relations.
  • The failure to invite Iran (despite the nuclear deal) was missed opportunity to engage Tehran on  crucial issue of global importance.

Nuclear Security Summits | Key Lessons
Generic Lessons

  • Experts argue NSS process only deals  nuclear material in civilian facilities & not military facilities, which account for 83% of nuclear material.
  • Disputed by others who assert that the NSS communiqués along with the CPPNM, the ICSANT and UN Security Council resolution 1540 deal with all nuclear material—civilian and military.


United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 was adopted unanimously on 28 April 2004 regarding the non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. The resolution establishes the obligations under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter for all Member States to develop and enforce appropriate legal and regulatory measures against the proliferation of chemical, biological, radiological, and nuclear weapons and their means of delivery, in particular, to prevent the spread of weapons of mass destruction to non-state actors.

Lessons In Terms Of Multipolar World

  • Because the NSS is narrowly focused on the threat of non-state actors acquiring nuclear material, it took great initiative on part of the US to get it going; it is unlikely that any other world leader could have led a similar project. This indicates that even in the multi-polar era, the world is dependent on US leadership.
  • However, as the absence of Putin and the inability of the process in securing all nuclear material in four years reflect, there are limits to even what the US leadership can achieve.
  • Besides, the fact that the 2012 and 2014 summits were held in South Korea and the Netherlands respectively—both US allies from the developed world—indicates that Washington is still not able to find willing partners for its initiatives in the global South.

Lessons In Terms Of Institutional Failure

  • No international regime or institution to deal with biological weapons, they remain largely unregulated.
  • Relative success of NSS process also underlines the failure of the international community to address similar dangers emanating from biological weapons.

 Nuclear Security Summits | Progress

Six years and four summits later ; the aim has not been reached, despite substantial progress being made.

Nuclear Security Summits | India’s perspective

While its contribution to the success of the NSS process is useful to highlight its credentials as a responsible nuclear state, any initiative on similar threats from biological weapons and its ability to rally others to the cause would enhance its credibility as a global leader.

Way forward
Non-state actors and individuals are increasingly conducting research in biotechnology, especially, synthetic biology to come up with more rational solutions to the issue.
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