Nuclear terrorism: one of the greatest threats to global security

How to prevent sensitive materials from falling into the hands of terrorists is one of the main issues to be examined the the summit

ABU DHABI // There has been a lot of progress since the previous Nuclear Security Summit, in Seoul in 2012, but experts say many challenges remain.

“There is a great deal of nuclear and radiological material to secure or dispose of permanently,” said Elizabeth Sherwood-Randall, the main adviser to the US president, Barack Obama, on weapons of mass destruction (WMDs), proliferation and terrorism.

“And we need to continue to work to enhance the global nuclear security architecture we’ve established by strengthening nuclear security treaties, institutions, coalitions and norms.”

She said the personal attention of leaders, a focus on meaningful outcomes, and the bi-annual security event itself all contributed to making progress.

“As we approach 2016, we’ll be looking closely at whether we still need summits to drive progress,” said Ms Sherwood-Randall, who is also the White House coordinator for defence policy, countering WMDs and arms control.

“We are seized with the challenge of preventing sensitive materials from falling into the hands of terrorists or others who could use it to do us harm. The stakes are high and the threat is real.

“As the president has said, the danger of nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats to global security.”

Ambassador Hamad Al Kaabi, the UAE permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said these threats were evolving.

“The idea with any nuclear security issue, is you need to establish the risk,” he said. “We then establish the measures to counter such risks, and they are changing.

“Therefore the measures should always be ahead in terms of adopting any additional measures to counter [new] risks. This is in theory how to address it, so you can’t say ‘I’m safe today’, because it’s an evolving process.”

George Borovas, partner and head of the global nuclear practice at Shearman & Sterling, said the summit – the largest international conference yet to be held in The Netherlands – was another demonstration of the importance of global cooperation on nuclear-security matters.

“The nuclear-energy industry, with its proven commitment to safety and security, can provide valuable input and help shape government policy and international cooperation efforts,” he said.

“As a number of new countries around the world are examining or embarking on civilian nuclear programmes, reaffirming our global commitment to safety, security and non-proliferation will be essential.”

Mark Rutte, prime minister of The Netherlands, said the international community had to do its utmost to prevent nuclear terrorism.

Mr Al Kaabi said nuclear-security efforts were part of an ongoing process.

“We continue to maintain major issues, such as the importance of strong legislation, international cooperation and the role of the IAEA in supporting such measures,” he said.

“It’s a fairly new topic because it’s not something that was discussed in the IAEA 30 years ago.

“With any new topic, there’s no easy way to adopt it at a higher level. But there’s more understanding today of the need for the IAEA to take up the role of nuclear security and there is more consensus as compared to years ago.”

cmalek@thenational.ae

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