Leaders begin addressing nuke safety
By Kang Hyun-kyung
One of the notable achievements of the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit is that global leaders made progress in addressing the safety of nuclear facilities, a key global challenge after the Fukushima crisis last year, according to experts Tuesday.
But they pointed out that challenges lie ahead as awareness of nuclear terrorism and security are still not robust.
Kenneth Luongo, president of the Washington-based non-profit group Partnership for Global Security, pointed to weak international confidence in nuclear security as a key challenge that needs to be countered at the third nuclear security summit to be held in the Netherlands.
“What the summit needs to do going forward is really focus on the issue of how we are going to raise the level of international confidence in nuclear security in every country,” he told The Korea Times.
“One of the ways to do this is to make sure that there is some uniformity in the standards by which nuclear materials are protected because we are running out of countries that are willing to give up them.”
Luongo said these materials are going to be around for a long time.
The expert assessed the outcome of the Seoul summit positively. “Some of the commitments which have been made with relation to removing weapons-usable nuclear materials from different countries will take them out of a state of vulnerability and make them more secure,” he said. “That’s very positive.”
Duyeon Kim, deputy director of Nuclear Non-Proliferation of the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation, said one of the notable accomplishments of the Seoul summit was that world leaders began paying attention to improving nuclear safety.
“Fukushima taught us that nuclear energy is not 100 percent safe,” she said.
Last March, a magnitude 9.0 earthquake and ensuing tsunami battered the northeastern part of Japan. The disastrous quake resulted in the meltdown of reactors at the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. Many Japanese still live in fear of radiation released from the devastation.
The powerful earthquake led to a backlash against nuclear power in some parts of the world. But there are still nations, especially India and China, which are still interested in nuclear energy to meet soaring demand for electricity.
“Countries will opt for nuclear energy. This means that nuclear power will spread around the world for peaceful purposes,” Kim said.
She indicated that the other side of the global demand for nuclear energy is that the international community will be vulnerable to accidents like Fukushima.
“The notable achievement of the Seoul summit is the elevation of the importance of radiological security which was less important in the Washington summit in 2010,” Kim said.
The expert made the remarks on the last day of the two-day Nuclear Security Summit held at the Convention and Exhibition (COEX) Center in southern Seoul.
More than 50 world leaders gathered here to discuss ways of preventing the transfer of nuclear materials to non-state actors, such as terrorists.
During the summit, governments pledged to eliminate nuclear materials that can make 17,000 nuclear bombs during the summit.
There is still much plutonium and highly enriched uranium that can be used to build up to 100,000 nuclear bombs, posing a challenge to the global effort.
Miles Pomper, senior research associate of the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies of Monterrey Institute of International Studies in Washington D.C., lauded the Korean government for hosting the successful global gathering.
“The first summit in Washington was very easy to make you feel that you are making progress because this had never happened before,” he said. “The challenge here in Seoul is try to do something that went beyond Washington. The Korean government was very successful in some senses, including some new items such as radiological security and the intersection of nuclear safety and security.