As Washington’s nuke conference wraps up, non-state mushroom cloud fears dominate
The two-day Washington Nuclear Summit, initiated by US President Obama, came to a close with a final communiqué that commits attending nations to secure all nuclear material in four years.
World leaders agreed to secure or destroy hundreds of thousands of tons of weapons-grade nuclear fuel by 2014, after Obama called on the rest of the leaders “not simply to talk, but to act” to head off the risks of nuclear terrorism and proliferation.
The communiqué spells out 12 obligations of signatories, including a promise to maintain effective security of the nuclear material in their countries. It also commits them to a specific work plan of best practices, it encourages participants to join international efforts to restrict the exchange of nuclear material, and directs nations to make new investments in nuclear security measures.
Earlier, on the second day of the 47-nation Nuclear Security Summit, Obama told attendees that the risk of a nuclear attack was on the rise - despite the Cold War being over – but this time it could be from terrorists rather than an enemy nation. Obama said the current nuclear reality was a “cruel irony of history” and efforts by al-Qaeda to gain access to fissile materials means “the risk of a nuclear attack has gone up”. He added that it was time “not simply to make pledges, but to make real progress for the security of our people. All this, in turn, requires something else, something more fundamental. It requires a new mindset — that we summon the will, as nations, as partners, to do what this moment in history demands.”
Underscoring his point, Obama said dozens of countries had nuclear materials that could be sold or stolen, and that a weapon made from an apple-sized lump of plutonium could kill or injure hundreds of thousands. The document calls on the 47 countries to act together to prevent “non-state actors” — read al-Qaeda, friends and similar — from obtaining nuclear technolo