Nuclear Security Summit

4th Summit held in Washington DC.

What is a Nuclear Security Summit? When did it start?
The Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) is a world summit, aimed at preventing nuclear terrorism around the globe. The first summit was held in Washington, D.C., United States, in 2010. It is held every two years since 2010 and it is the fourth and final in a series of summits.
What are the key goals of the NSS?
The goal of the NSS is to address concerns about fissile material falling into the wrong hands at a head-of-state level. It includes minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU), bolstering security at nuclear facilities through enhanced national regulations and implementation of best practices, enhanced membership in international instruments and organizations such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), instituting measures to detect and prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials, and Centers of Excellence, build capacity, develop technology and coordinate assistance on nuclear Security.
What are the limitations of the NSS process?
  • As NSS covers nuclear material only for non-military purposes, 83% of the nuclear material falls outside its ambit.
  • Despite its intent, the NSS has also not been able to amend the IAEA’s convention on nuclear safety.
  • The fact that there is no legally binding outcome at the end of six years of NSS process is its major drawback. The NSS process has instead focused on asking countries to tighten their national laws, rules and capabilities on nuclear security. This has meant that military facilities are treated as national responsibilities and dealt as per international obligations
  • Absence off Russia which has largest stockpile of nuclear weapon, devoid credibility of such summit.
  • Break down of START between Russia and US and nuclear modernization plans of Pentagon(US) reduces any commitment on disarmament as mere lip service.
What has been India’s contribution to the NSS?
India has played an active role at the summits with the first two being attended by then Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. As part of the house gift, India made a voluntary contribution of one million dollars to the Nuclear Security Fund and has established a Global Centre of Excellence for Nuclear Energy Partnership (GCENEP), where more than a dozen national and international training programmes have been conducted so far
Threats faced by India:
India is a source of nuclear material and a potential target of nuclear terrorism. While India takes pride in the security of its nuclear installations, ‘orphan sources’ i.e. devices with radioactive materials outside regulatory and security measures could pose serious risks.
According to a recent report by the Washington DC-based Nuclear Threat Initiative, India also has groups that want to acquire nuclear material. The report that ranked India low in nuclear security measures, cited corruption as a key reason that could compromise its nuclear facilities.
Security experts have identified at least four types of specific threats that terror outfits pose-
  1. These groups could acquire a nuclear weapon from the arsenal of a nuclear state.
  2. They could acquire enough fissile material to construct an improvised nuclear device.
  3. They could acquire radioactive material from civilian sources such as hospitals or university laboratories that could be mixed with conventional explosives to make a radioactive dispersal device or ‘dirty bomb.’
  4. Terror groups could also sabotage a nuclear facility leading to large-scale loss of lives and destruction.
Objective of current Summit:
The two-day summit was aimed at getting political leaderships directly involved in dealing with the threat of nuclear terrorism in the light of rise of new terror groups like ISIS
What are the outcomes?
  1. Adoption of Washington Communique, which urges states(who have not yet signed and ratified) to adopt and ratify legal Instruments like International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the International Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.
  2. Creation of a Forum in the form ministerial level international conference under the aegis of IAEA.
  3. Attention brought on link of nuclear security with cyber security.
  4. Voluntary Pledge to reduce the use of highly enriched uranium(HEU) and plutonium in civilian nuclear facilities.
What’s expected ahead?
  • India and Pakistan need to make progress in reducing their nuclear arsenal and ensure they do not continually move in the wrong direction while developing military doctrines.
  • To reduce the global nuclear arsenal it is necessary for the U.S. and Russia, the two largest possessors of nuclear weapons, to lead the way.
  • The Islamic State (IS) terror group obtaining a nuclear weapon was one of the greatest threats to global security. World leaders should work together to prevent such spread.
What has India done in this regard?
India has taken multiple measures to prevent terrorists acquiring nuclear weapons.
  • India has set up a permanent team of technical and security experts from multiple ministries and agencies that conducts table top exercises simulating nuclear smuggling, phased out the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and built a database of all radioactive sources in the country.
  • It has also started real-time tracking of radioactive sources when they are transported and set up a network of 23 emergency response centres across the country for detecting and responding to any nuclear or radiological emergency.
  • India is also in the process of equipping all major seaports and airports of the country with radiation detection machines.
  • While nuclear security is a serious domestic concern, India also used the platform to push its desire for membership in the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), the exclusive club that controls global nuclear trade.
  • India’s export controls list and guidelines have been harmonised with those of the NSG, and India looks forward to strengthening its contribution to shared non-proliferation objectives through membership of the export controls regimes.
The Group of 7 (G-7) countries’ foreign ministers have issued Hiroshima Declaration that calls for a world without nuclear weapons.
Major obstacles to Nuclear Disarmament:
  • It is very difficult to see huge reductions in nuclear arsenal around the world unless the United States and Russia, two largest possessors of nuclear weapons, lead by example
  • Nuclear weapons being used as deterrent, so countries are not willing to go for disarmament
  • Both the United States and Russia have launched massive long-term nuclear weapons “modernisation” programmes, which in the case of the United States are estimated to cost as much as $1 trillion over the next 30 years



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