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Diplomacy in Action

Preview of the Nuclear Security Summit: The NGO Perspective

Michael Levi, Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment and Director of the Maurice R. Greenberg Center for Geoeconomic Studies, Council on Foreign Relations; Kenneth Luongo, Founder and President, Partnership for Global Security, Co-chair, Fissile Materials Working Group; and Carl Robichaud, Program Officer, International Peace and Security, Carnegie Corporation of New York
New York, NY
March 22, 2016




Date: 03/22/2016 Location: New York, NY Description: Michael Levi, Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment, Council on Foreign Relations; Kenneth Luongo, Founder and President, Partnership for Global Security; and Carl Robichaud, Program Officer, International Peace and Security, Carnegie Corporation of New York preview the upcoming Nuclear Security Summit for foreign journalists. - State Dept Image

11:00 A.M. EDT

NEW YORK FOREIGN PRESS CENTER, 799 UNITED NATIONS PLAZA, 10TH FLOOR

MODERATOR: Good afternoon and welcome to the Foreign Press Center. We’d like to introduce our speakers for today’s program, the Nuclear Security Summit: The NGO Perspective.

To my left is Carl Robichaud with the Carnegie Corporation of New York, followed by Michael Levi with the Council on Foreign Relations, and on the end is Kenneth Luongo with the Partnership for Global Security and Fissile Materials Working Group. After their short comments, we will take some questions from the audience, and before you ask your question, we may ask that you state your name and media affiliation for the record.

MR ROBICHAUD: Hi, my name is Carl Robichaud with the Carnegie Corporation of New York and I’m going to talk a little bit about the Nuclear Security Summit process – why it exists, what it hopes to achieve, and what it’s achieved so far.

So this next week will be the fourth and final Nuclear Security Summit process – Nuclear Security Summit. The process started in 2010. And a lot of people, when they hear about this process, ask, why is there the need for this kind of high-level attention? Why do we need to gather heads of state to deal with this threat which is fairly narrow and technocratic in the eyes of many people? And a lot of people wonder, is there really a nuclear terrorist threat, does it merit this level of attention and this investment by the international community?

Well, I think it’s impossible to know the true nature of the nuclear terrorist threat to know how much risk there actually is, but I think there are some indicators that it’s real, and I think it would foolish to write it off. Over just the past several years, there have been several significant cases of nuclear or radiological materials gone missing, and I’m going to talk about that for a second.

But first, I want to talk for a moment about Belgium. As we know, there were some tragic events there today. The details are still coming out. It was a terrible attack, terrible loss of life. And so we saw there are highly capable terrorist organizations operating in Belgium. And we suspect they have an interest in acquiring nuclear materials, and this is based on revelations in November that Belgian police discovered that a man associated with ISIS or the Islamic State, so-called Islamic State, had been collecting surveillance videos of nuclear scientists from a nuclear center in Belgium. And some have speculated he was after radiological materials, which could be used in a nuclear bomb, perhaps using some form of kidnapping to acquire them.

But Belgium also has civilian sector highly enriched uranium. Highly enriched uranium is very important, because this is a material that is the most likely material that a terrorist organization could use to fabricate an improvised nuclear device, and Belgium has it. In fact, it had several insider sabotage incidents in the past. In just 2014, there was a nuclear reactor, the Doel 4. There was an insider who released lubricant from that reactor and it resulted in mechanical problems that caused $100 to $200 million of damage to that reactor. Now, this was not a terrorist incident. It’s not suspected to be linked to any kind of terrorist organization. It appears to be a case of sabotage, and they still haven’t figured out the perpetrators or the cause. But that was a major threat to the Belgian nuclear power plant there. And in response, Belgium strengthened its rules.

And also I think that Belgium is an illustrative case because there is a threat and it can be addressed. Belgium agreed to give up its excess highly enriched uranium. It still keeps some there, but it gave up excess highly enriched uranium through the Nuclear Security Summit process. It expanded its protections against insiders; it’s deployed armed personnel to protect nuclear facilities. So to me, Belgium signifies that there is a threat of nuclear terrorism and that it can be addressed, but that it requires proactive action and that prevention can go a long way in that regard.

I’m going to move quickly through a couple other examples. In Iraq in November, Baghdad reported missing material to the IAEA. It was Category II material. The source was found dumped somewhere. We still don’t have an explanation of the perpetrators or the incentives. It does not appear to be terrorist-linked, but it’s of concern.

Numerous sting operations have revealed highly enriched uranium has been recovered. There’s a Moldovan ring that’s been responsible for several seizures of highly enriched uranium, including in kilogram quantities. Most quantities are very small, but there are sometimes kilogram quantities that are recovered. In fact, there have been hundreds of incidents of nuclear or radiological material that has gone missing from facilities around the world.

And I want to emphasize that this is not just a problem in Belgium and Iraq and Moldova. Every country that has nuclear materials, every country that had radioactive materials has had lapses, has had breaches. So this is a problem for all of us. Most of these are incidental accidents, breaches of protocol. Some of them are quite serious. But it’s something we must take seriously. A terrorist attack anywhere would result in consequences everywhere. As Kofi Annan said, a terrorist attack would thrust tens of millions of people into dire poverty and create a second death toll throughout the developing world. A nuclear terrorism incident would shut down international trade, and anywhere you had people or goods moving there would be a great deal of friction for many years to come in addition to the direct human and economic consequences.

So why do we need a summit process? Well, nuclear – as I said, nuclear security breaches are not a thing of the past. And I had a slide I was going to show; we won’t show that. This is really a collective action problem, because vulnerable nuclear materials anywhere are a threat to people everywhere. So this summit process was put in place to elevate the issue above the technocratic level, where it was very difficult to make progress, and bring it to the state of ministries of energy – energy ministries, foreign ministries, and national leaders, who could actually take some of the difficult steps it would take. Nuclear security is not necessarily more expensive. It requires an upfront cost, but it can actually save costs into the future. Especially if you’re consolidating materials, if you’re getting rid of materials that require high levels of security, it can actually be very economical. But it requires some hard decision-making to make that happen. And it really requires collective action.

So I don’t have too much time, but the summit process starting in 2010 led to a consensus communique and a series of work plans. It’s led to the reduction of highly enriched uranium in many countries. Over the past 20 years, the number of countries that have highly enriched uranium has been cut in half; roughly a third of those countries gave up highly enriched uranium since the summit process started, so it’s been very successful in reducing the amount of material and the number of sites where terrorists could find it. It has also led to stronger international rules, including adhesion to a number of international mechanisms and treaties.

There’s a lot of unfinished business that Michael and Ken will talk about, but I wanted to offer that setup, and I’m happy to answer some more specific questions in the question and answer period.

MR LEVI: Great start. Thank you, everyone, for being here this morning. My name is Michael Levi. I’m a senior fellow of the Council on Foreign Relations here in New York. For those of you who don’t know CFR, it’s a nonpartisan, nonprofit, nongovernmental research membership and publishing organization. CFR takes no positions as an institution, which means that every fellow – myself included – speaks for themselves and for no one else.

I want to talk about – mostly about three basic things this morning. The first is the technical steps involved in executing a nuclear terrorist attack. My background is originally as a physicist so I think about this intersection of technical challenge and policy opportunity. The second is what that means in terms of opportunities for reducing the likelihood of an attack. And the third is how the threat varies across the world, and the take-home there is that when you think about these first two pieces, you come to the conclusion that a threat is at least as significant outside the United States as in it. And if there were one bottom line from all of this, I would say that it’s quite difficult to pull off a nuclear terrorist attack. We know that in some sense because we haven’t seen one yet, but it’s not difficult enough and it could be made more difficult through the right policies.

So first, the steps. And Carl talked several times about acquiring nuclear material. That is the central step in some sense for any group that would try to execute a nuclear terrorist attack. No material, no attack. And our best sense, and I think it’s a strong sense, is that terrorist groups still don’t have the capability to produce the nuclear materials, the highly enriched uranium or the plutonium that would be required for a nuclear weapon. But that’s not the only step. One needs to take that and fabricate it into a weapon. One needs to design that weapon, transport the various components both across international borders and within countries, and then execute the final stages of an attack.

And while acquiring the nuclear material is the most difficult part, each of those adds risk. Steps to reduce risk at any one stage can expose a group to additional challenges, additional opportunities for exposure at other stages. So when you start putting them together, you reduce – you potentially reduce the risks significantly.

To me that takes us to the second basic thing, which is that each of these steps and each of these elements gives us an additional opportunity to disrupt a plot and to deter a group from a plot. We don’t typically think about deterrence when we look at these groups that seem to have no regard for life and that very often do have no regard for life, but often they do have concern about failure. And so if you can show them that the odds of success are lower and being made lower, then you make it less likely that they’ll pour resources and their prestige, their reputations, into pursuing these sorts of plots.

Some of these are going to be nuclear-specific elements, like increasing security for nuclear materials, like improving radiation detection at critical points. Some are about improving the general state of security against terrorism in the countries that matter. You – if you want to do all of these elements in a plot, you have to assemble a lot of different people with different skills. That creates openings for intelligence and for law enforcement. If you are moving nuclear contraband across a border, you face some of the same barriers that any other contraband might. So there are nuclear-specific elements that we can strengthen. There are others that we can improve as well.

The last broad point is that this is not just a threat for the United States. There is no question that a lot of the groups that are the most capable are adversaries of the United States. But as we’ve seen in Belgium and we’ve seen elsewhere, there are a lot of countries that – and people who these groups would like to target as well.

And if you think about all these barriers, if you put yourself in the mind of someone trying to execute a plot, trying to minimize these barriers, you’re probably going to go as close as possible to where you acquire materials or to where you can recruit scientists or to where you might be able to fabricate a device. And that’s not necessarily here. That could be in Europe. It could be in South Asia. It could be in the Middle East. So if we are worried about groups that are trying – that have the desire to execute these sorts of attacks but that are trying to maximize the odds that they’ll succeed, I think that forces us to think very seriously about the risks of nuclear terrorism across the world.

Let me make one final point. So I spend part of my life thinking about nuclear security. I spend another part thinking and writing about how to deal with climate change. And you might wonder what the two have to do with each other. I am struck that the most successful effort in recent years in the effort to reduce the risks of nuclear terrorism has been the summit process that’s not quite bottom-up. It’s not just each country doing whatever it wants, but it’s taking bottom-up efforts, it’s taking each country’s efforts, and then trying to bring high-level political attention and some level of coordination to really get more out of each country than they would be able to do alone, which is strikingly similar to how the climate change regime has evolved in recent years.

We saw in Paris in December an effort that was essentially taking national plans and policies, adding high-level attention, and then trying to combine experience and political will from each country to get something more than each would do alone. I think this is the direction that global governance is going as we have these problems that are at once highly technical but also require high-level attention, that face global problems but require domestic solutions in most cases. And so this strikes me as the right fit for this sort of problem and, frankly, the right kind of fit for the world as we’re seeing it evolve.

MR LUONGO: Thank you. Thank you, Michael. I’m Ken Luongo. I’m the president of the Partnership for Global Security. In my past life I’ve worked inside the government on nuclear security and other issues, and for about the last 20 years I’ve been outside the government. Let me pick up on some of the themes that both Carl and Michael touched on.

The summit process, I think, has actually been quite important in the sense that it has driven attention to the subject matter, but it really has two serious vulnerabilities. One is it has not been innovative. It has not innovated new initiatives. And secondly, it is ultimately not sufficient. It’s been insufficient given the scale of the problem that we currently face. The nuclear terrorism threat is real. If you take Carl’s examples, I think that those are very serious things, and we need to take it more seriously than we currently are.

So what do we need to do? I want to touch on seven issues that I think are important that we need to be thinking about once the summit process ends in – on April 1st, which is probably not the best day to hold a Nuclear Security Summit on April Fool’s Day, but that’s the way it is. So the unfinished business, in my opinion, is first and foremost preserving the summit’s innovations. The summit actually – this is very close to what Michael just said. It really has had several different useful innovations process-wise. One of them is a process of commitment-making by individual countries and then reporting on them.

Second, and really undervalued in my opinion, is that there’s the – the main event, the governmental summit, but then there’s two satellite summits – one run by civil society and one run by the nuclear energy industry – and that has brought all three parts of the puzzle together.

Third, there’s been accelerated progress on some of the things that Carl and Michael talked about, like removing fissile material and things like that, but most of that has been done. That low-hanging fruit has been picked. And then finally, what it did is it created a political track in addition to the technocratic track which existed in Vienna and in the International Atomic Energy Agency.

So we need to find a way to preserve those four innovative elements, and to me, one of the most important of those is continuing the political engagement process. One of the reasons that the summit was created is because they weren’t making enough progress in Vienna. So the idea was let’s bring heads of state together and let’s try and drive this process forward. The problem is that the way the summits ultimately were structured, which is through a consensus process, kind of watered down some of the bigger ideas that I think should have been put forth. So I think we need to think about how are you going to preserve a political track on this issue so that you can move the issues beyond the technocrats. Several suggestions have been made; some of them are more popular than others, but we can’t go back to where we were.

Second, I think we need to lay out – I’m not sure this is going to happen at the summit. In fact, I’m pretty sure it’s not going to happen at the summit, but I think we need to lay out some big ideas that we can work towards over the next decade or so that will significantly improve the current system. And you can go and these ideas are laid out in more detail at a website called 5priorities.org, which is a – five – the number “5,” not “five” spelled out – 5priorities.org.

There’s some videos there, there’s some description, but I’ll just go through briefly what some of the big ideas are. The system for nuclear security needs to be comprehensive, and so what that means is it needs to include both civilian materials and military materials, as Carl was talking about earlier in the presentation, and it also needs to be a defense against a range of plausible threats.

Secondly, it needs to be rigorous. And the current system is really a patchwork of national regulations, a few international agreements, and some voluntary recommendations from the International Atomic Energy Agency. So the way I do nuclear security, say, if I’m the United States, isn’t necessarily the way I do it in China or the way I do it in Hong Kong or the way I do it in Pakistan or the way I do it in South Africa. So there – every country is doing it differently. We don’t have a rigorous common system, which is a significant problem.

Third, the system is very closed. There is no sharing of information – or let’s just say very little sharing of information about how individual countries do their nuclear security, and that is not increasing the level of international confidence. So there’s a process in – though the International Atomic Energy Agency which is confidential, but none of that information is shared outside. So what we really need is international confidence that everyone is doing their best in this process.

Third, sustainability. This system needs to evolve to address changes in the threat circumstances, and as you saw today in Brussels, these people are just savage and they will kill people without thinking twice about it. And if they can get their hands on nuclear material or cause a meltdown at a nuclear reactor, I have no doubt that they will do it.

And then, finally, we need to focus on minimization, which means we need to shrink down and eliminate the amount of highly enriched uranium, which is a key bomb ingredient that’s in the civil sector – shrink it down – eliminate it in the civil sector, shrink it down in the military sector, and do the same with plutonium.

Okay. Other issues that aren’t being adequately addressed though the summit process: radiological security. So we in every single country have high-intensity radiological sources, which are used for medical purposes, for cancer treatment, for food safety, food irradiation, for oil well logging, and other energy exploration, and those sources regularly go missing. This is not a nuclear bomb. This is just a high degree of concentrated radioactivity, and some of these sources are literally as big as your thumb, okay? So you wrap an explosive around it and you contaminate an area, and you’re not necessarily killing people, but what you’re doing is essentially creating an economic bomb that’s going to make the area where it’s detonated unusable for some period of time until it’s cleaned up.

But beyond the physical impact and the psychological impact, there – I consider radiological terrorism to be kind of the gateway to worse nuclear terrorism. We don’t ever want to cross the threshold – we don’t ever want to cross the threshold – of nuclear terrorism. And so dealing with radioactive sources I think is actually quite important.

Another issue that hasn’t been touched on virtually at all is the issue of cyber security in the summit process. Cyber security – you can’t pick up a – well, I don’t know if anybody picks up newspapers anymore. You can’t pick up your iPad and look at a news site without seeing something about cyber security, and it hasn’t been dealt with inside the summit process.

So the summit process has enlarged the envelope of nuclear security, beginning very much focused on these fissile materials and now including a lot of important issues, but it hasn’t done all that needs to be done. And a number of people – new studies – people are just really beginning to get up to speed on this issue of cyber security. A number of flaws and gaps in the system have been identified.

Next, I want to pick up on this issue of governance, climate change, and nuclear power, similar to what Michael was talking about. The summit process has dealt with nuclear power in the sense that the Fukushima meltdown happened right before the summit in Seoul, so there was a connection between the safety and security of nuclear power. But it’s much bigger than that. We have – nuclear power is a major contributor to the reduction of greenhouse gases. There’s just no way around it. And China and India in particular, two of the biggest emitters, are building up their nuclear reactor capacity quite substantially. In fact, China alone is building 24 reactors at the moment, and they’re looking to build 8 to 15 over the next 15 years – 8 to 15 per year. So by mid-century or even before mid-century, China would be the largest nuclear operator in the world, dwarfing the United States, which is around 100 reactors. They would have over 150, maybe 175 reactors. That’s a major change.

So what’s happening with nuclear power is it’s not growing in the West, and it’s shifting from West to East. And so Korea and China and nuclear newcomers – interested countries like Indonesia, countries in the Middle East – they are all looking at nuclear power – India – all looking at nuclear power as a way to try and deal with their carbon emission problem and also to deal with their energy problem.

Second, we have a new generation that are called advanced reactors, which are much, much smaller than your traditional light water reactor, and already the Chinese and the Russians are beginning to explore prototypes and operate prototypes of these reactors. And there is absolutely no regulatory system for advanced reactors in any country or across borders at the moment.

So the real question here for the future on the issue of climate change and global governance and nuclear security and nuclear power is: Are the major operators – China, India, South Korea, Russia – going to spearhead innovations in the governance system? Because the West is declining as nuclear states and the East – Eastern states are rising.

Finally, I want to talk about an issue that never gets talked about, which is how we frame this issue for a public that has information coming at them in just an unbelievable torrent. I saw recently that the average attention span has decreased from 12 seconds to 8 seconds, okay, so that puts tremendous pressure on us to try and take this incredible technological, complex, technocratic issue and make it understandable to people and understand why nuclear issues are relevant to their lives. So we tried to do that through this video series in part; that’s on the 5 Priorities site, and you can take a look at it.

But I want to make one other point, and that is when President Obama sat down about two or three months ago – well, it was the end of 2015; maybe three or four months ago – and talked about what is your greatest failure as President of the United States, he said, “My greatest failure as President of the United States was assuming that the correct policy would sell itself,” okay? So we have between myself and Michael and Carl and our colleagues the right policy, but we have to figure out a way to sell those policies better. And what we need, I think, is to have this coalition of nuclear industry, nuclear experts, the government, international organizations working together.

I’m not going to repeat the quote from Kofi Annan, but I think it’s quite substantial, especially to countries that are represented by people in the room today. Wherever this occurs, it’s going to have an impact on countries that are dependent on export. There’s no question about it, because no one’s going to know where the next bomb is. Nobody’s going to know where the next attack is coming from. So what we really need to do is collectively work on this problem after the summits are over, but we’re going to need, I think, a much better, more cohesive post-summit process than what I think is going to come out of this on April 1st. Thank you.

QUESTION: Would you like to comment on risk level in India, for example? Because recently you had the terrorist attack on the air force base in Pathankot. And considering that, what do you think is the level of risk there?

Oh, I’m from – Arul Louis from Indo-Asian News Service.

MR LUONGO: Yeah, I – this is the problem. We have secure reservations that are under attack. It’s not that dissimilar from nuclear reactor site. It’s a secure reservation, but there are vulnerabilities, and people look at it as a high-profile target. And you – and so you have a physical security process, you have an intelligence process, but all of these things have flaws in them. So adaptability – I think there’s two real key issues that are more abstract than the physical protection issue. One is to make sure that you have enough political will and political attention that you don’t take your eye off the ball, and the second is I think you need to be adaptable as the threat environment changes and make sure that you’re looking at how the environment is changing and what you can do to react to it.

But high-profile, secure reservations even in the United States – Oakridge National Laboratory. We had a penetration at Oakridge National Laboratory by a geriatric nun and a band of – her merry band of peace-lovers. They made it all the way through a fence, through the cameras, to a building that contained highly enriched uranium. They banged on the wall with hammers, they wrote slogans on the walls, and it – and nobody knew what was going on until somebody inside the building finally said, oh, something’s happening outside the building, and there were these people. Thankfully, they were peaceful. They were anti-nuclear. So they didn’t want to do – they didn’t want to destroy anything. They wanted to bring attention to the fact that they oppose nuclear weapons and Oakridge is part of nuclear weapons complex.

But – so this is a problem not just in India, not just in Pakistan, not just in China, not just in the United States, not just in Russia; it’s a problem everywhere. And I think this is a very significant point. You cannot say this is a nuclear weapon state issue. It is not a nuclear weapon state issue. It is an everybody issue. I am telling you, go home, go to your local hospital, you will find an extremely high radioactive source in your local hospital. Okay? And I would be very curious to see what the security situation is.

MR ROBICHAUD: Two quick points to add. There was a report in December 2015 by the Center for Public Integrity. I’m not sure if you’re familiar with this series of investigations, but it – I mean, the headline is that “India’s Nuclear Explosive Materials are Vulnerable to Theft, U.S. Officials and Experts Say.” My understanding is since that article came out, there have been for the first time high-level official conversations between the U.S. and India about how to reduce that threat. But ultimately, it took someone from the journalistic sector revealing some of these vulnerabilities and it being reported very heavily in the Indian press before the Indian Government took notice and engaged in that kind of cooperation.

So I think the independent sector, the journalist sector, the academic sector, the NGO sector plays a really important role in highlighting some of these challenges, and I want to emphasize too that the Nuclear Security Summit process so far has focused exclusively on materials in the civil sector, right. And there is a whole other set of materials – 85 percent of the materials that could be used for nuclear explosives are in the hands of the military, in the military sector – either in nuclear weapons themselves, or in surplus materials to make nuclear weapons, or weapons that have been retired, or in naval propulsion fuel. And those materials are not subject to this summit process. They’re subject to some bilateral processes, and it’s really important that those take place. But there’s very little accountability there. And I think our goal needs to be to demand accountability for every kilogram of weapons-usable material everywhere, whether it’s in civilian or military hands. There needs to be a greater degree of accountability, transparency, and security for those materials.

MR LEVI: The only small thing I would add – I don’t know what the absolute level of risk is in India, but I would say that there – the technical capacity to take this sort of material, if it’s acquired, is substantial both at the sort of broad scientific level, but also at the engineering and applied science level. And I’d say on top of it, if a group with – if a group in India were to be able to acquire material, I doubt that it would go through the risks of trying to move it across a series of international borders in order to find a target. And so – and the risk – while we should all be concerned about the risk of theft anywhere, to the extent that there is a significant risk of theft or loss in India, I think the first country that ought to be concerned is India itself.

MODERATOR: Any other questions?

QUESTION: Hi. Thank you very much for having this press conference. My name is Hiroshi Yokokawa. I’m from Japanese public TV NHK, and I would like to ask you two things. So I’m sure you know that yesterday the plutonium was being shipped from Japan to the United States. And so how do you evaluate this – the recent activity between Japan and the United States? And also, how do you evaluate the Japanese policy of the cycle plan of the spent fuel in Japan? We have tons of plutonium in Japan, and I know that there’s a concern in international society about Japan having tons of the spent fuel to be used. But how do you evaluate this thing too? Thank you.

MR ROBICHAUD: From what I understand, the material that’s being returned is a very high-purity plutonium that was pledged during the 2014 summit, that that material would be returned. And it’s finally being returned right before the summit next week. I think it’s a major step in the right direction because of the purity of that material and the usefulness for a nuclear explosive device. But I think the concerns you raise are real, that within two years Japan expects to restart this Rokkasho reprocessing facility and will be separating more plutonium. And any fissile material anywhere is a threat for terrorists to acquire or for proliferation purposes. And so we’ve made some modest process within the summit, but there are some countries that are going in the other direction and producing more fissile material, as many as tens of weapons’ worth each year that would quickly dwarf the amount that has been blended down and eliminated.

I don’t know if you want to talk about that a little bit.

MR LUONGO: Yeah. Well, the problem with Japan is the massive amount of spent fuel and reprocessing that goes on. They have an enormous stockpile of what’s called reactor-grade plutonium. But just because it’s called reactor-grade plutonium doesn’t mean you can’t use it in a bomb. In fact, the United States did an experiment where it’s clear you can use it in a nuclear device.

From 30,000 feet, I would say Northeast Asia is becoming a thicket of nuclear facilities. It is going to be the highest concentration of nuclear facilities in the world, probably. So – and it’s not exactly the most stable region and not everybody is getting along. And I’m not even counting North Korea in that, okay? Because they’re kind of outside the orbit of the normal – of normal nations.

What we have been advocating is a policy of balance. I mean, I can tell you personally, I was – worked in the Department of Energy when we came to the conclusion that what we ought to do with our surplus plutonium is put it into a mixed-oxide fuel and then we’re going to take that plutonium and uranium fuel and we’re going to burn it in a conventional light-water reactor. I’m here to tell you if we ever burn one kilogram of plutonium in the United States of – a miracle, it will be – it will be a miracle, okay? If we burn one kilogram of plutonium in the United States, it will be a miracle.

So I think this is kind of a dream, that somehow you need a mixed-oxide fuel because uranium is a scarce resource and it’s going to run out. So I think there needs to be a much – and I think most people would agree in our world that there needs to be a balance between what you intend to do with this and when you’re going to use it.

And right now in Japan, it’s a complete imbalance. You have a massive stockpile of plutonium. And that’s what I’m talking about. As big goals that we set over the next 10 or 15 years, minimization and balancing the amount of plutonium – minimizing HEU, balancing the amount of plutonium are big issues that don’t impact the ability of Japan to restart their reactors, to fuel their reactors, or any other country. But it does reduce the risk and it does move the global environment in the right direction.

MR LEVI: I would just add one small thing. What Carl said speaks to the value of a political process in addition to the technical process. These sorts of things, no matter how important they are, can get stuck in bureaucracies; they can get stuck in technical discussions. And ad hoc political efforts to unglue them can often feel unfair; they’re putting a spotlight on one country or another. Having a regular process creates an occasional but reliable impetus to elevate some of these issues to the political level, where they often need to get to to push them through these bureaucracies. And this is an example of where that’s particularly valuable. Just because something is wise in principle doesn’t mean that a leader with 84 items on their agenda is going to get to it. And this sort of pressure can help move things up that list.

QUESTION: Hi. My name’s Miao Yin with People’s Daily of China. It seems to me this Nuclear Security Summit is trying to build or establish a new mechanism in addressing their concerns on nuclear security. I’m wondering what’s its relationship with the roles of IAEA. Could you please give some comments on this? Thank you very much.

MR ROBICHAUD: So I think that this summit process was initiated because the process at the IAEA was stuck and wasn’t making progress at the pace that was necessary. And I think now that the summit process is winding down, there will need to be a successor process in place in order to evaluate progress and to make sure that countries continue to meet to address this collective action problem. And there have been a number of proposals for what that may be.

Unfortunately, it does not look like there’s going to be a single successor process. There’s going to be a series of different processes, and one of them is through the IAEA, through these meetings that will take every – place every three years at the ministerial level. But you can tell when a conversation enters the IAEA, the scope of that conversation expands to encompass everyone and everything, and it’s unlikely you’re going to be able to focus in on some of the thorny challenges that we face in nuclear security because of the very broad approach that the IAEA takes to these issues.

The IAEA is an absolutely indispensable institution. It plays a very important role in nuclear safeguards and in the promotion of peaceful nuclear energy, and it’s played an increasingly important role on nuclear security. But there are some countries that don’t see the IAEA’s primary role on nuclear security, on preventing nuclear terrorism. They see that as a distraction. So it’s unlikely that the IAEA will have either the mandate or the resources to play as constructive of a role as is needed in the nuclear future we have going forward.

MR LUONGO: Okay. So let’s just take what the core of the summit process innovations have been. Commitment making and progress reporting – there is no mechanism in the International Atomic Energy Agency for making independent commitments. You could, but it doesn’t exist, because it’s essentially a consensus-based process. So 90 percent of the countries that have been involved in the summit have either joined one of what are called gift baskets – these kind of – what they call subject matter gift baskets that the summit has initiated, or they’ve made reports on how they’ve implemented those.

So that’s a need – how do we continue this, as Michael said, bottom-up commitment making that is now part of the global governance system – emerging as part of the global governance system? How are we going to keep the civil society, the nuclear industry, and governments together after the summit process ends? There is no mechanism in Vienna to do that that is governmental. There’s not a nongovernmental process, and there’s not a role for industry in the IAEA, except as kind of an advisory role, or as the subject of their recommendations.

Accelerated progress – what is the – that’s totally dependent on politics accelerating progress on key issues. So where is the impetus going to come from for dealing with this issue of radiological materials or cyber security? It’s going to be a lowest common denominator process if it goes through Vienna. So there needs to be a political track. It doesn’t need to be a summit track, but it also can’t be the disaggregated track that we’re about to receive from the summiteers here at the beginning of April. They’re going to basically say: Here are five institutions; each of them has now kind of a new set of – kind of a new mandate that they – there’s no requirement that they accept; this is our recommendation to them.

But there’s no way to coordinate it together. It’s going to – in my opinion, it is going to fall apart. And then the IAEA is going to become the prime resource and is – I’ll reiterate what Carl said. They’re very important. What the International Atomic Energy Agency does is absolutely essential. But the summit has created new things, new process things that need to be preserved. And somehow we have to preserve that, and I don't think you’re going to be able to do that through the International Atomic Energy Agency unless there’s some significant change in the way that the member-states view that institution and more aggressiveness.

MODERATOR: Any last questions?

QUESTION: Yeah. Ta King Pao from west Hong Kong. Talking about it’s election year, so I’m wondering is there any difference that Democratic Party and Republican Party policy on the nuclear security part issue?

MR LUONGO: Well, Hillary Clinton has said this is one – nuclear terrorism is one of the major challenges to the United States. I have – well, off the top of my head, I don't think that any of the Republican candidates have said anything similar. I haven’t heard Donald Trump talk about nuclear security. He might, if it’s coming from Mexico perhaps. But I haven’t heard anything from any of the Republicans. But Hillary Clinton, in one of the early debates in 2015, said that she thought that nuclear terrorism was one of the major challenges.

MR ROBICHAUD: This issue has enjoyed very bipartisan support within the U.S. There’s not much gap between Republicans and Democrats in how they view this issue traditionally, even when they’ve disagreed on a whole host of other issues. And you go back to the John Kerry and George W. Bush debates. Both agreed that this was the number one threat. McCain and Obama both agreed that it was a number one or major threat. So there has been a consistent support, including within Congress, on these issues. And so I’m hopeful that that progress will continue, regardless of everything else that’s going on in the political sphere.

MR LEVI: I think that Carl is right. You almost certainly can’t receive the intelligence briefings without coming to the conclusion that this is or ought to be a high priority for U.S. national security policy. I think if you’re looking for differences, historically there have been some differences – not just between the two parties but among different policy makers and politicians – over the degree of cooperation with adversaries or would-be adversaries in improving nuclear security. That can be – come down to whether you should be providing money to others to improve security. It can surround intelligence sharing around the space. I think different leaders probably see different tradeoffs in that space, so that affects their approaches to dealing with these issues at the margin. But I think the overall priority put on it and I think the focus on material security is probably a consistent one.

The other I’d add – I think if you look at the last 15 years, there’s some difference among different leaders and the emphasis they place on terrorist groups operating alone versus terrorist groups that might be supported by a state. Again, I don’t want to assign one to any particular leader, but the relative focus on state-based and non-state-based nuclear threats has tended to differ among different leaders.

MR ROBICHAUD: I’ll just highlight the issue of Russia, where there does seem to be a significant difference, to some extent, between the way Democrats and Republicans approach Russia. Now Russia and the U.S. have had great nuclear security cooperation over the past 20 years. It’s come and gone; it’s waxed and waned. But these are the two countries that have the most materials, the most facilities, the most sites. And in fact, Russia has the world’s largest stocks of nuclear weapons and weapons-usable material, the largest number of buildings, the largest number of bunkers. And so you can’t imagine a world with effective nuclear security unless Russia is at the table and unless Russia and the U.S. are working together on this issue. And there are deep political rifts right now, and so figuring out how to mend those rifts going forward is going to be really important.

MR LUONGO: They have not participated in this new summit, in the 2016 summit. They have not participated in the preparatory phase and they’re not coming. So – at least that’s what they say. So that is a major problem. The – and the new budget, the Obama new budget, is kind of beginning to slowly crater because the core of it has been U.S. cooperation with Russia. So that has been something that people can rally around. And now that it’s declined significantly, it makes it a little bit harder to explain to the Congress, which is not an easy place to explain anything to – but explain to the Congress why this still matters, when the Russians are going against our wishes in Ukraine, in Syria, in other places that are much higher profile.

MODERATOR: Great. If there are no further questions, this concludes today’s briefing. Thank you for attending.

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