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Presented at the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Towards an Integrative Approach

March 16, 2005

Presented at the IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Towards an Integrative Approach
Presented by Linton F. Brooks, Administrator, NNSA March 16, 2005

Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Towards an Integrative Approach

Let me thank the organizers, in particular the United Kingdom and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), for hosting a conference on a concern – nuclear terrorism – of such transcendent importance.

Today, the threat of nuclear terrorism is in the center of the U.S. and international security agenda. It was not always so. Only after the September 11th terrorist attacks and subsequent attacks around the world has the international community mobilized to confront the specter of terrorists armed with mass destruction weapons.

We can all take pride in the important work and steps taken to address nuclear terrorism in the four years since September 11th. Progress is underway to improve security of nuclear and radioactive materials to update anti-terror norms and controls over nuclear technologies, and to heighten awareness of dangers arising from nuclear terrorism, thanks in part to conferences like this.

As impressive as these gains may be, far more remains to be done to keep nuclear and radiological weapons out of the hands of terrorists and states that sponsor them. A useful step forward would be to move towards an integrated strategy that joins more conventional anti-nuclear terror activities – i.e., securing nuclear and radioactive assets against theft and sabotage – with efforts to strengthen the core of the nonproliferation regime – i.e., safeguards, physical protection, export controls and strengthened treaty regimes – to prevent terrorist acquisition or brokering in WMD technologies. Prevention of nuclear terrorism and traditional nonproliferation programs form two halves of the same walnut; we cannot treat them as separate enterprises.

Sovereign Responsibility: A Starting Point
The fight against nuclear terrorism must involve all states. Opportunities for terrorists and their supporters to access weapons capabilities are expanding beyond national borders, as illustrated by the A.Q. Khan network and its ability to manufacture components off-shore and move weapons-related technology to clandestine end-users.

This panel is to address lessons for the future, the first one is that as a matter of principle, unless all states accept sovereign responsibility over activities under their jurisdiction and control – whether that is trade and border controls or regulation of nuclear materials or nuclear facilities that are in conformance with international regimes – we risk some future, catastrophic act of nuclear terror. This is a future that we have a collective responsibility to avoid.

The President’s Nonproliferation Initiatives
An approach that rests on the principle of sovereign responsibility will work best when nonproliferation regimes are strong. Regrettably, the patchwork of treaties, arrangements, and state obligations that form the nonproliferation regime are facing serious challenges.

Last February, President Bush highlighted nuclear proliferation dangers and called on the international community to “translate into action” the consensus that proliferation cannot be tolerated and must be stopped. Let me group the President’s proposals into four imperatives and comment briefly on each.

First, efforts to secure high-risk materials must be expanded. This is an important area of work for the United States and our G-8 and other partners. Cooperation with Russia, given its vast stores of weapons-suitable material, is naturally a first-order priority. Our strategy to ensure the security of weapons material has five core elements:

  • Stopping the further production of fissile material usable in weapons;
  • Consolidating high-risk material and repatriating fresh and spent HEU from research reactors;
  • Protecting vulnerable nuclear and radioactive materials by accelerating security upgrades and deploying radiation detection systems at strategic transit points worldwide;
  • Eliminating excess weapons-grade plutonium, continuing to down blend excess HEU for commercial power and, to the extent possible, ending the use of HEU in civil nuclear applications; and
  • Ensuring that sustainable national nuclear regulatory programs are in place to keep nuclear materials and facilities under proper control.

This cooperation has yielded tremendous progress in recent years, protecting or eliminating fissile material equivalent to many hundreds of nuclear weapons.

Newer initiatives like the U.S. Global Threat Reduction Initiative are moving forward to build international support for national efforts to identify, secure, recover, and facilitate the disposition of nuclear and radioactive materials of possible interest to terrorists. Since last September, this initiative has repatriated fresh HEU fuel from Uzbekistan and the Czech Republic to Russia, initiated regional training programs, and initiated more than ten other joint projects.

As the two largest nuclear states, a special burden falls on the United States and Russia to keep nuclear and radioactive materials out of the hands of terrorists. Cooperation with Russia on nuclear security will remain a priority for the United States. Cooperative programs have wide support, are well funded, and are a regular discussion item between the U.S. and Russian governments, as was indicated by the recent Joint Statement on Nuclear Security Cooperation at the Bush-Putin meeting in Bratislava. An important and growing element of our cooperation is to exchange best practices, first with one another and subsequently with all states and with the IAEA. No matter how good a security system is, there is always something to learn in exchanges with other professionals.

The United States is not advocating measures for others that it is unwilling to accept for itself. We are tightening regulatory controls and have dramatically improved our internal security posture. We have installed additional protective barriers external to facilities, and upgraded existing barriers for increased strengthening. Our perimeter alarm systems have been enhanced to counter the increased threat, and we have strengthened security to protect sensitive shipments. Facility access controls for employees and visitors to our facilities have been upgraded, and we have enhanced our protective forces training to focus on tactical training to oppose terrorists. We take this threat very seriously.

Second, states must scrupulously comply with international nonproliferation undertakings, whether under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), IAEA safeguards, international nuclear and radiological conventions, or the new UN Security Council Resolution 1540.

The NPT requires that all states complete a safeguards agreement with the IAEA; yet more than thirty Treaty states have yet to do so. Many fewer states have signed, much less ratified the Additional Protocol to IAEA safeguards or have the infrastructure to control exports or monitor borders for illicit, WMD-related trade. This lucrative opportunity to potential proliferators must be eliminated. I am proud of the leadership my government has shown in signing and ratifying the Additional Protocol, which, as the President has recommended, must become a new universal standard for nonproliferation.

Knowing what we now know about the sophistication of the nuclear black market, if trade controls fail then countering proliferation through the interdiction of trade is clearly needed. This is the purpose of the Proliferation Security Initiative (PSI), launched by the United States and others in 2003 to promote interdiction principles, share information and conduct operational exercises. Resolution 1540 and PSI come together in an important respect: in order for interdiction to succeed, states must have the legal basis and means both to identify and hold seized trade.

The global reach of the A.Q. Khan network was telling in this regard. Consider the report of the Malaysian Inspector-General of Police concerning the involvement of a Malaysian company in the Libyan nuclear procurement ring. According to this report, nuclear specialists within Malaysia were unable to identify controlled components as those that might contribute to Libya’s uranium enrichment program. This experience was repeated in other countries, and suggests that unless states take seriously their domestic responsibilities to control activities under their jurisdiction, the gaps exploited by the Khan network will continue to be open to tomorrow’s proliferators and terrorists.

In addition to greater vigilance by states, targeted and coordinated programs of assistance are also needed. The United States promotes cooperative exchange programs on export control, border security, and physical protection to redress these implementation gaps. The programs have expanded in recent years to include more than 50 countries in every major region of the world.

The international community must also consider how it can respond to states that take the responsible course of abandoning weapons of mass destruction. The United States recently expanded efforts to redirect former Soviet weapons scientists towards peaceful commercial employment to include Libyan and Iraqi scientists. These efforts are needed to prevent leakage of WMD know-how, but they also aid states that have turned away from the pursuit of weapons of mass destruction to build their economies and science and technology base.

More could be done to improve coordination of international outreach programs, including use of the IAEA and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) to inform members of 1540 requirements and facilitate training activities or elaborate “codes of conduct” and “best practices” for industry and nuclear users.

Third, the integrity of the NPT and IAEA safeguards must be preserved, especially in regions linked to terrorism, religious extremism, and long histories of armed conflict. Though the articles of the NPT and the original IAEA safeguards agreement were drawn up years ago, they remain relevant in today’s world. Our goal must be to ensure that these arrangements are strengthened, complied with, and fully enforced.

Some argue that proliferation in North Korea, Iran, and, before it recanted, Libya, tell the troubling story of an NPT too outdated or weakened to blunt nuclear proliferation. The United States believes this critique is misplaced. Nonproliferation institutions express the will of their members. If we are dissatisfied with regime performance, then the burden falls on us – the peaceful, cooperative governments – to correct deficiencies and demand redress, including earlier intervention by the United Nations Security Council, from those who violate their treaty and international safeguards obligations.

To brace IAEA safeguards, President Bush has called for the creation of a special IAEA verification committee to monitor and enforce compliance with nuclear nonproliferation obligations. Terms of reference for this committee are now under consideration by the IAEA’s Board of Governors. We look forward to examining ways in which IAEA verification authorities can be improved or even expanded. Equally encouraging is the creation of new units within the IAEA to review commercial satellite imagery and monitor foreign procurements. To the extent these new capabilities provide the IAEA with earlier warning of evasive activities, they should be a welcome addition to IAEA safeguards and our common nonproliferation and anti-nuclear terror goals.

For safeguards and global security measures to be fully effective, we need full implementation of new instruments that address nuclear terror. The United States was a strong proponent of efforts last year to complete new Export/Import Guidance for the IAEA Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources.

Implementation of this Guidance is essential for controlling beneficial civilian devices when exported from one country to another and for preventing their theft or use in malicious acts, such as detonation of a dirty bomb. This year, we hope for similar success to update the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The Code and Convention are integral parts in the prevention of nuclear and radiological terrorism, and we will work with others to ensure these instruments are universally applied.

President Bush and the other G-8 leaders urged all states to implement the revised Code of Conduct and recognize it as a global standard at the Sea Island Summit last year. We call upon all Member States to apply the revised Code of Conduct to prevent diversion of sources and acts of radiological terrorism.

Fourth, the proliferation of enrichment and reprocessing technology must be stopped. While terrorist acquisition of an enrichment plant is a low risk, the continuing spread of sensitive nuclear technologies can only create greater opportunities for sub-state actors to acquire weapons materials. Libya, Iran, and North Korea all to one degree or another benefited from the illicit acquisition of enrichment or reprocessing technologies. Unfortunately, the NPT’s right to peaceful nuclear cooperation (Article IV) makes no distinction between sensitive fuel cycle and other nuclear technologies.

Recognizing this risk, President Bush last year proposed that supplier nations refrain from transferring enrichment and reprocessing technologies to states that did not already possess full-scale, functioning enrichment and reprocessing plants. The Nuclear Suppliers Group and G-8 nations continue to examine this proposal, as well as others that would establish solid eligibility criteria for receipt of such transfers and make the Additional Protocol a new condition of peaceful nuclear trade.

At the opening of the nuclear age, Albert Einstein warned that the advent of nuclear fission had changed everything except the way we think, and thus we drift towards disaster. Einstein’s world of one or two masters of nuclear technology was far different from the one we live in today, in which nuclear science and materials are widely spread, but the risk of disaster remains. Nuclear security in today’s age of terrorism requires global participation, not just by national governments, but also by police forces, border guards, cities, communities, harbors, research institutes, and factories.

With a concerted and action-oriented approach to combat nuclear proliferation threats, one that involves the cooperation and input of nations and respect for international agreements, norms, and standards, the United States is convinced that the consensus against proliferation will, as President Bush suggested, be “translated into action.”

Thank you for your attention.

London, England