Nuclear Security Summit's Scope May Grow

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The range of issues to be discussed at next year's nuclear security summit in Seoul may be broadened to cover radioactive sources, the lead South Korean official for summit preparations recently said.

Some countries also are pressing for nuclear safety to be added to the agenda in the aftermath of the March 11 tsunami that devastated Japan's Fukushima reactor complex, he added.

Speaking at a conference in Vienna on April 13, Kim Bong-hyun, South Korea's deputy foreign minister for multilateral and global affairs, outlined a series of "key points to further and expand discussions" based on the work plan adopted at the first nuclear security summit. At that meeting, which took place in April 2010 in Washington, the participants agreed to meet for a follow-on summit in Seoul in 2012. (See ACT, May 2010.) At a May 9 press conference in Berlin, South Korean President Lee Myung-bak announced the date of the 2012 summit, saying that it would take place March 26-27.

The nine issues Kim listed at the Vienna conference, which was hosted by the Fissile Materials Working Group and the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation, were guidelines for managing highly enriched uranium, transportation security, illicit trafficking of nuclear materials, nuclear forensics, nuclear security culture, treaty ratification, coordination among various nuclear security initiatives and regimes, information security, and radioactive sources. Of these, the final two were not addressed at the Washington summit and would represent an expansion of the summit's scope. Kim said these points were identified last November at a meeting in Buenos Aires of "sherpas," or officials who lead their government's preparations for an event such as the nuclear security summit. Kim is the South Korean sherpa for the 2012 summit.

On radioactive sources, Kim said the "possibility of a terrorist attack using a 'dirty bomb' is higher than that of nuclear terrorism." A particular challenge in this area will be for countries to define "which radiological materials should be regulated, taking into account cost-effectiveness," he said.

Kim noted that since the March 11 tsunami, which overwhelmed the Fukushima reactor complex and caused radioactive particles to be released into the atmosphere, some countries have expressed an interest in addressing nuclear safety issues at the summit. (See ACT, May 2011.) The Fukushima incident exposed vulnerabilities that could potentially be replicated by "persons of malicious intent," he added.

One open question for the South Korean government is which countries it will invite to participate in the 2012 summit; representatives of 47 states and three international organizations attended the Washington summit. Kim said his government was considering expanding the list of participants for next year's summit, but that it would first have to carefully consider how that would affect the interaction among participants. …