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Seoul Communique considers new dimensions of nuclear security

Some progress has been made in global efforts for nuclear security as leaders of more than 50 nations and four international organizations put their heads together to strengthen their cooperation at the Nuclear Security Summit here.

Adopted Tuesday at the close of the summit, the Seoul Communique saw leaders agree on more concrete plans than at the inaugural Washington summit in 2010.

The communique urged states to develop multilateral cooperation, involving international organizations such as the United Nations, International Atomic Energy Agency and Interpol, to maintain a strong nuclear security culture.

New to the document was the inclusion of the need for Global Nuclear Security Architecture, where multilateral instruments address the issue of security. This includes the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Leaders also added a separate clause to address the malicious use of radioactive sources, asking for tightened measures in securing such material.

As expected, with Japan’s Fukushima nuclear plant crisis, the communique also ties together the issue of nuclear safety and security, asking that they be “managed in nuclear facilities in a coherent and synergistic manner.”

The communique also specified the need for “effective emergency preparedness, response and mitigation capabilities.” The issue of nuclear facility safety is a new addition to this year’s document.

“Notable achievements (in the communique) are a consensus on and vision for strengthening nuclear security-safety as well as raising the importance of radiological security since the 2010 summit,” said Kim Du-yeon, deputy director of nuclear nonproliferation at the Center for Arms Control and Nonproliferation.

Unlike the 2010 Washington Communique, the document further elaborated on the reaffirmed role of the IAEA and reiterated the present nations’ continued support for the agency.

The participating leaders also applauded the proposal by the IAEA to hold an international conference in 2013, to further address the issue of nuclear security.

“We will work to ensure that the IAEA continues to have the appropriate structure, resources and expertise needed to support the implementation of nuclear security objectives,” said the communique.

The statement also suggested that states and the IAEA develop nuclear forensic capabilities to combat trafficking.

The document also echoed the issue regarding the use of highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Using similar wording as its predecessor, it called for countries to convert their reactors from HEU to low enriched uranium fuel.

And as expected by experts, the communique supported the role of both the IAEA and Interpol in nuclear security and went further in suggesting what states could do in cooperation.

In order to combat the illicit trafficking of nuclear material, the communique also urged states to enroll in the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database program, and also share information with Interpol’s Radiological and Nuclear Terrorism Prevention Unit, a step beyond the Washington Communique.

But much like the 2010 Washington Nuclear Security Summit, experts believe the Seoul Communique is much of the same, resulting in a document that is vague and general.

Experts like William Tobey, a senior fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, saw the 2010 document as general and non-binding, which was reiterated during the 2012 summit.

Whereas the Washington Communique was accompanied by a Working Plan, the Seoul Communique is a combination of the two.

By Robert  Lee (
catch table
Korea Herald daum