After two days of negotiations during the Nuclear Security Summit here earlier this week, a range of national commitments towards strengthening the security of nuclear materials were made by attending countries, including a promise by the United States and Russia to dispose of weapons-grade plutonium.
Announcing the plutonium elimination deal, the two countries said they had signed a protocol to “amend and update” the U.S.-Russian Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (PMDA) of the year 2000 — a “major step” in efforts to eliminate nuclear-weapon-grade materials, according to an official statement.
As per the protocol, both the U.S. and Russia are now committed to disposing of a minimum of 34 metric tonnes of excess weapon-grade plutonium with further disposition likely over time. According to the State Department and remarks made by President Barack Obama, the initial combined amount — 68 metric tonnes — represented “enough material for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons”.
Following the announcement of the protocol Russian President Medvedev also announced the imminent shutdown of the country's last plutonium reactor, the ADE-2. According to reports the reactor has produced weapons-grade plutonium for nearly 52 years in the formerly secret Siberian city of Zheleznogorsk.
Mr. Obama highlighted a range of commitments made by the other countries attending the summit, saying the 49-nation gathering had made “unprecedented progress in confronting one of the greatest threats to our global security”, namely nuclear terrorism.
Mr. Obama mentioned Canada's decision to give up a significant quantity of highly enriched uranium, Chile's move to give up its entire stockpile and Ukraine's and Mexico's announcements to do the same.
In the context of the Megaports Initiative for detecting radioactive materials in containerised cargo, Mr. Obama said that Argentina and Pakistan had announced new steps to strengthen port security and prevent nuclear smuggling.
Mr. Obama also detailed the commitments of nations such as Argentina, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam to join and strengthen the treaties and international partnerships “that are at the core of our global efforts”. He added that Italy, Japan, India and China would be creating new centres “to promote nuclear security technologies and training”.
Mr. Obama also said the U.S. had taken concrete steps to secure its nuclear materials further, and was joining Canada in “calling on nations to commit $10 billion to extending our highly successful Global Partnership” to strengthen nuclear security.