Two contrasting views could present obstacles to upcoming global nuclear security summit (2)

09:09, April 07, 2010      

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And securing nuclear materials is no easy task for the roughly 50 nations worldwide that have them, as such operations include tightening border security at myriad ports and border crossings to make sure no bomb making materials get in or out. Unprotected border areas are also a concern.

Civilian nuclear facilities containing the type of highly enriched uranium used to construct a nuclear weapon would also have to be secured -- many are located on university campuses -- as many are not as well guarded as they should be, experts said.

Worldwide, there are enough available nuclear materials to build 120,000 nuclear bombs, and al-Qaida continues to pursue weapons of mass destruction, according to the Fissile Materials Working Group, an organization collaborating in a series of meetings designed to create consensus on controlling fissile materials.

Still, costs could inhibit practical action in some developing countries, said James Acton, associate in the nuclear policy program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace think tank.

Some countries are also "allergic" to policy prescriptions originating in the United States. And while Obama is working to remedy those sensitivities, the balancing act will be difficult, Luongo wrote in a recent article.

But in spite of these obstacles, the summit will be a valuable forum in which to hear every nation's priorities, said Olga Oliker, senior international policy analyst at the Rand Corporation think tank.

Luongo said the summit will likely focus on re-emphasizing mechanisms already in place, such as conventions that many countries have not yet singed onto. That includes the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism -- an agreement of more than 70 nations intended to prevent terrorists from obtaining a nuclear device by safeguarding nuclear materials. Another is the International Atomic Energy Agency's Additional Protocol, an agreement to strengthen safeguards.

More generally, the gathering will seek agreement that a threat exists and what it entails, ask participants to comply with existing mechanisms and to bring their own ideas to the table, he said.

Oliker said the summit should be seen as one in a series of events intended to make headway on the issue.

"I would not expect a giant leap forward from the summit but we might expect some movement toward a better understanding of each others' goals," she said.

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