Rose Gottemoeller, U.S. Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security delivers remarks to the Nuclear Security Working Group

Nuclear Security in the 21st Century

As prepared

Thank you, Steve. I am so pleased to be here today. Thanks also to the Congressional Nuclear Security Working Group Co-Chairs Jeff Fortenberry and Pete Visclosky for hosting us here on the Hill and to Janne Nolan and Brian Finlay for their work in setting this up. I am glad to see so many people here interested in what we can do to reduce the nuclear threat.

Nuclear security is not always in the headlines, but nuclear terrorism is the greatest threat to our collective security. As you all know, terrorist networks have expressed their desire to use weapons of mass destruction, including nuclear weapons. A nuclear weapon in the hands of a terrorist would be a catastrophe for global peace and stability.

That is why this Administration has spent so much time working on this problem.

The United States takes a multi-faceted approach to preventing terrorist acquisition of sensitive nuclear or radioactive materials, such as reducing global stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU), bolstering of security at nuclear facilities, and promoting the establishment of nuclear security Centers of Excellence (COEs). We also partner with a number of international organizations and multilateral instruments to strengthen the global nuclear security architecture.

A strong, well –implemented international nuclear security regime benefits us all. Radioactive fallout doesn’t pay attention to international borders and neither do nuclear smugglers. Sabotage at a nuclear facility in one country would have environmental consequences for its neighbors. A nuclear crisis anywhere is a nuclear crisis everywhere. That’s why we need broad international cooperation.

We are pleased that the International Convention on Suppressing Acts of Nuclear Terrorism has now entered into force. We are still waiting on the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM). It needs just twelve countries for its entry into force. We are grateful for the work Congress did on these treaties. The Administration is now is implementing a campaign to promote entry into force of the CPPNM, as soon as possible.

Dealing with the Threat

For the United States, the top priority is pretty basic - the physical protection of nuclear material. We are also working to enhance nuclear security culture at sensitive facilities to prevent malicious insiders from attempting to divert nuclear material, technology, or know-how.

We work with nuclear operators, regulators, and security services to develop comprehensive programs to ensure the trustworthiness and reliability of staff. We also work to mitigate insider threats and strengthen nuclear security culture practices. Another priority is the development and implementation of nuclear security training for the technical workforce.

Our civil nuclear cooperation agreements with other countries are also important tools in establishing standards for nuclear security. We require that nuclear material from the United States have adequate physical security measures, including in the event such material is re-exported to third countries.

Beyond material control, we are working with international partners to build capabilities to prevent, detect, and respond to radiological and nuclear smuggling threats. We have to work together to make sure that nuclear smugglers and their networks are uncovered, apprehended, and held accountable. This includes working with partners to reinforce the legal foundation on which counter nuclear smuggling activities are built, like ensuring that activities related to nuclear smuggling are criminal acts with appropriate penalties. At the regional level, we also convene dialogues among investigative and judicial experts to share best practices and build relationships. These regional dialogues offer insights for both practitioners and policymakers for how to ensure smugglers are brought to justice.

Looking ahead, we know that the price of freedom from nuclear terrorism is eternal vigilance.

Despite drastic improvements in global nuclear security, the threat that nuclear and radioactive materials remain in illegal circulation continues to be a very real concern. Seizures of HEU in Georgia and Moldova in 2010 and 2011, and allegations made by smugglers in previous cases, suggest additional material may remain available on the black market.

Another concern is related to how criminal activities flourish in ungoverned spaces and conflict zones. That creates ideal opportunities for criminals of all types, including nuclear smugglers. Control of nuclear and radioactive material in such areas is of the utmost importance.

Advances in cyber capabilities also present new threats. Cyber-attacks on the instrumentation and control systems or other key processes at nuclear facilities could lead to the dangerous spread of radiation or radioactive material.

When governments fail to recognize the importance of, or are unable to adequately contribute to, an effective nuclear security regime, we are all at risk. States that are not adequately addressing material control or managing insider threats pose a danger to the whole international community. In fact, every cases of nuclear materials theft where the circumstances are known were perpetrated either by insiders or with the help of insiders.

Funding our Efforts

Given the threats we face, it is extremely important to make sure that all nations spend the necessary amount on nonproliferation and nuclear security efforts.

The United States is making investments in preventing and effectively responding to nuclear terrorism that other governments don’t have the expertise or resources to make – for example, in post-detonation nuclear forensics. The State Department is leveraging these USG investments with international partners, so that we can effectively respond to such a catastrophic nuclear event.

Gaps in implementation of UN Security Council resolution 1540 indicate that many States remain vulnerable to the efforts of terrorists and other illicit actors to obtain WMD, their means of delivery, and related materials. The United States has the experience and resources to lead the international effort to combat this threat and it must continue to do so.

Nuclear Security Summits

I want to quickly touch on the upcoming 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, taking place on March 31 and April 1. This year’s event will build upon the work of the three previous Summits, placing a renewed emphasis on strengthening the global nuclear security architecture, national commitments to enhance the security of materials through Gift Baskets and national statements, and fulfilling commitments made at the previous Summits.

The Summit series had yielded amazing results. That includes:

  • The removal and/or disposition of 2,697 kilograms of vulnerable nuclear material.
  • The removal of civilian-use HEU from 14 countries.
  • Enhanced security of weapons-usable fissile materials around the world.
  • The installation of radiation detection equipment at 250 international border crossings, airports, and seaports to combat illicit trafficking in nuclear materials.

Further, after a focused diplomatic effort by the United States, Japan agreed to shut down its fast critical assembly at Tokai and send the material to the United States. After working through extensive logistics and security planning, the return of a large quantity of highly desirable nuclear material will occur in 2016.

Summit participants will seek to maintain the momentum of the Summit process after 2016, including through developing Action Plans for five key international organizations and initiatives: the UN, the IAEA, INTERPOL, Global Partnership, and the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism.

With that I will close by saying that issues of fissile material control and portal monitoring can seem technical and boring, but I can assure you that our efforts are nothing short of existential. If we don’t get this right, nothing else really matters. We have a lot of work ahead, but I know we are up to the task.

Thank you and I look forward to your questions.