More than 10 years ago, a film titled 'The Peacemaker' starring Hollywood stars George Clooney and Nicole Kidman made a moderate hit. The movie, which dealt with the efforts to prevent a terrorist group from making an attack with a stolen nuclear bomb upon UN Headquarters in New York, was a stark reminder of the risk of nuclear terrorist attacks. Fortunately, the terrorist group's attempt was finally thwarted.
We may not be always that fortunate in the real world. According to IAEA's Illicit Trafficking Database, more than 2,000 cases of illegal trafficking, theft or loss of nuclear and radiological materials have been reported around the world from 1993 to 2011. About 60 percent of those materials have not been recovered. In addition, it is estimated that currently about 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium (HEU) and around 500 tons of plutonium are stored in various locations throughout the world. What if some terrorist groups acquire those materials and use them to threaten humanity?
In addition, 32 countries submitted the national progress report over 70 commitments on specific actions to enhance nuclear security. The participating countries have shown that nearly all of these have been achieved. For example, the United States and Russia over the past two years converted highly enriched uranium, which could be used to make 3,000 nuclear weapons, into low enriched uranium for use in nuclear power plants. 480 kilograms of highly enriched uranium for civilian use have been removed from eight countries over the past two years. In particular, Ukraine and Mexico removed all of their highly enriched uranium to become HEU cleanout states.
All these efforts and achievements confirmed at the Seoul Summit, however, do not guarantee ultimately nuclear security. That could be provided through raising the awareness and alertness of the civil society. That was also the lesson of the Hollywood hit, 'The Peacemaker'.
Seung-Ho KIM is Chargé d’Affaires a.i.,The Mission of the Republic of Korea to the EU