The fourth and likely final Nuclear Security Summit(NSS) again highlighted the greatest security threat to the world: nuclear terrorism. U.S. President Barack Obama and other world leaders in the Summit have consistently championed the “central and unique role” of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) as the lead international coordinator on nuclear security initiatives. In reality, however, the IAEA is hindered by inherent challenges to nuclear security, highlighted not at the NSS but at the NGO Side Summit: Solutions for a Secure Nuclear Future. Moving forward, successful measures to counter contemporary nuclear security threats call for more dynamic, IAEA-led, collaborative efforts.
Specifically, speaker Ambassador Rafael Mariano Grossi, former chief of cabinet in the Office of the Director General and Assistant Director General for Policy of the IAEA, outlined two challenges the IAEA faces. First, states are hesitant to permit the IAEA to have a lead coordinating role on nuclear security initiatives. Second, there is a gap between the 53 nations that participated in the NSS and the 168 member states of the IAEA. This disconnect is indicative of the international community failing to recognize that a major failure in nuclear security resulting in nuclear or radiological terror will have a widespread impact. Nuclear security is a global problem that requires a global solution. The 2016 NGO Side Summit Statement puts it well: “any nuclear terrorist event anywhere in the world will have profoundly negative consequences for the economies, societies, and security of all nations.” Moving forward from the final NSS, solutions to nuclear security require international cooperation beyond what we have seen so far and an IAEA enabled to lead those efforts.
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