Leaders Agree to Offer HEU Reduction Plans by 2013

Participants adopt the Seoul Communique seeking to bring the CPPNM into force by 2014


Leaders from around the world agreed to submit plans to reduce stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) by the end of next year to combat nuclear threats.
Heads of state and representatives from 53 countries as well as the heads of four international organizations unilaterally adopted the Seoul communique as they wrapped up the two-day 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) at COEX in Seoul on March 27.
As he held a news conference to announce the outcome of the 2012 NSS, President Lee Myung-bak, the chair of the summit, said, ¡°The key achievements of this conference are that progress has been made on the issue of cutting down on HEU and plutonium, which is of the greatest significance in preventing nuclear terrorist acts.¡±
Lee stressed that it is significant for the participating leaders to reach an agreement to submit their own HEU reduction plans by the end of next year. His comment indicates that even though actual reduction goals were set, it is important for each country to reveal its own plan to reduce HEU stockpiles on a voluntary basis. Ukraine and Mexico decided to completely remove HEU, he said.
Experts offered praise for the summit's result, as there was a consensus among the NSS participants on converting from HEU to low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel in the medical research sectors. HEU could be used for making deadly weapons at the hands of terrorist groups, but LEU is considered too low to do so.
In a related development, Korea, the United States, France, and Belgium announced a joint project to covert from HEU to LEU fuel in research reactors.
In a joint announcement made on March 27, the joint project involves the centrifugal atomization technology developed by the Korea Atomic Energy Research Institute. Under the agreement, the United States will supply the LEU. Korea will convert the substance into atomized uranium molybdenum power, the starting substance for producing high-density uranium molybdenum fuel, which is the alternative to HEU proposed by the participants of the projects.
The communique stated that the participating entities seek to bring the 2005 amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM) into effect by 2014. The convention is the most effective regime to prevent the trafficking of nuclear materials and their falling into the hands of suspicious groups. Seven years have passed since the convention was adopted in 2005, but only 55 countries have signed the pact, still falling short of the 99 countries needed for a quorum.
It called for eliminating and disposing of HEU no longer in use.
The statement welcomed an international conference in 2013 organized by the IAEA to coordinate nuclear security activities.
The communique called for strengthening the physical protection of nuclear facilities and enhancing emergency response capabilities in the case of radiological accidents while comprehensively addressing nuclear security and safety concerns.

Global leaders discuss ways of reducing stockpiles of highly-enriched uranium (HEU) to combat nuclear threats at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit on March 27.
Photos on courtesy of the MCST.

Some 200 leaders of the world nuclear industry pose for a group photo session before wrapping up the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Industry Summit on March 24. They announced a joint statement including detailed and practical measures.

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