Parliamentarians support 4th Nuclear Security Summit: Call for high-level process for nuclear disarmament

Nuclear Security Summits have helped prevent nuclear terrorism. But the risk of nuclear terrorism is highlighted by ISIS targeting nuclear power facilities in Belgium, and other incidents. PNND leaders say that sustainable nuclear security requires verified nuclear disarmament.

52 Heads of State will meet in Washington on Mar 31-Apr 1 for the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, the 4th (and probably final) in a series of summits which aim to prevent the acquisition of nuclear weapons or bomb-making materials by terrorist organisations.

‘The three previous summits have been instrumental in strengthening national measures, building international cooperation and implementing international agreements to secure nuclear materials and facilities around the world,’ says Alyn Ware, Global Coordinator of Parliamentarians for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Disarmament (PNND).

This work has, so far, prevented terrorists from acquiring nuclear materials or producing radiological weapons. However, the continuing threat of nuclear terrorism is real – as indicated by recent reports of ISIS plans to acquire nuclear materials for a radiological bomb.’

On March 26, just two days after terrorists attacked the Brussels airport and subway system, the Washington Times reported that a security guard for a Belgian nuclear facility was murdered and his security access badge was stolen, possibly as part of an ISIS plot to attack the nuclear power plant.

Joe Cirincione, President of the Ploughshares Fund, reported in October last year that the FBI has intercepted four attempts made by nuclear smugglers to sell radioactive materials to Middle Eastern extremists, including in February 2015 ‘when a smuggler offered a huge cache of deadly cesium — enough to contaminate several city blocks — and specifically sought a buyer from the Islamic State group.’

Nuclear security requires disarmament

In an Open Letter released today entitled Sustainable nuclear security requires universal non-proliferation controls and nuclear disarmament measures (also in Arabic and Russian), PNND Co-Presidents and Council members welcome the Nuclear Security Summit, and commend President Obama for initiating this effort following his historic speech in Hradcany Square, Prague on April 9, 2009.

The existence of bomb-grade nuclear materials creates the risk of the fabrication and use of a nuclear weapon or radiological (‘dirty’) bomb.  Any such use would have catastrophic humanitarian and environmental consequences, causing immeasurable suffering. This must be prevented.’

However, the letter notes that ‘only by abolishing nuclear weapons will we eliminate the risk of nuclear weapons being used by a terrorist – or a state – whether by accident, miscalculation or madness…. We therefore strongly urge you to pledge at the Nuclear Security Summit to support a similar high level process for nuclear disarmament.’

The United Nations General Assembly has decided to hold a High Level Conference on Nuclear Disarmament no later than 2018. This could be turned into the first of a series of summits on nuclear disarmament and the achievement of a nuclear-weapon-free world.

PNND is sending the Open Letter to all 52 governments participating in the 4th Nuclear Security Summit, along with A Nuclear-Weapon-Free World: Our Common Good, a joint declaration of mayors, parliamentarians and religious leaders. PNND is also sending the two documents to Russia and the Democratic Peoples’ Republic of Korea, the two nuclear-armed countries not participating in the Summit.

Enacting the call

Endorsers of the letter are taking action in their own legislatures and in international organisations to advance the nuclear disarmament call.

Senator Ed Markey (USA) has introduced the Smarter Approach to Nuclear Expenditure (SANE) Act, calling on the US government to slash the budget for nuclear weapons by half and invest the funds in education, health, renewable energies, the environment, job creation and international diplomacy.

The SANE Act will cut spending on outdated, wasteful nuclear weapons and related programs over the next ten years and will strengthen our long-term economic and national security,’ says Senator Markey. Co-sponsors include Senator Bernie Sanders currently running for the Democratic Party nomination for President.

Saber Chowdhury MP (Bangladesh), has helped mobilise the Inter Parliamentary Union (IPU), in which he serves as President, to call for the phased elimination of nuclear deterrence and to support multilateral negotiations for a nuclear weapons convention. See World body of parliaments calls for negotiations to abolish nuclear weapons. Over 160 parliaments are members of IPU, including those from all but one of the nuclear-armed States.

Christine Muttonen MP (Austria) has moved the Parliamentary Assembly of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe to call for a reduction in nuclear threat postures and to support multilateral negotiations for nuclear disarmament including through the United Nations Open Ended Working Group.

Bill Kidd MSP (Scotland) has led the Scottish parliament and government to oppose the UK Trident nuclear weapons system – which is based in Faslane, Scotland.

Baroness Sue Miller (UK) has encouraged the UK government to participate in the international conferences on the humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons and the UN Open Ended Working Group on Multilateral Nuclear Disarmament Negotiations, and has been calling on the UK to step up the P5 process agreed at the 2010 NPT Review Conference. (See UK Parliament Hansard, Nuclear War: International Conference).

Senator Salwa Damen Masri (Jordan) moved the senate of Jordan to symbolically ‘wave goodbye to nuclear weapons’ during the 2015 NPT Review Conference and highlighted the nuclear disarmament call further with a special session of the senate on September 26 – the International Day for the Total Elimination of Nuclear Weapons. This include a senate screening of the movie ‘The Man Who Saved the World.’

Paul Dewar (Canada) initiated a joint letter to President Obama from parliamentarians from NATO countries supporting Obama’s vision for a nuclear-weapon-free world and committing to help ‘create the conditions for a nuclear-weapons-free world’ by promoting mechanisms and approaches for achieving security without nuclear weapons.