“Over the past six years we have made significant, meaningful progress in securing the world’s nuclear material so that it never falls into the hands of terrorists.” Global nuke stockpiles falling but some countries expanding arms, plutonium, says American president.
Major strides have been made to reign in nuclear proliferation, but significant work lies ahead, President Barack Obama said Friday - reports Anadolu Agency
“We didn’t just come here to talk, but we came here to act,” he said at a closing press conference at the culmination of a nuclear summit.
“Over the past six years we have made significant, meaningful progress in securing the world’s nuclear material so that it never falls into the hands of terrorists.”
Since the last nuclear summit in 2014, 10 countries have removed 450 kilograms of highly enriched uranium, according to the White House.
“As a result of these efforts, three additional countries are now considered free of the material necessary to produce a nuclear weapon," the White House said.
The reduction of Switzerland, Uzbekistan and Argentina’s stockpiles to less than one kilogram of the material has brought the total number of countries considered free of highly enriched uranium to 29 in addition to Taiwan, whose international status is disputed.
As of the conclusion of the Nuclear Security Summit, South America is completely rid of plutonium and highly enriched uranium, Obama said, noting that when Poland follows suit later this year, central Europe “will be free of them as well” as will southeast Asia when Indonesia completes its removal process later this year.
“As terrorists, and criminal gangs and arms merchants look around for deadly ingredients for a nuclear device, vast regions of the world are now off-limits,” he said.
But while the world has seen progress, it has been uneven, Obama said.
“There’s still a great deal of nuclear and radioactive material around the world that needs to be secured,” he said pointing to growing plutonium stockpiles and “expanding” nuclear arsenals that include small tactical nuclear weapons “in some countries."
The two-day gathering follows the brokering of a major international accord agreement between by the P5+1 group of world powers – the U.S., China, Russia, UK, and France, plus Germany – and Iran, regarding Tehran’s nuclear program.
It was a major achievement for the Obama administration that hails it as a milestone in the effort to curb nuclear proliferation.
Iran has “followed the implementation steps that were laid out” in the agreement, Obama said, noting that his administration is working with world powers to provide “clarity” to businesses about what transactions are now allowed following the removal of nuclear-related sanctions.
“It’s going to take time over the next several months for companies and their legal departments to feel confident that in fact there may not be risks of liability if they do business with Iran,” he said.
Major nuclear power Russia was absent from the Washington summit, which included more than 50 world leaders.
The country’s absence highlighted the difficulties in achieving the lofty non-proliferation goals laid out by the summit.
Russia has the world’s largest nuclear weapons arsenal with some 7,300 warheads, according to the international campaign to abolish nuclear weapons.
Combined with Washington’s stockpile of nearly 7,000 warheads, the countries account for roughly 90 percent of the world’s nuclear arsenal – a legacy of Cold War arms races.
Obama earlier announced that the U.S. would provide a public accounting of the U.S.’ stockpile of fissile material – the first such declaration in a decade.
“That inventory is one that we have reduced considerably,” Obama said, noting that the U.S is “exploring ways to further reduce” its stockpiles of highly enriched uranium on nuclear-powered ships and submarines.
The U.S. has removed 138 tons of its surplus highly enriched uranium – enough to build 5,500 nuclear weapons, Obama said.
He warned during a closing session on the anti-Daesh effort that despite territorial losses in Iraq and Syria, the extremist group “is a threat to us all.”
“As ISIL is squeezed in Syria and Iraq, we anticipate it latching on elsewhere as we have seen most recently and tragically in countries from Turkey to Brussels," he said.