Nuclear Weapons | Analysis and New Insights

Global Lockdown: Moving the Needle on Nuclear Security

Dr. Elizabeth Turpen | November 2010


As announced in President Obama’s historic Prague speech in April of 2009, the administration hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) one year later in Washington, DC. The summit’s objective was to build a foundation for multilateral commitments addressing “all vulnerable nuclear materials” in four years. The summit produced a communiqué that embraced President Obama’s four-year commitment to improving the security of fissile material. The summit also produced a comprehensive work plan detailing the initiatives and activities that this effort would entail. Although the summit communiqué and the work plan demonstrated the negotiators’ clear understanding of the complexity of ensuring nuclear security over the long term, the efficacy and, therefore, the sustainability of measures taken within the NSS framework remain a question.

This policy analysis brief examines the international instruments and efforts enshrined in the communiqué and the multifaceted nature of implementation as detailed in the work plan. The NSS itself then will be analyzed within the framework of expediency, efficacy, and sustainability in order to assess the summit’s potential impact and its options for moving its aspirations from paper commitments to a potent international response to the threat of nuclear terrorism. Although much still needs to be done for immediate “lockdown” of vulnerable materials, the emphasis here is on the measures that will ensure nuclear security beyond the immediate consolidation, elimination, and security of vulnerable fissile materials.