Denmark and Nuclear Security21 March, 2012
Denmark will participate at the Nuclear Security Summit on 26-27 March in Seoul, South Korea. Despite Denmark’s status as a small state without nuclear weapons and nuclear energy, it has surprisingly a lot to offer at the world’s largest nuclear security summit
The Nuclear Security SummitsIn his 2009 Prague speech, US President Barack Obama singled out nuclear terrorism as the most serious threat to international security and called for a new international effort to secure vulnerable nuclear materials around the world. A year later, Obama hosted 47 leaders (including 39 heads of state) in Washington D.C. for a one-day summit on nuclear security. In their Washington Communiqué, the leaders underscored broad support for Obama’s ambitious goal of securing vulnerable materials worldwide within four years; a plan of work containing specific technical measures for guiding cooperation; and that the next Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) would be held in Seoul, South Korea, in 2012. With Denmark and six other countries added to this year’s list of participants, the Seoul Summit will host 54 countries and four international organizations, surpassing the Washington summit to become the largest security summit held.
Since the Washington Summit, approximately 80 percent of the national nuclear security commitments made have been completed. These include Russia ending its plutonium production, Chile shipping out the last of its stocks of highly enriched uranium (HEU), Kazakhstan securing enough HEU and plutonium to make 775 nuclear weapons, while Ukraine is on pace to completely eliminate its HEU stockpile this year. Additionally, China and the US have agreed to work together to establish a ‘Center of Excellence’ to promote effective nuclear security practices and safeguards throughout Asia.
At Seoul, the South Koreans will seek to obtain a new set of commitments from states, which could include establishing more Centers of Excellence for training, financial pledges to the Nuclear Security Fund of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and enhancing export controls or passing legislation, such as the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials (CPPNM). The 2012 NSS will offer leaders an opportunity to take additional steps to strengthen nuclear security measures by identifying more nuclear security gaps and by moving from a system of voluntary action towards developing binding baseline standards on nuclear security.
The Danish Experience
Denmark is one of 188 states that do not possess nuclear weapons, representing some 95 percent of the UN membership. There are no nuclear power plants in the country, with one research reactor currently under decommissioning (and two research reactors already fully decommissioned). In Denmark, risks associated with nuclear materials are therefore limited to radiation facilities in operation (approximately 1,900 medical and 2,300 others) and the transportation of radioactive materials. Essentially a country that has foregone the nuclear fuel cycle, it is not surprising that a recent nuclear security index gave Denmark a perfect score for countries without weapons-usable materials.
Denmark also has some of the oldest acts of legislation governing nuclear materials. It was one of the first countries to legislate controls on radioactive substances (Act No. 94 of 31 March 1953, modified by Act No. 369 of 6 June 1991), on nuclear installations (Act No. 170 of 16 May 1962), and on safety and environmental aspects of nuclear installations (Act No. 244 of 12 May 1976). With the security of radioactive sources added to the Seoul agenda, the experience of the Danish National Institute for Radiation Protection (NIHR) will be of great interest for other countries – particularly the NIHR’s national database which monitors and tracks the some 11,000 radioactive sources in Denmark. Additionally, Denmark’s export control system has always placed great emphasis on dialogue and cooperation with industry, giving Denmark a distinctive edge in government/industry cooperation which is indispensable for efficient enforcement.
Internationally, Denmark is a state party to the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism and the CPPNM, including the CPPNM’s 2005 Amendment which legally binds state parties to protect nuclear facilities and material in civilian use, storage and transport (which the US and others have yet to ratify). Denmark has also been a regular contributor to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund with 7 million DKK provided in 2007-2008; 3 million DKK in 2009-10 and another funding announcement for 2012-2013 to be made at the summit.
As a whole, Denmark’s historical blending of safety and security practices and stakeholder involvement show how non-nuclear countries have long understood the safety and security challenges that accompany nuclear technology. Going (and staying) non-nuclear in the nuclear age may not be an entirely graceful historical process, but Denmark’s non-nuclear approach represents how nuclear security functions at one end of the spectrum. With legislation and volumes of nuclear materials varying from country to country, there is a need for globally-binding measures to ensure confidence in national controls. Denmark can help to make this a priority at Seoul while reminding of the larger goal: a world without nuclear weapons is the best security for all.