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Nuclear Security Summit ends with whimper, not a bang
SEOUL — The 2012 Nuclear Security Summit concluded Tuesday with participating nations endorsing a range of measures to make the world safe from nuclear terrorism.
But independent experts criticized the summit's "modest" progress and failure to include more binding agreements.
Summit host South Korean President Lee Myung-bak called the two-day event a "milestone" and a gift to "children and grandchildren."
The summit's first day was dominated by sideline discussions on North Korea, missile defense, Iran and Syria. But the second day got down to official business — preventing nuclear cataclysms by nonstate actors.
An 11-point document called the "Seoul Communique" noted the summit's successes, and outlined progress achieved since the inaugural 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington.
The communique set a target date of 2014 for countries to adopt an amendment to the Convention for the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials that encourages minimizing the use of bomb-grade highly enriched uranium in nuclear reactors.
• Increasing the powers and funds of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
• Improving nuclear forensics, the science that allows atomic materials to be identified from their place of origin.
• Encouraging cooperation in information security and combating illicit trafficking.
• Enhancing safety in transporting nuclear materials.
"I'd not characterize these as small steps," said U.S. Energy Secretary Stephen Chu. "This is a very aggressive timetable, a lot of action is happening, the world is becoming a safer place."
Independent observers were more critical.
The Fissile Materials Working Group, a U.S.-based nonprofit comprising 40 nonproliferation and nuclear security groups, characterized the summit results as "modest," and demanded bolder action.
The group said the current international nuclear security regime is a patchwork of agreements signed by countries voluntarily, and so lacks consistency, accountability or enforceability.
"This summit sounds like a program review: All we are getting are briefings by bureaucrats on what they have been doing," said Ken Luongo, president of the Partnership for Global Security. "Technical details at a political summit have their place, but it's insufficient. Where's the vision?"
Miles Pomper, a senior research associate at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, said that other countries "are not getting a lot out of the Russians about what their commitments are at this summit."
Mr. Pomper said he would have liked the Russians to announce they were converting two of their reactors from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium.
More than 50 world leaders, including resident Obama, Russian President Dmitry Medvedev and Chinese President Hu Jintao, attended the summit.
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