Thank you very much. It's an honour to be here to talk about a topic that I think is extraordinarily important to the security of Canada, the United States, and the world.
I agree with a great deal, essentially all, of what Mr. Barber had to say on these points. The potential consequences if terrorists did manage to detonate a nuclear bomb are so horrifying, both for the country attacked and for the world, that even a small probability is enough to demand urgent action to reduce that probability further. Canada and the United States have been leaders in that effort to secure nuclear material and prevent nuclear terror zones, as Mr. Barber described.
Since the September 11 attacks in the United States, both countries have improved security for their own nuclear materials, helped others to do the same, helped to strengthen the International Atomic Energy Agency's efforts, and worked to strengthen other elements of the global response. But if the United States and Canada are to succeed in convincing other countries to take a responsible approach to reducing the risks of nuclear theft and terrorism at the Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands in 2014 and beyond, then our two countries have to take the lead in taking responsible action ourselves.
Hence, it is important for both of our countries to ratify the main conventions in this area: the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, the amendment to that convention, and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism. This is what the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit called on countries to do. As you know, the leaders at the Seoul summit set a target of gaining enough ratifications to bring the amendment to the physical protection convention into force by the 2014 summit. The legislation before you would make it possible for Canada to ratify both of these conventions, and I urge you to approve that legislation.
Unfortunately, and embarrassingly, my own country, the United States, has not yet approved the comparable legislation. I regarded it as an embarrassment that we failed to do that before the 2010 summit, and it's a worse embarrassment that we failed to do it again before the 2012 summit. The process is still under way. I am at least somewhat optimistic that we will succeed in getting it done, if not this year, then before the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit. But I think we've got a good chance of doing it this year.
The danger of nuclear terrorism remains very real. Government studies in the United States and in other countries have concluded that if terrorists manage to get enough highly enriched uranium or plutonium, they might very well be able to make a crude nuclear bomb capable of incinerating the heart of a major city. In the case of highly enriched uranium, making such a bomb is basically a matter of slamming two pieces together at high speed. The amounts required are small, and smuggling them is frighteningly easy.
The core of al Qaeda is, as President Obama mentioned the other night, a shadow of its former self, but regional affiliates are metastasizing and some of the key nuclear operatives of al Qaeda remain free today. With at least two terrorist groups having pursued nuclear weapons seriously in the last 20 years, we cannot expect that they will be the last. Moreover, some terrorists have seriously considered sabotaging nuclear power plants, perhaps causing something like what we saw at Fukushima in Japan, or dispersing highly radioactive materials in a so-called “dirty bomb”.
Should terrorists succeed in detonating a nuclear bomb in a major city, the political, economic, and social effects would reverberate throughout the world. Kofi Annan, when he was secretary-general of the United Nations, warned that the economic effects would drive millions of people into poverty and create a second death toll in the developing world. Fears that terrorists might have another bomb that they might set off somewhere else would be acute. The world would be transformed, and not for the better.
Hence, insecure nuclear material anywhere is really a threat to everyone, everywhere. This is not just an American judgment. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has warned that nuclear terrorism is one of the most serious threats of our time. Mohamed ElBaradei, while he was head of the IAEA, called it the greatest threat to the world.
Russia's counterterrorism czar, Anatoly Safonov, has warned that they have “firm knowledge” that terrorists have been given specific tasks to acquire nuclear weapons and their components.
A little while ago my colleagues at the Belfer Center and I, working with Russian colleagues, produced a joint U.S.-Russian assessment of the threat of nuclear terrorism, which was then endorsed by a group of retired senior military and intelligence officers from both countries, which I would be happy to provide for the record.
Fortunately, since the collapse of the Soviet Union, we've made tremendous progress around the world in improving security for both nuclear weapons and the materials needed to make them. No longer are there sites where the essential ingredients of a nuclear bomb are sitting in what you and I would consider the equivalent of a high school gym locker with a padlock that could be snapped with a bolt cutter from any hardware store.
At scores of sites around the world, dramatically improved nuclear security has been put in place. At scores of other sites the weapons-usable nuclear material has been removed entirely, reducing the threat of nuclear theft from those sites to zero. More than 20 countries have eliminated all the weapons-usable nuclear material on their soil, and the nuclear security summits have provided new high-level political impetus, which has accelerated this progress.
Nonetheless, as Mr. Barber pointed out, there's a great deal still to be done. My colleagues and I at the Belfer Center, prior to last year's summit, produced a summary report that outlines what has been done and what remains to be done, and I would be happy to provide that for the record as well.
Let me mention a few of the more dangerous areas that still exist.
In Pakistan, a small but rapidly growing nuclear stockpile, which is under heavy security, I believe, faces more extreme threats than any other nuclear stockpile in the world, both from heavily armed extremists who might attack from outside and from potential insiders who might help them.
In Russia, which has the world's largest stockpiles of both nuclear weapons and weapons-usable nuclear material dispersed in the largest number of buildings and bunkers, the nuclear security measures have dramatically improved, but there are still important weaknesses that a sophisticated theft conspiracy might exploit. And sustainability remains a major concern, as Russia still has neither the strong nuclear security rules effectively enforced nor sufficient funds allocated from the federal government to sustain security for the long haul.
At more than a hundred research reactors around the world, you still have highly enriched uranium used as fuel or as targets for the production of medical isotopes, and in many of these reactors, security is very minimal. Some of them are on university campuses.
At the moment, unfortunately, the mechanisms for global governance of nuclear security remain weak. No global rules specify how secure a nuclear weapon or a chunk of plutonium or highly enriched uranium ought to be. There are no mechanisms in place to verify that every country that has these materials is securing them responsibly.
Fukushima made clear that action is needed to strengthen both the global safety regime and the global security regime, because some day terrorists might seek to do what a tsunami did in Fukushima.
A central goal leading up to the 2014 nuclear security summit must be to find ways to work together to strengthen this global framework and continue the high-level attention on this topic after nuclear security summits stop taking place.
Ratifying the conventions now is important, but it should be seen, as Mr. Barber said, as one part of an integrated strategy and really as the beginning of building and strengthening this global framework. I think there are very important roles Canada can play in that effort.
I am thrilled that Canada has taken action to begin reducing the highly enriched uranium left over from past medical isotope production and past research reactor operations in Canada. I think that's a major step forward. An even more important step forward is the efforts Mr. Barber described to help other countries. Also, there are the really dramatic steps, I think very effective and impressive steps, that Canada has taken to strengthen security for its own nuclear material within Canada.
One of the things that happened at the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit was a goal of each country making a statement about what it would do to minimize highly enriched uranium by the end of this year, by December 2013. It is my hope that at that time Canada will join with European and South African producers of medical isotopes in a firm commitment to eliminate the use of HEU in medical isotopes by a date certain, and that Canada will set a target for eliminating the civil HEU on its soil, which is no longer needed.
The passage of this legislation, both in your country and in my country, will be an important and useful step, and I hope that Canada's passage will help kick my own Senate and House of Representatives into action.
Thank you very much. I look forward to the opportunity to answer questions.