Energy Secretary Addresses Nuclear Security Conference

VIENNA – At an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conference U.S. Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz today announced the United States is embarking on an effort to dilute and dispose of six metric tons of excess plutonium from the Savannah River Site in South Carolina, and that the United States is prepared to work with the IAEA in 2017 to develop a monitoring and verification plan for the disposition process.

Below are Secretary Moniz’ remarks at the conference, which begin with a message from President Obama to the conference:

Let me start with a personal message from President Obama.

“I send warm greetings to all those gathered in Vienna for the second IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security.

“As I noted in Prague in 2009, the most dangerous threat to global security and peace is the acquisition and use of a nuclear weapon by terrorist organizations or individuals. Over the last eight years, we have joined together as a global community to accelerate our efforts to secure and eliminate nuclear materials that could be used in a nuclear device. During that time, we have seen the number of countries with highly enriched uranium decrease from 37 to 20 and removed enough material for over 150 nuclear weapons from more than 50 nuclear facilities. Latin America, the Caribbean, Central Europe and Southeast Asia are now completely free of highly enriched uranium. But there is more work to be done. 

“The IAEA plays an essential and central coordinating role in further strengthening the global nuclear security architecture. By convening this important Conference on a regular basis, the IAEA provides a senior-level venue to make important advances in nuclear security through the ministerial declaration, new national commitments, and the open exchange of ideas. In the years ahead, I am confident the IAEA’s role in nuclear security will continue to grow—and we must work to ensure that it has the resources it needs to achieve success. 

“This year, the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material took effect. This Amendment is important for the secure management of nuclear materials in facilities and during transport. As will be demonstrated in the interactive session, there are significant security benefits for all countries to ratify this treaty. I encourage countries that have not done so to join the amended Convention as soon as possible. Ratifying this treaty will help bolster our ability to prevent, detect, and interdict nuclear materials outside of regulatory control.

“Nuclear security enables the continued use of atoms for peace and development, through the uses that provide low-carbon, sustainable power, address critical water and food shortages, and combat deadly diseases like Zika and Ebola. We can reap the peaceful benefits of the atom only as long as we maintain the safety and security of nuclear materials and facilities that ensure that the benefits of our nuclear achievements continue to be greater than the costs.

“I wish you a productive week of discussions on this immediate and evolving threat.  Congratulations to the IAEA on the success of this Conference.”

That’s the end of the President’s statement, and I would echo the President. The important work of securing nuclear material must continue, and the IAEA’s role must grow.

We all need to play a role, and the strong culture of deliverables must continue beyond the Nuclear Security Summits.

To that end, many of the Joint Statements issued at the final Nuclear Security Summit in Washington will be opened for broader support via the INFCIRC process – and I encourage you to review these statements and to subscribe.

One of those Joint Statements was sponsored by France on permanent risk reduction of radiological sources, including through replacing those sources by alternative technologies. The White House has just released a best practice guide on alternative technologies and we will make this available to interested Member States through the IAEA.

In order to support the IAEA’s role in nuclear security, the United States has given $18 million to the Nuclear Security Fund in 2016.

The United States is specifically partnering with the IAEA to increase the focus on detection countermeasures around key high-population density urban areas, a more robust defense-in-depth approach to national-level nuclear detection architectures.

This work dovetails with the wider imperative for all nations to develop and maintain plans and capabilities for emergency response, and the need to exercise those capabilities.

And it aligns with the IAEA’s 20 years of success in providing nuclear security advisory services.

The United States was pleased to host an International Physical Protection Advisory Service in 2013.

We remain committed to addressing the evolving threat of nuclear terrorism, and invite all IAEA member states to join the U.S. as subscribers to the 2014 Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation Initiative.

We support the IAEA’s commitment to continuous improvement in advisory services as seen most recently in efforts updating International Nuclear Security Advisory Service – or INSServ – missions.

I am happy to announce that the United States is prepared to host an INSServ mission in 2017, when the revised guidelines are finalized.

Additionally, I am pleased to announce that we are embarking on an effort to dilute and dispose of approximately six metric tons of excess plutonium from the Savannah River Site – additional to the 34 metric tons of material we have committed to dispose under the U.S.-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement – and are beginning consultations with the IAEA for the monitoring and verification of this process. This is yet another tangible commitment by the United States to ensure this material will not be used again in nuclear weapons.

Again, let me thank you all for your commitments and actions in support of nuclear security, past, present and future. Thank you.