A 2009 speech by President Obama focused high-level attention on the threat of nuclear terrorism and a need for a comprehensive nuclear security effort. By his initiative the first Nuclear Security Summit initiating global engagement was held in Washington D.C. in April 2010. It attracted world leaders from 47 countries and 3 international organizations: the European Union, the United Nations and the IAEA. The second summit was held in Seoul, South Korea in March 2012. It attracted six more countries and one more international organization, Interpot. The third Summit was held in March 2014 in The Hague, Netherlands. The 2014 summit was attended by 58 world leaders, including President Obama, some 5,000 delegates and some 3,000 journalists.
The next Nuclear Security Summit is scheduled for 2016 in Chicago.
The Summits are designed to energize, enhance, empower, and elevate the many existing multilateral, cooperative institutions and structures aimed at securing nuclear materials and preventing nuclear smuggling. Since the launch of the nuclear summit series in 2010, the number of countries that have enough material to build a nuclear weapon has fallen from 39 to 25.
There are four key activities that can be summarized from the outcomes of the Summits. These guide the policy makers and the professionals working in this field on the important aspects of the Nuclear Security plan. The four key activity goals include:
- Minimizing the use of highly enriched uranium (HEU)
- Bolstering security at nuclear facilities through international instruments and organizations such the International Atomic Energy Agency
- Instituting measures to detect and prevent illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials
- Establishing Centers of Excellence in participating States (i.e. nations) that address the need for capacity building, technology development, and coordination of assistance on nuclear security.
The faculty and staff at UMass Lowell have made direct contributions to all four areas.