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Nuclear terrorism threatens the entire world

The first ever international summit on nuclear security has begun in Washington D.C. US President Barack Obama has invited representatives of 44 states to this summit held in the capital of the USA; in most cases the heads of state or government will be attending. The conference aims to forge a strong alliance in order to prevent weapons-grade nuclear materials falling into the hands of terrorists.

Obama declared that nuclear terrorism is today the greatest threat for the security of the United States and indeed the entire world. "We know that organisations like al Qaeda are in the process of trying to procure a nuclear weapon," said the President. Once terrorists have weapons like this in their hands they will not hesitate to use them. "If there was ever a detonation in New York City, or London, or Johannesburg, the ramifications economically, politically, and from a security perspective would be devastating," warned President Obama.

In Washington D.C. the politicians agreed that the threat of nuclear terrorism is the prime hazard of the 21st century. The states represented now aim to work together to launch a process that will afford protection. The process is to lead to effective standards to protect the world's stockpiles of nuclear materials.

Chancellor Angela Merkel spoke of a remarkable event, and an impressive signal. Never before have high-ranking representatives from around the world met in such numbers.

Campaigning for security systems

Under the point on the agenda "Defining the threat" Angela Merkel went into the problem of "dirty bombs" as they are known. Even a conventional weapon that has "only" been modified to include radioactive materials could have a disastrous impact, she pointed out.

The problem is that there are no international standards for handling slightly enriched uranium in laboratories, hospitals or universities. In Washington D.C. Angela Merkel advocated introducing regulations to cover this, such as those that already exist in Germany under the strict provisions of the Atomic Law. Firstly we need to take stock and identify how the individual states deal with materials of this sort, proposed the Chancellor.

Keeping an eye on all nuclear materials

Germany believes that the final declaration of the summit should not be limited to preventing terrorists getting their hands on a nuclear bomb. Joint international efforts must also bear in mind the hazards posed by radioactive waste from civilian plants.

The German government would like to see the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) play a major part in organising security precautions. Only one international institution can effectively monitor international standards. Last year Germany contributed 10 million euros to support the work of the IAEA.

Nuclear disarmament

Although the danger is less acute, the existing stockpiles of nuclear weapons are still a danger to the human race. Twenty years after the end of the Cold War, the USA and Russia still possess more than 90 per cent of the global nuclear capacity.

The most recent disarmament activities of the USA and Russia, with the New Start (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty) are a reflection of the efforts to retain a balance at a lower level. The recently published new nuclear strategy of the USA pledges that no new nuclear weapons will be developed.

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