AT PRESIDENT OBAMA’S fourth and final nuclear security summit taking place this week, world leaders are confronting the danger posed by nuclear terrorism — specifically, by reducing the ways that terrorists could get their hands on the uranium they would need to build a nuclear bomb.
But critics have pointed out that the summits have only focused on highly enriched uranium in civilian possession, which, according to the Department of Energy, only accounts for 2 to 3 percent of the world’s supply. That small percentage is used mostly by academics for research and medical isotope production.
The remaining 97 to 98 percent is held in military stockpiles, which the security summits have largely ignored. Countries keep the safeguards on these stockpiles secret, and military material falls outside the scope of international security agreements.
One fact sheet from the 2014 summit acknowledges that military stockpiles receive far less attention, and explains: “Nuclear materials in weapons are not excluded from the [nuclear security summit] discussions as such, but the emphasis is on nuclear materials in industry. … military stocks are a sensitive issue, and discussing them could be an obstacle to achieving results in dealing with civil nuclear materials.”