USA — Risk of Nuclear Attack Has Grown, Obama Says

WASHINGTON, April 13, 2010 — While the risk of nuclear war between coun­tries has dropped, the risk of a nuclear attack has risen, Pres­i­dent Barack Oba­ma said today.
Oba­ma offi­cial­ly opened the Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit here, where lead­ers of 47 nations are meet­ing to address the prob­lems of nuclear mate­ri­als and the threats that rogue nations and ter­ror­ist groups pose.

Dozens of nations have nuclear mate­ri­als that could be sold or stolen and fash­ioned into nuclear weapons, Oba­ma said. “Just the small­est amount of plu­to­ni­um, about the size of an apple, could kill and injure hun­dreds of thou­sands of inno­cent peo­ple,” the pres­i­dent said.

Ter­ror groups would use the weapon if they could get their hands on one, Oba­ma told the group, specif­i­cal­ly cit­ing al-Qaida’s efforts to acquire nuclear mate­ri­als. “If they ever suc­ceed­ed, they would sure­ly use it,” he said. “Were they to do so, it would be a cat­a­stro­phe for the world, caus­ing extra­or­di­nary loss of life and strik­ing a major blow to glob­al peace and sta­bil­i­ty.” Nuclear ter­ror­ism is the great­est threat to the world today, and the world needs to take action, he added.

The meet­ing is an out­growth of the president’s call for an inter­na­tion­al effort to secure all vul­ner­a­ble nuclear mate­ri­als in four years.

“This is one part of a broad­er com­pre­hen­sive agen­da that the Unit­ed States is pur­su­ing, includ­ing reduc­ing our nuclear arse­nal and stop­ping the spread of nuclear weapons – an agen­da that will bring us clos­er to our ulti­mate goal of a world with­out nuclear weapons,” he said.

Unit­ed Nations Secu­ri­ty Coun­cil Res­o­lu­tion 1887 endors­es this agen­da.

White House offi­cials said progress already has been made, with Ukraine agree­ing to get rid of its weapons-grade nuclear mate­ri­als by 2012.

Oba­ma detailed the conference’s agen­da, not­ing that the morn­ing ses­sion would look at ways to secure nuclear mate­ri­als, and to pre­vent illic­it traf­fick­ing and smug­gling. The lunch ses­sion will look at ways to strength­en the Inter­na­tion­al Atom­ic Ener­gy Agency. The after­noon ses­sion will look at strength­en­ing coop­er­a­tion and to form part­ner­ships among nations to pre­vent nuclear mate­ri­als from ever falling into the hands of ter­ror­ists.

South Korea has agreed to host the next Nuclear Secu­ri­ty Sum­mit in 2012.

“For the sake of our com­mon secu­ri­ty, for the sake of our sur­vival, we can­not drift,” Oba­ma said. “We need a new man­ner of think­ing and action. That is the chal­lenge before us.”

U.S. Depart­ment of Defense
Office of the Assis­tant Sec­re­tary of Defense (Pub­lic Affairs)