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Jordan- 'Internationalising the issue of nuclear security'  Join our daily free Newsletter

MENAFN - Jordan Times - 21/03/2012

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(MENAFN - Jordan Times) Nuclear energy has become a polarising and controversial issue in Jordan, and elsewhere, especially since the Fukushima disaster that occurred a year ago this week.

Nuclear security, on the other hand, should be less of a dividing issue. Apart from the 440-plus nuclear energy reactors and the 250 research reactors worldwide, numerous facilities such as hospitals and pharmaceutical companies deal with radioactive sources on regular basis, including several in Jordan.

The safety and security of these facilities and the radioactive sources they house is in our collective interest, regardless of where we stand on nuclear energy.

Surprisingly, there have been over 2,164 reported cases of theft, loss and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials recorded in the Illicit Trafficking Database of the International Atomic Energy Association (IAEA) since 1993. Despite the potentially catastrophic outcome of this criminal action or negligence, we rarely ever hear about them.

Given that trafficking almost always implies the illegal transport of materials (or even people) across international borders, multilateral responses are almost always needed to meet these threats. Nuclear security needs to be a collective responsibility of the international community, in the same way that many other issues have now become global in scope.

This was likely a motivation for US President Barack Obama to organise and host the first Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, in 2010.

South Korea will now play host to the second such meeting, on March 26, bringing together 50 heads of state, including His Majesty King Abdullah, to address this issue.

Even more remarkable is that three of the participating countries are not even signatories to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty: Israel, India and Pakistan.

The hosting of the summit in Seoul is quite significant. It points to the growing role of South Korea outside the Asia-Pacific theatre.

Korea is increasingly playing an important role in international issues such as climate change and the G-20. Its growing role in international affairs is matched by its growing economic strength. Korea now ranks 14th among the world's largest economies and 4th among Asia's economies.

Korean companies such as LG, Samsung and Hyundai are now household names in almost every part of the globe. This is all the more impressive when considering that Korea's GDP was equal to that of Egypt's in the 1960s.

President Lee Myung-bak stated that Korea will, as chair of the summit, do everything possible to help define a vision for greater international nuclear security and formulate specific work plans that will put that vision into practice.

This type of practical and cooperative approach is most welcome to those of us working in the non-proliferation community, particularly those not considered part of the "developed world".

The slogan of the summit, "Beyond security, towards peace", is also significant. I interpret it as being indicative of a holistic and non-traditional approach to security.

For instance, the summit will deal with the interface between security and safety, something that is not typical of security summits but cannot be ignored after the Fukushima disaster.

Likewise, the Korean government is recognising the important role the civil society can play in nuclear security by organising events that will be held on the margin of the summit for other stakeholders like NGOs and industry representatives, one of which I will myself be attending.

Many Jordanians have been carefully observing the "Korean experience" and this has reaffirmed their belief that it is possible for Jordan to thrive whilst living in a zone of conflict and despite limited natural resources, as Korea has done.

This is also likely why Jordan's leadership has been committed to participating in this summit, showcasing our own contribution to the international community that we rarely give ourselves enough credit for, be it in our role on the Board of Governors of the IAEA or our role as highest contributor of troops (per capita) to UN peacekeeping operations.

Summit participants may also be interested to know that Jordan was recently selected as a location for an EU-funded Centre of Excellence on Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear issues that will help a number of Arab countries deal with these issues.

The Korean Nuclear Security Summit will be an important milestone in "internationalising" the issue of nuclear security. This will, in turn, contribute to the security of our country, region and world at large.

The writer heads the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security located at the Royal Scientific Society. He contributed this article to The Jordan Times.


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