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Nuclear Safety and Security at the 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit


As Seoul prepares to host the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit, the meeting will probably resemble its predecessor in many ways. Three years after President Obama’s Prague speech, nuclear security still offers some of the “lowest hanging fruit” in terms of progress on the nuclear agenda. The context for the 2012 summit, however, is quite different. There is less optimism about progress toward nuclear disarmament, no resolution in sight for the challenges posed by the North Korean and Iranian nuclear weapons programs, and less optimism about peaceful nuclear energy following the devastating accident in March 2011 at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan.

Since the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan, leading to the meltdown of three of the six nuclear power plants at Fukushima Daiichi, nuclear safety has captured the public’s imagination in ways that nuclear security has not. What’s more, public views on nuclear security span a range of issues, particularly in South Korea, that have little to do with the objectives of the summit. Therefore, it could be useful to harness public attention to nuclear safety in a way that can galvanize action on nuclear security.

In this paper, Sharon Squassoni explores the intersections of nuclear safety and nuclear security and how this discussion will likely be addressed at the upcoming 2012 Seoul Nuclear Security Summit.

Sharon Squassoni directs the Proliferation Prevention Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) where she is a senior fellow. She joined CSIS from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. From 2002-2007, she advised Congress as a senior specialist in weapons of mass destruction at the Congressional Research Service. Ms. Squassoni also served in the executive branch of government from 1992 to 2001 in the State Department and the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency. She is the recipient of various service awards and has published widely. She is a frequent commentator for US and international media outlets. She holds a B.A. in political science from the State University of New York at Albany, a Masters in Public Management from the University of Maryland, and a Masters in National Security Strategy from the National War College.

For other papers in this series, visit our NSS Working Paper Series page.

For more resources on the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit and the NSS process, visit our NSS Program page.