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Jim Garamone - American Forces Press Service
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."