Nuclear summit is above all a missed opportunity

24 March 2014

Nuclear summit is above all a missed opportunity

The government has succeeded in holding an international conference in The Hague on nuclear safety. On the eve of this gathering a great deal of attention is being paid to security measures and the arrival of trade delegations, when its content should be the subject of criticism. The fact is that most important nuclear-related subjects are not being discussed at this summit.

Harry van Bommel is a Member of Parliament for the SP

The meeting in The Hague concerns how to secure nuclear materials which, as a result of the spread of nuclear technology, are being produced in ever greater quantities. To this end a range of bodies, such as the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), have established all sorts of measures and guidelines designed to prevent nuclear material from falling into the wrong hands. Such steps, though necessary, are threatened with obsolescence or with being circumvented because the same states which as things stand enthusiastically embrace measures of this kind, have at the same time major interests in the further spread of nuclear technology.

The most disturbing recent example of this was the nuclear treaty concluded by India and the US, an agreement which legalised the delivery of high grade nuclear material to India, a country which, in common with Pakistan and Israel, is not a signatory to the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the goal of which is to limit the military application of nuclear technology. With the exception of North Korea, the rest of the world’s countries have signed.

By permitting the delivery of high quality nuclear technology to India, the agreement with the US opened a Pandora’s box. An unacknowledged potential for nuclear weapons has been put into place in order to further extend India’s nuclear industry, the basis of its nuclear military strike force.

The Nuclear Suppliers Group, a partnership of forty-five countries which ‘have at their disposal nuclear technology and by means of strict rules are seeking to contribute to combatting nuclear weapons’ (Minister of Foreign Affairs, 9 Sept 2008), a group to which the Netherlands belongs, voted at the time to support the US-India treaty.

In this way the most important goal of the Nuclear Security Summit (NSS) has already been undermined years ago. What sense does it make discussing stricter rules and limits in order to secure nuclear materiel if these same rules are being evaded by the countries supplying nuclear technologies?


There is a second question which doesn’t appear on the agenda of the summit, and that is nuclear disarmament. This is bizarre, because the conference is supposed to be about securing nuclear material in order to counteract the spread of nuclear arms. According to the Dutch government this subject has no place at the NSS, and nor does the non-proliferation of nuclear armaments. Strange reasoning. There is after all a symbiotic relationship between nuclear technology, nuclear materials and the capacity to build a nuclear weapon. If the dissemination of nuclear material is facilitated as a result of the major industrial interests involved, then it speaks for itself that it will become easier for many countries to restrict nuclear weapons.

For this reason it is of great importance not only to strictly control the spread of nuclear technology, but also to accelerate efforts towards nuclear disarmament. The nuclear armed states avow support for this nuclear disarmament, but are in practice preserving and modernising their arsenals.

By limiting the agenda of the NSS to the securing of fissionable materials and the safeguarding of nuclear materiel, really important matters such as the proliferation of nuclear technology to, for example, India, and the continuing maintaining of nuclear weapons arsenals are excluded. In reality these core questions cannot be divorced from each other. This summit may well, therefore, be good for the Netherlands’ image in the rest of the world, but fail to make any contribution to solving the nuclear problem.

This article first appeared, in the original Dutch, on 23rd March 2014 on the website Joop.nl

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