If there seems to be a consensus regarding the notion of nuclear security from a technical point of view, this is not the case from a diplomatic and political perspective.
Within the IAEA Nuclear Safety and Security department, security is distinct from safety, with safety referring to ≪ the achievement of proper operating conditions, prevention of accidents and mitigation of accident consequences, resulting in protection of workers, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazard ≫, whereas security involves “the prevention and detection of, and responses to, theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear material, other radioactive substances or their associated facilities.”
From a diplomatic and political perspective, the debates during the IAEA General Conference in 2010, the debates surrounding the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010, and even the manner in which the Washington Summit was referred to in the final document of the 8th NPT Review Conference all reflect the diverging perceptions of States as to what the notion of nuclear security does and should entail. In particular one should note the fact that the Obama Administration’s desire to incorporate nuclear security into a fourth pillar of the NPT was not adopted by the last Review Conference.
In this context, the European approach stands out thanks to its pragmatic and functional character:
– From a strategic point of view, it is difficult to discern whether the EU deems the potential dangers to nuclear security to be a risk or a threat. Furthermore, the most recent European decisions in this domain demonstrate a willingness to promote both nuclear security and nuclear safeguards activities, which are officially two different pillars within the IAEA. This is a holistic approach of the Agency’s attributions: non-proliferation and nuclear security safeguards are the two sides of the same coin. They proceed from the need to promote the development of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in ideal security conditions, whatever the nature of security risks.
– On the policy front, the key issue is the promotion of an effective implementation of existing instruments in a coordinated and coherent fashion. This is the core of the “effective multilateralism” promoted by the EU Strategy Against Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction of December 2003. At the Washington Summit the President of European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, stated that, “Before envisaging new strategies and new structures, I submit that we should all fully implement and exploit all the existing instruments and provisions”.