The Prospects of Nuclear Security and CPPNM

By Sufyan Ullah

As the international community feels itself to be more threatened from the nuclear terrorism, the issues regarding nuclear security have assumed paramount importance for the international community. Since it is important to prevent terrorists and other non-state actors from having any access to nuclear technology that might be used by them to carry out violent activities, therefore physical protection against unauthorized access to such technology and sabotage of nuclear facilities have become a major concern at global level. The physical protection regime for nuclear security is based on Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) which was signed in 1980 and entered into force in 1987.

The signatory states of CPPNM share the common belief of securing the nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists. This convention not only calls for prevention and detection of any possible theft or sabotage of nuclear material and nuclear facilities, but also demands from signatory parties to enact domestic laws to devise punishments of such offenses. Through stringent mechanisms to strengthen the nuclear security, Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material aims to enhance the global security and stability. However, the applicability of this convention is confined only to that material which is used for civilian purposes, and does not take into account that material which is used for military related activities

Moreover, the protection of nuclear material was regarded as mainly the national responsibility of signatory states under the original draft of CPPNM, as it did not obligate the states to ensure international standards such as protection of material that is transported via international shipments. However, the increased threats of nuclear terrorism led the international community to strengthen and enhance the scope of CPPNM. For this purpose, CPPNM was amended in July 2005 which will enter into force after the 1/3rd of participatory states ratify the amended provisions. A good number of states have expressed their concerns and reservations regarding the proposed amendments, and therefore they are reluctant to ratify it. The amended CPPNM seeks to enhance the international cooperation in locating and recovering the stolen material through increased role of IAEA.

Many states such as Israel, Korea, and many more, have also been hesitant to comply with Article 17, paragraph 2 of CPPNM which calls for arbitration and referral of unsettled disputes regarding interpretation of convention to ICJ.

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), which is assumed to be the sole legally binding multilateral instrument to strengthen the nuclear security across the globe, has been witnessing lack of consensus among signatory parties over different aspects. Pakistan also yet has not ratified the amended convention and believes that the scope of original draft of convention does not take into account the issue of transport, storage, and domestic use of nuclear material. Furthermore, Pakistan also does not feel itself to be bound to the dispute settlement procedure as laid out in the paragraph 2 of Article 17 of CPPNM.

Different efforts have been made at different forums at international level to establish consensus among the signatory states and to convince them to ratify the convention. In the previous Nuclear Security Summit, held in Seoul (2012), the support for CPPNM was expressed and the member states were urged to ratify the proposed amendments in the convention. Therefore, the most serious challenge faced by this convention is the ratification from 1/3rd of the signatory states that serves as the greatest hindrance in the implementation of this convention. The upcoming Nuclear Security Summit, which is to be held in Hague (2014), would have serious impact on the future of CPPNM. It is expected that international community would come up with a certain mechanism as to break out this deadlock for the greater nuclear security, which is a prerequisite for the enhanced international security and stability.

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