An international pact on heightened security standards for nuclear materials got one step closer to being implemented when Japan signed on late last month.
The island nation’s signing of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material means that another 22 countries are required to do the same before the pact can enter into force, according to a Friday International Atomic Energy Agency press release.
To date, 77 nations have signed the amendment, which was drafted in 2005 and requires signatories to take certain steps to safeguard civilian atomic facilities and stockpiles of nuclear material. The measures apply to material in active use, in storage and in transit. The amendment also provides a framework for nations to cooperate in rapidly responding to incidents where atomic materials go missing or are stolen.
The United States has yet to ratify the amendment, as implementing legislation remains stuck in Congress.
IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in a Monday speech in Vienna said achieving the entry into force of the amendment was “a major piece of unfinished business in international efforts to ensure that nuclear material is properly secured.”
Miles Pomper, a senior research associate with the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, in a Monday phone interview said the immediate impact of Japan signing the amendment would be minimal until the accord goes into effect. “These things are only as good as your domestic regulations are,” he said. “But it’s one more sign that the Japanese are taking nuclear security more seriously.”
Japan possesses one of the world’s largest stockpiles of civilian plutonium, which has become a source of concern for nonproliferation advocates and neighbors such as China. In an attempt to prove its nonproliferation bona fides, Tokyo earlier this year pledged to repatriate to the United States hundreds of kilograms of weapons-sensitive atomic substances.
Henry Sokolski, executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center, argued the real nonproliferation concern in Japan lies outside the scope of the materials-security convention altogether — namely, that Tokyo might one day decide to develop nuclear arms.
“While it certainly would be churlish to dismiss any upgrades to nuclear security, it also would be a mistake to think that this is a major leap forward in the prevention of the possibility of nuclear use,” he told Global Security Newswire. “It’s a step forward, and not a leap.”
Pomper said Japan’s signing of the amendment could help build critical momentum toward getting the remaining holdouts, such as Washington, to ratify the 2005 provision.
What We're Following See More »
"Even if House Republicans manage to get enough members of their party on board with the latest version of their health care bill, they will face another battle in the Senate: whether the bill complies with the chamber’s arcane ... Byrd rule, which stipulates all provisions in a reconciliation bill must affect federal spending and revenues in a way that is not merely incidental." Democrats should have the advantage in that fight, "unless the Senate pulls another 'nuclear option.'”
The House has passed a one-week spending bill that will avert a government shutdown which was set to begin at midnight. Lawmakers now have an extra week to come to a longer agreement which is expected to fund the government through the end of the fiscal year in September. The legislation now goes to the Senate, where it is expected to pass before President Trump signs it.
Alexander Acosta was confirmed Thursday night as Labor secretary, officially filling out President Trump's cabinet on day 98 of his presidency. Nine Democrats joined every present Republican in voting to approve Acosta, with the final tally at 60-38. Trump's first choice for Labor secretary, Andrew Puzder, withdrew his nomination after taking criticism for hiring undocumented workers and for other matters in his personal life.
"Rep. Will Hurd (R-TX) plans to introduce legislation today designed to help federal agencies update their aging technology—and this time, it has White House backing. Hurd worked alongside White House Office of American Innovation officials Reed Cordish and Chris Liddell in crafting and tweaking the legislation, and called their partnership an 'invaluable' part of the process."