On March 26-27, 2012, Seoul will host the second Nuclear Security Summit (NSS). This year’s NSS will be the largest summit in the security field that discusses international cooperative measures to protect nuclear materials and facilities from terrorist groups, with participation of heads-of-state from 50 countries and 4 international organizations.

The NSS process was catalyzed by US President Barack Obama during his 2009 speech in Prague where he highlighted the threat that nuclear terrorism poses to international security, and expressed his will to lead global efforts to protect nuclear materials. The first NSS was then hosted in Washington, DC in April 2010, bringing together leaders from 47 countries and 3 international organizations concerned with preventing nuclear terrorism.

The selection of South Korea as the host of the 2012 Summit reflects the international community’s recognition of its world-class nuclear technology, its compliance with NPT obligations, and its exemplary use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. In preparing for the 2012 NSS, the Korean government has demonstrated its will to impact the NSS process and ensure that this year’s summit moves beyond the status quo, broadening this year’s agenda to include such critical issues as radiological source security, the nexus of nuclear safety and nuclear security, and enhancing nuclear information security.

Whether the NSS process lasts beyond a third summit in 2014 in the Netherlands is uncertain. However, considering the international implications of even a small-scale nuclear terrorist attack, the need to continue dialogue and cooperation on the securing of nuclear materials will continue well beyond this original four-year plan.

In preparation for the Seoul NSS, the US-Korea Institute at SAIS is working with several partners—including the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Partnership for Global Security—to educate various stakeholders on the challenges and opportunities Seoul faces as the 2012 NSS host and to evaluate the effectiveness of the NSS process as a whole.

See a full listing of our workshops and papers related to the Nuclear Security Summit process.

This research was made possible through generous support from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.