tv This Is America With Dennis Wholey WHUT May 13, 2012 10:00am-10:30am EDT
>> on this program, we will speak with anne harrington of the national nuclear security administration, and laura holgate of the national security council, about the recent nuclear security summit in seo ul, korea,and the ways in which the world manages the safety and security of nuclear weapons and materials. laura, thank you so much for joining us. >> good to be here with you. >> we're trying to let folks know what happened at this a big nuclear security summit that was just in seoul, korea. how do you assess what happened there? >> i thought it was a great moment of coming together, 58 global leaders looking at the very serious issue of nuclear
security. this was a concept indented by president obama in his speech in prague. the very first summit was held in the united states in 2010. two years later we gathered even more leaders together to focus on the seriousness of the risk of nuclear terrorism, the vulnerability of nuclear material around the world, the international cooperation it will take to secure that material, and prevent it ever coming into the hands of terrorists. >> so it is material as well as existing weaponry? >> and that is right. covers both sets of concerns. >> then you take it one level further. and know-how is involved. >> that is exactly right. >> in the united states, often we are more concerned nowadays -- is the correct phrase a suitcase bomb or something like that? >> improvised nuclear device. >> tell me the phrase again? >> improvised nuclear device.
>> what does that mean, in my language? >> it's a pretty crude weapon, but it has probably a lot more material than our own warheads that we have built to go on the front end of missiles and travel reliably 3,000 miles. an improvised nuclear device would be bigger than a suitcase. the smaller you are, the more sophisticated. the less sophisticated, the larger you are, you need more material. think of a truck, minivan, a private pleasure craft coming into a harbor. the delivery system is much less sophisticated, so it can be bigger, more clunky. it can still create the kind of damage that we saw that we used in japan on an. shame and nagasaki. >> are there isolated incidents
, regarding times square and new york city? are those things in your domain? >> certainly we worry about the nexus between terrorism and national destruction. we have not seen an instance where terrorists have acquired nuclear materials that they can use to make a weapon and. we have seen and this is the smuggling of highly enriched uranium. fortunately in quantities too small to make a weapon with, but in every case the smuggler said this is just a sample, i can get you more. so we worry very much about what is out there on the black market, that it may have been stolen or gone missing from facilities decades ago. and keeping that stock of material away from terrorists. what we see in the manifestoes and the ideology of terrorists, the desire to do harm on the scale of millions of people. nuclear is really one of the very few ways you can have an
impact of that caliber. >> when you talk about the black market, where do we know materials which could be made into a nuclear weapon or as some kind of a weapon of mass destruction? where is that coming from? >> we do not know in every case where it has come from. it can be difficult to trace it back to its origin, particularly without the cooperation of the country that it might have come from. we have had a couple of instances in which it seems to be russia, but the russians are not always sharing their forensics information that would confirm that. when you think there are 1,600 tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium on the planet, some of it in weapons, much of it in private hands, in the nuclear industry, some of it in research facilities doing good, medical isotopes work and good science, then you start to realize all you need is relief
50 kilograms, how dangerous this can be. the broad number of facilities or instances in which this material might have come from. >> when we jumped up a and a little bit from materials to actual weaponry. how many countries have nuclear weapons? >> there is the p5, russia, the u.s., china, france, in the 1970's, already had weapons and we said you will disarm overtime, but in the meantime you have legal access to weapons. there are countries that have not signed the non-nuclear proliferation treaty, india, pakistan, and israel. and we have seen north korea shoot it clear tests that people
relate to nuclear weapons. so the nuclear weapons community is thankfully much smaller than we are worried about, but it is also growing, however slowly, which is not the direction, that we want to see. >> iran is an interesting thing. this occurred to me. how much do we know that they might have or might not have? all of a sudden in preparation for our conversation, iraq came into mind. we went to war, against weapons of mass destruction that were not there. my question is, when they talk about war about nuclear weaponry in a country, i just want to make sure that if that ever comes to pass, somebody a had better make sure there are nuclear weapons there.
>> nobody believes there are actual nuclear weapons in iran today. the issue that is concerning is that they are taking steps to enrich material to higher and higher levels. the higher you get, the closer you get to material that can be used for a weapon. that is what people are watching, the timelines of that enrichment and the other activities that would go a long -- that would go along in parallel to that, how you might actually weaponized that material. >> do we have the capability of recognizing that pits people on -- that puts people on the ground? >> first of all, the iaea have open questions, trying to resolve those questions. part a effort includes a on-the- ground visits to these facilities. that having been said, we know that the iran program originated
from a concealed program for 20 years. when it comes to what with an intelligence concept, obviously we will not talk about that on the show. but rest assured, there is a lot of advice on that patch of desert. >> what is the job of the security council, vis a vis this whole business of nuclear- weapons, terrorism? >> the national security council is supposed to coordinate to make sure that the president's guidance is being followed, that his policy direction is being executed, and to take advantage of the expertise and enthusiasm of our colleagues to present new concepts up to the president. we see ourselves moving backwards, forwards, and down the chain of command. but we are really a place where if there is a dispute or an issue where we need to pull together, to be sure we accomplished the u.s. policy goal, it is the national security council that helps them to steer that.
we have had very good execution in the context of a nuclear security summit, that that is an area where we need to have close cooperation. among the national nuclear security administration on monday department of energy,, and then the department of homeland security, their domestic nuclear detection office, another key piece of the puzzle, making sure that we can catch the material if it is in motion. through detection. it really was a whole government enterprise to identify our goals for the summit, to identify what steps we were going to take to improve our own nuclear security, to work collaboratively with partners all over the world to improve their nuclear security, to remove materials where they do not need to be. then to work with the international organizations like the international atomic energy
agency, the united nations,, their mission to improved nuclear security. >> russia and the united states have the most weapons, and we are trying to reduce the number of weapons. are we making progress in that area? >> we have made enormous progress. >> i know it is a big deal for the president. >> it is a big deal, and in fact, the same speech that much an effort for a new arms control movement with russia, he announced a nuclear security summit. we look for that speech in prague as our touchstone. that requires that states to -- that requires that states who have nuclear weapons reduce them, and not just reduce their numbers and also there salience to our own national security. >> what was that word in there? >> salience.
that we want to protect the american people and interest without resorting to nuclear weapons. that was in the nuclear posture review. that was released earlier this year, late last year by, this administration, and it also includes not only do you need to reduce the weapons that are there, the roles that they play, but you also need to prevent the creation or opportunities for new weapons to be developed. that is how these pieces fit together. >> we are talking about a couple of things here, and we are coming to the end of our time. non-proliferation, and also reduction at the same time. really at the base of the whole thing is safety and security. because of what you know, a lot of which you might not be able to offer here in our conversation, how scared are you of the fact that there might be either some horrible nuclear
terrorist activity someplace? where did you come down on that? >> we know there are terrorists who have the goals to kill millions of people, and if those things ever connect, there is no reason to believe there will not be a nuclear explosion. we can do a lot of things to try to find it and prevent it, disarm if we are able to get close to a device, but once the terrorists get material, the problem becomes much harder. that is why we move and do everything we can to move the problem back, the terrorists over here, keep the material is safe and secure. reduce the total amount of material over time, which is related to reducing weapons. because with weapons, you have material and the material needs to be reduced. the threat is real, but we also
are making progress every day on this issue. the summit has helped identify 20 countries now that have no nuclear material and have been completely cleaned out of nuclear material. so no terrorist need apply in ukraine or in hungary. from material that they might be able to use in a bomb. >> so i detect some optimism there as well. optimisticnitely because i believe it is a fight we can win. there is a finite amount of nuclear material on the planet, but we need the political will to secure it and eliminate it. we do not need brand new technology or a new treaty, we need the will to act. that is what the summit is about. >> thank you very much for the education. >> thank you. great to be with you. >> "this is america" is made possible by -- the national education association, the nation's largest advocate for children and public education.
poongsan corporation, forging a higher global standard. the ctc foundation, afo communications, and the rotondaro family trust. anne, thank you so much for joining us. we are talking about nuclear energy and nuclear power. are they the same thing? >> i think you can call than the -- i think you can call them same thing. nuclear energy, nuclear power, using nuclear reactors to generate power, pretty much the same term. >> and nuclear power, nuclear energy used for electricity, heating, things like that. do you know off the top of your head what percentage of our power in the united states
comes from nuclear energy? >> i should know this more precisely. i think it is about 25%. >> and throughout the world is a big deal, right, more so than in the united states? >> france, for example, has 85% of its power, from nuclear reactors. so in some countries, very substantial. japan, prior to fukushima, was extremely substantial. >> how do we step from nuclear power and energy to nuclear weapons? is plutonium and uranium -- which i do not understand a lot of -- are they all used in due -- in nuclear power and nuclear weapons, and is it a step up? >> you can make a nuclear weapon with uranium or plutonium. or a combination of the two.
you can mine uranium, which exists naturally in many places, including in sea water. that is one of the things that has been proposed in getting an infinite supply of uranium for future power demand. plutonium has to be produced in a reactor. that then begins to bring together the whole issue of nuclear energy and the technology for nuclear energy, and then how that might be a supporting a weapons program. >> they have a big nuclear security summit in seoul. tell me a little bit about the who, what, when, where, and why. it did not get as much coverage as it might have or should have. >> this was the second in a
series of nuclear security summits. there will be a third in 2014. hosted by the netherlands. the first was the one in 2010 here in washington. that summit was really the continuation of part of president obama's vision, his vision articulated first in april of 2009 in prague, a world free of nuclear weapons. his challenge to international leaders who are invited to the first summit in 2010 was, how do we get there? what can we do to make the world a safer place and to begin that process of bringing countries, not just the united states and russia, but other countries, too, into this whole discussion of how do we get to nuclear 0. quota logical first step is, l's
accept the fact that nuclear is part of our lives. let's even embrace nuclear energy as part of a mixture of energy for the future, a way to ensure energy to many countries around the world in need of supporting economic development. for stability, a way of reducing greenhouse gas emissions. all of those things. but we have to be sure that, as that nuclear expansion takes place, we are, to the extent possible, putting as much of the genie back in the bottle as we can. as well as making the environment as safe as possible and as secure as possible as we expand. >> in seoul, how many countries participated? >> in seoul, we had about 50 world leaders, but that
included some international organizations like the international atomic energy agency, which is an essential player with the expansion of nuclear material. >> so at the summit, was both nuclear energy and nuclear weaponry both taken a look at? what comes to my mind is fukushima, and what a horror that turned out to be, and safety, producing electricity, and also the nuclear weapons, which i would think that north korea and iran would have been at the top of the list. were both of those taken a look at? >> the safety issue has been dealt with through a different mechanism, where we have had a number of summits, international summits to look at
the safety issues. the seuol summit focused on the nuclear security element. in particular, it looked at what progress had been made from the 2010 summit at all the commitments that were made by world leaders that summit, and march, 2012. that is where i think you see the power of the summit process really play out. it is very hard for a president or prime minister to come to a summit, make a commitment, and then do nothing toward that commitment. so the political thrust and momentum that was created in 2010 played out over the next several years, and then by the time we reached the summit in march, we were about up to 90%
of the commitments that had been made two years previous being accomplished. that is quite extraordinary. >> what kind of commitments were made in achieving this 90% mark? what did some countries say they would do and did do? >> for example, a number of countries agreed that we need to reduce the amount of highly enriched uranium, which is uranium enriched to anything over 20%, reduce the amount that is used for civilian purposes because once you get above a certain enrichment level of uranium, it becomes much easier to use as a weapon. so you want to keep it down in that lower, less than 20% range. we worked intensively with a number of countries, in very close partnership with russia and the iaea on a number of these removals.
but right before the summit, we cleaned mexico out of all of its remaining highly enriched uranium. we worked with russia to get the rest of the ukrainian heu back to russia. a third important element was sweden, repatriating some plutonium to the united states that it was holding. those three removals happened shortly before the summit, and i think it was, again, the mexico removal was actually a partnership between canada, the united states, and mexico, and the iaea. the ukrainian removal involved up to level of the presidential administration in russia, the cabinet of ministers in ukraine.
after we accomplished that, we looked at it and thought if we had not been working with these countries as closely as we have for the past 20 years since the soviet union collapsed, cooperative threat reduction, all of these other programs we have done, we probably never could have accomplished that particular goal. >> we have a couple of minutes left, but i want to know the -- to know about the work about the national nuclear security administration. which is your baby. >> at least part of it is my baby, and we certainly support the whole organization. but we are a quasi-autonomous administration within the department of energy. we are responsible for the safe, secure reliable nuclear stockpile, and my colleague don cook takes care of that.
my portfolio, we make sure that the navy has nuclear propulsion systems, both for aircraft carriers and submarines. we do emergency operations. you may not know it, but there is a team that for every major event in the united states, whether it is the super bowl, or the rose bowl parade, or any major event, has gone out to make sure there are no nuclear risks to the people who participate. i would say that our biggest triumph is when people do not know what we're doing and do not notice that we are out there working every day for them. then we have done our job. >> there was a quote in some of the material that i read, "keep dangerous weapons out of the hands of dangerous people." and that is the headline, really, is it? >> very much. >> and not only weaponry, but
also materials and the no-how to put all that stuff together? >> the materials, the technology, and the expertise. we track all of those, and to the best of our ability we keep it out of the hands of those who would do us harm. >> what would you like folks to take away from our short conversation in this whole area of nuclear non-proliferation? >> the world is not without risk, but i hope that the american people sleep well at night knowing that there is a small but very dedicated group of people sitting in this nnsa organization whose work is every day to ensure that nothing bad happens to them. >> thank you so much for the conversation. thank you so much and for the work you do for all of us. >> a pleasure. >> thank you. for information about my new book, "the chance of a lifetime" and online video for all "this is america" programs, visit our website,