Though often overshadowed by hotly contested current issues such as the Ukrainian crisis, the threat of nuclear terrorism is real. At the recent Hague Nuclear Security Summit, Chinese President Xi Jinping joined other world leaders in sounding the alarm once again as he spelled out the Chinese approach to nuclear security for the first time.
The leaders were not crying wolf. Currently, more than 430 commercial nuclear power reactors and about 240 research reactors are in operation around the globe, according to the World Nuclear Association. In 2013, 146 incidents involving nuclear and other radioactive materials were reported to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Luckily enough, most of them were related to nuclear materials that temporarily went missing. Had there been a chance of terrorists obtaining dangerous nuclear materials, the consequences could have been catastrophic.
While state-of-the-art nuclear technology has greatly benefited mankind, the underlying risks are not to be underestimated. Apart from nuclear accidents such as radiation leaks from a nuclear power plant in Fukushima, Japan, following the 2011 earthquake and tsunami, nuclear terrorism stands out as the most overwhelming challenge.
China, a nuclear-capable country, shares the concerns of the international community. Notably, it has participated in all of the three summits on nuclear security, at which it compared notes with other countries in the hope of making a contribution to the global campaign. At the latest summit in The Hague, President Xi took an unprecedented step in unveiling a new vision of nuclear security—a strategic outlook that aims to provide the international community with ideas for tackling the issue. In China's view, nuclear security is essential to the sustainable development of nuclear energy, which it believes plays a pivotal role in meeting energy demands and coping with climate change. Also, it maintains countries should be allowed to act in keeping with their specific conditions instead of following uniform standards.
At the same time, conventions on nuclear material protection and the suppression of nuclear terrorism should be universally ratified and implemented to the letter. Attempts to pursue nuclear ambitions without international safeguards and stockpile excessively large quantities of nuclear materials must be brought under scrutiny.
In this context, Xi made a good point when he stated at the summit, "Although the starting line may be different for different countries, we should make sure that no one falls behind in this common endeavor." Only when all countries forge a synergy against nuclear terrorism can they make the world a safer place.