When it comes to international oversight on nuclear materials, there seems to be a gap.
In a few short weeks the second Nuclear Security Summit will take place. Heads of state and government will come together to assess progress on the political commitments they made in 2010 to secure nuclear materials used in the civilian sector. This is a good thing. Nuclear materials should be well protected. Nuclear materials suitable for use in nuclear weapons even more so. It is extremely unfortunate that those gathering at the Nuclear Security Summit will not discuss the military side of these materials- and instead only focus on possible terrorist or non-state actor acquisition as the problem. The materials themselves are a problem, from the time they are mined all the way down the chain until they (will eventually if anyone can figure out how to do it) are put in some kind of storage. They are dangerous.
What I wonder is this- is there any legally mandated multilateral institution that is dedicated to overseeing the selling of these materials in the first place? I know that the Zangger Committee, and the Nuclear Suppliers Group are out there- I know that they are often politicized and they have not always made the best decisions (see: India, 2008). And they’re not binding anyway- they are only bodies that make recommendations towards policy. However, I really wonder if there is any body that is legally mandated to oversee global nuclear trade. Is there a body that oversees the technical specifications of uranium mines- that ensures health and safety of the surrounding communities? Is there a body that says “Oh, you bad country, you took this material and made nuclear weapons, you’re not allowed to have any more of it!”.
I don’t know if there is, but I wonder. If there isn’t, wouldn’t this be a big contribution to global non-proliferation? To nuclear security and safety? I think I’ll have to add researching this to my to-do list. If anyone out there does know the answer- I’d love an email.