The Hague, Netherlands (CNN) – Hours before the launch of the third Nuclear Security Summit set to begin Monday in The Hague, the White House announced an agreement with the government of Japan to assist in the disposal of hundreds of kilograms of nuclear material currently stored within its borders.
The material in question consists of both highly enriched uranium and separated plutonium created for an academic research project launched by the Japan Atomic Energy Agency in the 1960's. Technological advances have since rendered the material unnecessary for the project's purpose of studying fast reactor cores, and the two countries have pledged to work together on its removal and disposal.
The White House also announced the completion of nuclear disposal projects undertaken in partnership with Italy and Belgium that were agreed to at the 2012 summit in Seoul. In joint statements released Monday morning, the nations announced that approximately 20 kilograms of nuclear material had been removed from Italy, and a "significant amount" of material had been removed from Belgium.
Another joint statement released by the leaders of Chile, Czech Republic, Denmark, Georgia, Hungary, Mexico, South Korea, Romania, Sweden, Turkey, Ukraine, and Vietnam highlighted the elimination of highly enriched uranium in those countries.
The statement expressed "appreciation" to Russia, the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency for "their assistance in converting research reactors from HEU fuel to LEU fuel and in related HEU removal efforts." The nuclear material removed from these countries will initially be secured and ultimately disposed or "downblended" to low enriched uranium – or LEU.
President Barack Obama first talked about the need for enhanced security of civilian nuclear material in a 2009 speech delivered on a visit to Prague. Subsequently the U.S. hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit in 2010 with the goal of reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism by increasing the security and reducing the supplies of international civilian nuclear supplies.
In a fact sheet distributed ahead of Monday's summit, the White House pointed to many successes achieved since 2009. By the U.S. government's count, 12 nations have eliminated their supplies of HEU or separated plutonium, 27 countries have removed or disposed of nearly 3,000 kilograms of nuclear material and 24 reactors have either been downgraded from highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium or shut down entirely.
Additionally, the White House points to the United States' role in helping to secure 218 buildings in 5 countries that store "weapons-usable nuclear materials."