WASHINGTON (CN) – Ukraine announced plans during the Nuclear Security Summit on Monday to give up all its highly enriched uranium, a sign that summit participants are making steps toward President Obama’s stated goal of a world without nuclear weapons.
Ukraine’s President Viktor Yanukovych made the announcement in a meeting with Obama, and promised to rid the country of enriched uranium stores by the next nuclear security summit in 2012. He also said his nation would remove a substantial part of those stocks this year.
In the announcement, Yanukovych said the nation will convert its civil nuclear research facilities to use low-enriched uranium fuel, which cannot be used for nuclear weapons.
The United States will provide technical and financial assistance for the transition.
The meeting with Yanukovych was part of a series of bilateral meetings that are taking place at the two-day summit to discuss nuclear security and the global threat of nuclear terrorism.
Obama met with leaders from Armenia, China, Jordan and Malaysia on Monday.
The summit is “designed to get everybody on the same page when it comes to locking down loose nuclear materials,” Obama said.
Obama has said he wants leaders to secure the entire global store of nuclear weapons within four years.
Deputy National Security Adviser Ben Rhodes said Obama called the conference because world leaders “cannot afford to delay action” against the threat of nuclear terrorism.
In an interview with The New York Times, Obama called Iran’s pursuit of nuclear weapons “unacceptable,” and said the summit and upcoming non-proliferation treaty review conference show that “the international community is serious about Iran facing consequences if it doesn’t change its behavior.”
The summit is focused on unsecured nuclear weapons and the threat of nuclear terrorism. More general items related to nuclear issues will be addressed at the 2010 Review Conference for the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons next month in New York.
The conference comes right after the signing of the new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty by Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev last week. The treaty limits the number of weapons in each country’s arsenal from 2,200 to 1,550 over the next seven years, a 30 percent reduction from current stores and the lowest levels in half a century.
Obama said he signed the treaty “to send a clear signal to the world that we were in the business of reducing our stockpiles in concert with the other major nuclear superpower, Russia.”
Together, the United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons.