On the first day of the nuclear summit in Washington, Ukraine announced plans to give up its highly-enriched uranium. US President Barack Obama praised the decision as the White House works toward non-proliferation.
At the Nuclear Security conference in Washington on Monday, Ukraine announced that it would voluntarily give up its stockpile of highly enriched uranium by the next scheduled summit in 2012.
"This demonstrates Ukraine's continued leadership in non-proliferation and comes in an important region where we know a lot of highly enriched uranium exists," he said.
Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich told US President Barack Obama of the decision on the first day of the two-day summit, the two countries said in a joint statement released by the White House.
The two leaders agreed to explore ways to "strengthen cooperation in the peaceful uses of atomic energy, including development of Ukrainian nuclear research capabilities and efforts to diversify Ukraine's nuclear power industry's fuel supply," the statement said.
Obama welcomed the decision and added that the talks in Washington had already yielded "impressive" results.
"I think it's an indication of how deeply concerned everybody should be with the possibilities of nuclear traffic," said Obama. "I think at the end of this we're going to see some very specific, concrete actions that each nation is taking that will make the world a little bit safer."
Also on Monday, Canada promised to return a "significant quantity" of used highly enriched uranium at the country's Chalk River National Laboratories to its source in the United States by 2018.
Merkel weighs in
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said ahead of her departure for the talks on Monday that the "dirty bombs" made from nuclear material are an even greater danger than ordinary nuclear weapons. Merkel said such weapons "must not under any circumstances" become part of the arsenal of groups like al Qaeda.
"We believe that the IAEA [International Atomic Energy Agency] must be strengthened, we are ready to pledge additional finances to make this happen," Merkel said.
She also said the world needs to decide soon on whether Iran should be punished for ignoring IAEA regulations, although that topic is not on the agenda for this summit.
"I think time is pressing and a decision on potential sanctions will need to be made soon," Merkel said.
Merkel and many other leaders arrived Monday night and attended an official dinner ahead of a full day of talks on Tuesday.
Following the summit, Merkel is scheduled to engage in bilateral talks with Obama.
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