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War games in The Hague: World leaders tested on disaster responses ahead of nuclear security summit


It's a scene straight from a Hollywood script: world leaders are faced with a rogue terrorist in possession of a dirty bomb and have minutes to decide how to save their nations from nuclear catastrophe. But it was not in Los Angeles that such a scenario played out this week: it was in the leafy surrounds of The Hague in the Netherlands, a city better known for its international courts and seaside walks.

Luckily it was a dry run for for the 53 heads of state meeting for a summit on nuclear security, and we are assured that the leaders chose wisely and averted disaster by selecting the correct responses to multiple choice questions on fictional scenarios in which terrorists get their hands on nuclear weapons. Organisers of the Nuclear Security Summit, which ended today in The Hague, hoped the war game on interactive screens would raise awareness of the topic at the heart of the summit: securing nuclear materials in the hope of keeping them out of the hands of terrorists.

A Downing Street source confirmed that David Cameron was among those faced with the life-and-death decisions, while US President Barack Obama was also an enthusiastic participant. “The war games style tabletop session was an innovative way of bringing the summit to life and encouraging leaders to share their own thoughts and experiences of handling such tense situations,” the official said.

There were reports of grumbles from some national leaders who were not happy at such a serious issue being turned into a game, but sighs of relief all round that the outcome was a positive one. “It should be reassuring to people that they took the right decisions to ensure a happy ending when the terrorists didn't succeed in making a bomb,” said the British source.

The Hague summit was overshadowed by events in Ukraine, with world leaders taking the opportunity to discuss their response on the sidelines. It ended with a deceleration from the leaders to cut their stock of highly-enriched uranium to a minimum to make sure they do not fall into the wrong hands.