HIGH LEVEL MEETING ON COUNTERING NUCLEAR TERRORISM, WITH A FOCUS ON STRENGTHENING THE LEGAL FRAMEWORK
28 September 2012
Statement by Ambassador Peter Woolcott, Permanent Representative of Australia to the UN in Geneva
Australia’s commends the Secretary General for this initiative as well as Minister Kim for Republic of Korea’s leadership on one of the most pressing issues of our time.
Australia is strongly committed to global efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism. Prime Minister Gillard attended the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul and we are committed to stepping up the tempo of this work as we build towards the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit.
Australia has been active in the development of the legal framework to combat nuclear terrorism and this year we ratified the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism after passing legislation to bring it into force.
Australia is a non-nuclear State and we have not pursued nuclear power, but Australia has nonetheless played a leading role in the development of nuclear safeguards regimes, and has strong credentials in nuclear safety and security.
I will not list all aspects of Australia’s work in this regard, but I will highlight a few key actions:
- we assisted in developing the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and we were among the first to ratify it;
- we helped develop the documents that support the legal framework, including the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Series of guidance documents;
- we were one of the first countries to commit to implementing the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources;
- Australia was also the first to bring the IAEA additional protocol on strengthened safeguards into force;
- we have led the world in the use low-enriched uranium technology in the production of nuclear medicines; and
- we are a member of the IAEA’s Illicit Trafficking Database. We see this as an important tool for reporting and analysing potential security incidents worldwide and we encourage countries that are not members to join.
Today I would like to focus on implementation and capacity building, particularly to counter the threat of radiological terrorism.
The use of nuclear weapons by terrorists is a horrifying scenario. But a comparatively simple radiological device could also be an effective weapon of terror and groups including Al Qaeda have shown interest in radiological terrorism.
In order to ensure terrorists do not succeed in their aims, we must build capacity so that countries can better secure radioactive sources, and respond effectively when sources are discovered beyond regulatory control.
The best solutions to the worst security threats are frequently found in strong regional initiatives based on international law, and nuclear terrorism is no exception. Over the past decade Australia has carried out several programs to build capacity in the South East Asian region and beyond to combat nuclear terrorism. Australia’s Regional Security of Radioactive Sources project has worked with countries in the South East Asian region since 2004.
Through this project we are building regional capacity in physical protection and security management of radioactive sources typically used in medicine and industrial applications. We also provided $10 million training in radiological emergency preparedness and response to deal safely with any attempted or actual malicious act involving radioactive materials.
Through international multilateral partnerships such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism Australia has also held global workshops on nuclear smuggling and radiological disaster management, and carried out nuclear forensics capacity building.
Australia chairs the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network, which aims to improve safeguards implementation in the Asia-Pacific region, and with other countries we have strengthened the capacity of regulatory and other bodies to detect, monitor and control the cross-border movement of radioactive material.
We believe the next step could be to establish a cooperative capacity-building partnership in our region to prevent, mitigate and respond to nuclear security events.
We also want to lead efforts to build nuclear forensics expertise across our region. Nuclear forensics is a key tool for identifying and characterising nuclear and radiological material, particularly material discovered outside regulatory control. Of course, developing this expertise takes time and effort, but if the right networks are in place, capabilities and information can be shared across regions.
A partnership to develop and share nuclear forensics expertise across international boundaries would complement existing traditional nuclear safeguards and would help us deliver on Nuclear Security Summit and IAEA commitments.
Australia very much values the expanding collaboration with our partners in our region and beyond to counter nuclear terrorism. We are committed to doing more to strengthen this agenda to prevent what would be an unimaginable event, which we, as States, must never let happen.