Australian Statement, 2014 Nuclear Security Summit

  • Speech, E&OE, proof only
25 March 2014

There was a time when the world believed that swans were only white. Then in 1697 the Dutch explorer, Willem de Vlaming, discovered black swans on the west coast of Australia. He took two specimens back to Europe and the zoology world said of course, it was obvious black swans would exist.

Today, a black swan event is a metaphor for an event in human history outside the realm of usual expectations. Highly improbable, highly unlikely, yet when the unexpected occurs, it is said that, "with the benefit of hindsight this event should have been foreseen".

Our presence in The Hague should be seen in the context of a black swan event, a nuclear terrorist attack, that may be unlikely, improbable, unthinkable. However, we cannot allow a failure of imagination to ignore the possibility of such a catastrophic event.

Today, as the final speaker of the plenary sessions at this Summit, I assure you that Australia is not last when it comes to nuclear security. In fact, the Nuclear Threat Initiative has ranked Australia first on its nuclear security index.

Australia does not have nuclear power nor do we possess nuclear weapons, but we do have the largest reserves of uranium in the world and are the third largest uranium producer. As a responsible supplier of uranium, with agreements in place with most countries represented in this room, we require high standards of security to apply to our uranium.

We have transitioned from a 1950s highly-enriched uranium fuelled research reactor to a state-of-the-art low-enriched uranium reactor as we continue to expand our production of radiopharmaceuticals.

Since the Seoul Summit, we have hosted an IAEA International Physical Protection Advisory Service peer-review mission in 2013 and returned further highly enriched uranium to the United States.

And in support of our strong commitment to the role of the IAEA, I announce today that Australia will contribute a further $1million to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund specifically to focus efforts in our region–the Indian Ocean / Asia Pacific.

At the summit in 2016 Australia will seek evidence of strong and coordinated nuclear security architecture with no gaps; high standards of security applying to all nuclear material, both civilian and military;measures to build national and international confidence in the effectiveness of each States' nuclear security regime; andcooperation between government officials, non-government experts and industry in enhancing nuclear security.

Let us not be so complacent or unimaginative as a global community that after the unthinkable–a black swan nuclear event–we say "it was bound to happen and as a global community, why weren't we prepared?"

Mr Prime Minister, I thank your government and the people of the Netherlands for hosting this event.

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