Saturday, 14 July 2012

Australia's nuclear dilemma

"What will make a focus on nuclear security a permanent feature of what we do?" asked Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard at the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul in late March. Experts agree that the 2014 summit must go further in securing nuclear materials from disasters and, most important, terrorist threats -- but agreement on precisely how to do this is harder to come by. In this regard, Australia has much to offer.

Though much of the world may not realize it, Australia has a superlative record in nuclear security. A recent international report by the Nuclear Threat Initiative, the NTI Nuclear Materials Index, placed Australia first in nuclear security and control out of 32 states with weapons-usable nuclear materials. In addition, the country fulfilled key promises it made at the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit -- such as passing the Nuclear Terrorism Amendment Act of 2011, which allows Canberra to ratify the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

 More important, as leaders around the globe prepare for the 2014 nuclear security summit in the Netherlands, Australia has offered promising and forward-looking ideas for invigorating the nuclear security agenda. At the 2012 summit, Prime Minister Gillard argued that nuclear security must occupy a permanent spot on state agendas, rather than only surfacing once every two years for a summit. To achieve this, the Australian leader proposed three specific and actionable ideas to create an enduring space for nuclear security in policy-maker portfolios.

The Australian plan. Experts around the world agree that when it comes to nuclear security, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) lacks much-needed authority and resources. The question is, how does it get there? Gillard called for innovative thinking to strengthen the IAEA. And her fellow Australian Trevor Findlay, senior fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation, published a comprehensive report PDF last month detailing recommendations on how to bolster the watchdog agency. If other states heed Canberra's call for innovation, the whole world can reap the results of greater transparency, accountability, and authority from the IAEA.

Next, Gillard recommended creating an accountability framework to build confidence in states' nuclear security. Gillard suggested that summit nations take on "regular peer reviews of our domestic nuclear security arrangements that would ensure ongoing transparency and keep each of us, and all of us, on our toes, which is where we should be as we deal with this challenge." (Read more...) 

Australia cannot be, or claim to be, a leader in nuclear security issues as long as she continues to mine and sell uranium. Especially to countries like India who are not non-proliferation states.   

- Dr. Helen Caldicott

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