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Preventing nuclear terrorism: Australia's leadership role

By Tanya Ogilvie-White and David Santoro

No country can afford to be complacent about the risk of nuclear and radiological terrorism. Although they should be kept in perspective, Australia faces internal and external risks in this area. Its nuclear infrastructure is modest for a country of its size, but Australian nuclear facilities do exist and at least one domestic group has shown interest in targeting them. While the absence of a land border makes Australia less vulnerable to external threats, its busy ports and proximity to weakly governed spaces in Southeast Asia mean that the potential for external attacks also needs to be taken seriously. Moreover, a nuclear or radiological incident in Southeast Asia would not be without consequences for Australia.

Over the years, Australian nuclear experts have honed their expertise and transformed Australia into a world leader in nuclear security practices, both in securing materials and facilities at home and in helping to build nuclear security capacity abroad.  A lack of publicity for this work means that most Australians, including many in the political and strategic realms, don’t fully appreciate the extent to which Australia’s expertise and outreach efforts are respected and relied upon around the world.

The paper suggests the new Abbott government should launch a nuclear security strategy and puts forward initiatives that would help to reduce nuclear dangers, achieve Australia’s broader strategic objectives, and fulfil its international obligations—and all at a very modest cost.