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Obama's nuclear summit -

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KERRY O'BRIEN, PRESENTER: Coming tonight from Washington, where I'm scheduled to interview US
President Barack Obama at the White House tomorrow.

For the past two days the President has been hosting a summit of 49 nations, including Australia,
to discuss nuclear terrorism, the issue he describes as America's biggest single threat, both in
the short and long term. The President sought and gained a commitment for individual nations to
lock up for the next four years the poorly guarded fissile materials that litter the world, to
avoid the catastrophe that he says looms if extremist groups ever manage to build a nuclear bomb.
The two most unpredictable nations with regard to nuclear ambitions, North Korea and Iran, weren't
invited.

In a press conference following the summit today, President Obama once again talked of a day when
the world might be rid of all nuclear weapons - a very long journey indeed.

In a moment I'll be talking with Australia's ambassador to Washington, Kim Beazley, but first the
ABC's North America correspondent Michael Brissenden has been following the talks for this report.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN, REPORTER: The threat of a nuclear Armageddon has been with us now for 65
years. From the moment of the first successful weapons test, the world changed forever.

BARACK OBAMA, US PRESIDENT: At the dawn of the nuclear age that he helped to unleash, Albert
Einstein said, "Now everything has changed." And he warned, "We are drifting towards a catastrophe
beyond comparison. We shall require a substantially new manner of thinking if mankind is to
survive."

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: But from this distance the old superpower-fuelled Cold War arms race that
dominated much of the 20th Century looks frightening, but relatively predictable. As time goes on
and technology improves, the nuclear paradigm has become increasingly complex. Now, nine countries
have nuclear weapons. 38 others store or produce enriched uranium and everyone is well aware of
what Barack Obama calls "the true irony of history".

BARACK OBAMA: The risk of a nuclear confrontation between nations has gone down. But the risk of
nuclear attack has gone up.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The Nuclear Security Summit called by President Obama is the largest gathering
of foreign leaders in US since the dawn of the atomic age in 1945. It's designed to build on his
pledge to deal with what he says is the single biggest threat to US and global security in the 21st
Century: nuclear terrorism.

BARACK OBAMA: Terrorist networks such as Al-Qaeda have tried to acquire the material for a nuclear
weapon, and if they ever succeeded, they would surely use it.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: As the leaders retired for closed door sessions, another conference of experts
and analysts was across town engaged in serious discussion of its own.

Australia's former Foreign Minister Gareth Evans gave one of the keynote addresses to a room full
of experts consumed with the technical and security challenges posed by the new nuclear parameters.

GARETH EVANS, NUCLEAR NON-PROLIFERATION COMMISSION: Overall, the situation is as dangerous as it's
ever been. You not only have this huge continuing stockpiles in the major countries; you not only
have 2,000 weapons still on very high alert, but you have rather weak command and control systems.
You have the risk of terrorist actors getting hold of stuff, which is what this summit in
Washington is about this week. You've got the risk of new players coming into the game and you've
got risks associated with civil nuclear power and the possible explosion of activity in that area.
All of these things add up to a scale of risk that simply defies complacency. This just isn't an
old Cold War problem which we should long ago have forgotten about. This is a real contemporary
problem.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: And on this issue, among this crowd, there is furious agreement.

KENNETH LUONGO, PARTNERSHIP FOR GLOBAL SECURITY: Frankly, I think what 9/11 told a lotta people is
you don't know what you don't know what's being planned behind closed doors. Is it necessarily
something you're gonna find out about until the last minute? So, the idea here is: let's try to do
everything we can to prevent this because the cost of prevention will be far, far less than the
cost of response.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: The technical barriers that any terrorist organisation like Al-Qaeda would have
to overcome, he says, are not insurmountable. All they'd need to do is secure enough highly
enriched uranium. Since 1993, weapons grade uranium has been stolen 18 times. Ken Luongo believes
the world has been lucky to have escaped an act of nuclear terrorism up to this point.

KENNETH LUONGO: We've been working with Russia and the former Soviet states now for over 15 years
to try and lock up that stockpile, which has been the number one objective, but we're now focused
globally and there are places that are civilian operations that aren't on military reservations
that have significant amount of this material. And I think that we have in part been lucky, but I
don't think we should press our luck.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Barack Obama has been the driving force behind this renewed focus on global
nuclear security. He first raised the deadline of locking up this so-called "loose" nuclear
material within four years during his election campaign in 2008, and this summit is a significant
step towards that ambitious goal.

BARACK OBAMA: I said this morning that today would be an opportunity for our nations, both
individually and collectively, to make concrete commitments and take tangible step to secure
nuclear materials so they never fall into the hands of terrorists who would surely use them. This
evening I can report that we have seized this opportunity.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Some had feared this summit would produce little more than another group photo
and a formal statement of good intent, but the meeting has produced some real outcomes.

The former Soviet Republic of Ukraine has announced it will get rid of all its stockpile of highly
enriched uranium by 2012. Russia has said it will close its last weapons grade plutonium reactor.
And China has announced it will work with the US to establish sanctions against Iran to discourage
that country from developing a nuclear weapons program.

Neither Iran nor North Korea was invited to attend.

BARACK OBAMA: It is important for us to send a strong signal to Iran that their consistent
violation of United Nations Security Council resolutions, as well as their obligations under the
NPT have consequences and that they've got a better path to take.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: All the participants have endorsed President Obama's goal of securing the
world's nuclear materials within four years and many have made specific promises to change the way
nuclear materials are handled.

This nuclear security summit comes just a week after President Obama's announcement of a new
nuclear posture review for the United States and the signing of a new missile reduction, or START,
treaty with Russia. Even the critics think he's done pretty well so far.

HENRY SOKOLSKI, NON-PROLIFERATION POLICY EDUCATION CENTRE: I think the President has succeeded in
getting all parties, both his detractors and supporters, focused on the prospect of the United
States and other countries coming down and not relying as much upon large numbers of nuclear
weapons. And tightening nuclear controls for the spread of the technology that could be used to
make bombs. He's done a very good job on that.

MICHAEL BRISSENDEN: Henry Sokolski has been a senior figure involved in many of the nuclear
negotiations conducted by recent Republican administrations, but he is also one of many who
believes that there's a lot more to be done beyond simply securing the nuclear stockpiles of those
countries willing to agree to new international frameworks and treaties. It's the countries that
won't sign up that pose the real future challenge, he says.

HENRY SOKOLSKI: And it seems to me that you need to have something more than, say, "Well, we're
gonna bring the comprehensive test ban treaty which would ban nuclear testing into force and we
plan to negotiate a treaty that will ban the production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium to
make bombs and bring it into force." Why? Those efforts could only come into force if North Korea,
Iran, Egypt, India and Pakistan ratified them. I don't want to say it won't ever happen, but that
could take a few weeks.

KERRY O'BRIEN: Michael Brissenden with that report.