Opening address at the HEU symposium

Minister of Foreign Affairs Ms. Ine Eriksen Søreide's opening address at the symposium on the minimization of highly enriched uranium. The symposium was arranged by the Ministry together with the Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority and  the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Ladies and gentlemen,

It is a great honour to welcome all of you here to Oslo and the Third Symposium on the Minimization of Highly Enriched Uranium.

Minister of Foreign Affairs during her opening address at the HEU conference in Oslo. Credit: Nicki Twang
Minister of Foreign Affairs during her opening address at the HEU conference in Oslo. Credit: Nicki Twang

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Few questions are more important than nuclear security, as global events in recent months have reminded us.

I'm pleased that there are representatives from many countries from around the world here today: close to 90 people from 27 countries.

Nuclear security is a perfect example of a 21st century security challenge that no one nation can solve alone.

We can only do it together.

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Norway has been engaged in efforts to minimise and eliminate stocks and the use of highly enriched uranium and in promoting non-H.E.U. alternatives for more than a decade.

We organised the first symposium on H.E.U. minimisation in 2006 and a second in 2012.

The International Atomic Energy Agency has been a close and important partner throughout these twelve years.

And this symposium is yet another example of our long-standing and close cooperation with our Radiation Protection Authority.

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There are at least two reasons why Norway has engaged in efforts to minimise highly enriched uranium.

First, because H.E.U. is a key ingredient of nuclear weapons.

The global security environment is challenging.

The nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation architecture is under pressure.

The US decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Iran has made the whole agreement vulnerable.

We are concerned about how this decision could affect the future of the Non-Proliferation Treaty and the international community's ability to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

Much is at stake.

Last night's news that Iran may intend to increase the capacity to produce uranium hexafluoride (UF6) and thereby possibly preparing for further enrichment, is disturbing.

It stresses the need for all parties to continue to show restraint and engage actively to ensure the continued implementation of the JCPOA.

Furthermore, North Korea's nuclear programme remains a huge challenge, although recent developments may give grounds for cautious optimism.

Norway is fully committed to the objective of total elimination of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation remain high on the Norwegian foreign policy and security agenda.

We are continuing to work actively for non-proliferation and disarmament based on the balanced, mutual, irreversible and verifiable elimination of nuclear weapons.

Reducing our dependence on H.E.U. is important both as part of these efforts and for fulfilling our obligations under the NPT.

Second, minimising and eliminating stocks and the use of H.E.U. in the civilian sector is equally important as an element of a comprehensive approach to nuclear security.

The large quantities of highly enriched uranium still in use in civilian nuclear facilities pose significant risks.

Sadly, some non-state actors are willing to use fissile and radiological material for destructive purposes.

Their access to such material could potentially have catastrophic consequences.

Recent instances of the use of chemical weapons, whether by states or non-state actors, could undermine norms and the taboo against using weapons of mass destruction in general.

Converting to non-H.E.U. alternatives will considerably reduce the risk of nuclear material falling into the wrong hands.

Ladies and gentlemen,

Norway is actively supporting international efforts and collaboration to convert reactors from using highly enriched uranium to low enriched uranium that still allows civilian facilities to operate at high performance levels.

Norway has collaborated with Russia for more than 20 years to prevent nuclear and other radioactive material from going astray.

We have played a part in facilitating the safe transport of spent nuclear fuel, including highly enriched uranium.

Removal of spent nuclear fuel from the former base at Andreeva Bay on the Kola Peninsula began on 27 June 2017.

This was an important milestone in our joint efforts to reduce threats to health and the environment in the north.

Today, I am happy to announce that Norway will provide 300 000 US dollars in support for the IAEA-led project on conversion of the Nigeria Miniature Neutron Source Reactor so that it can use low enriched uranium fuel instead of H.E.U.

This project serves to further the Agency's goals of "Atoms for Peace and Development" by contributing to global efforts to reduce the use of H.E.U. in civil nuclear applications.

It also supports the Nigerian Government in its efforts to promote economic development and to develop a nuclear power programme.

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Norway is still in possession of a small quantity of H.E.U., which it has not yet been possible to repatriate.

We are now intensifying our efforts to remove this material safely and appropriately.

In collaboration with the US, we will shortly convene an international technical meeting to discuss potential solutions for treating and ultimately removing materials containing H.E.U. that have so far been outside of the scope of current repatriation programmes.

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The planning for this symposium has been a collective process.

I would especially like to thank the three working groups led by Argentina, the Netherlands and South Korea.

The groups have worked hard to prepare substantial inputs to this conference by taking stock of where we stand on HEU minimisation and coming up with suggestions for further efforts.

I am also pleased to see that in addition to government officials, representatives from the private sector, academia and civil society are also here today. We must all collaborate to make further progress.

I hope that this symposium will provide an opportunity for closer dialogue on outstanding technical, economic and political questions.

Our aim is to make rapid progress in the transition from highly enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium for civilian use.

This is a matter of the utmost importance for our common security.

As I said at the beginning: nuclear security is a perfect example of a 21st century security challenge that no one nation can solve alone.

We need to act together.

Thank you.

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