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"An Opportunity -- Not Simply to Talk, But to Act"

The President addresses the First Plenary Session of the Nuclear Security Summit, where delegations from 47 nations work to address the most dire threat of our time: nuclear terrorism

Today the President and delegations from 46 other nations are working to address the most dire threat of our time: nuclear terrorism.  It is the second day of the Nuclear Security Summit, following a first day during which several nations made significant commitments which will strengthen the global effort to maintain nuclear security and nonproliferation.  For instance: 

  • Chile has shipped its highly enriched uranium to the United States; Ukraine has agreed to ship its highly enriched uranium out of the country within two years; and Canada has agreed to ship its used highly enriched uranium to the United States.
  • The United States and Russia have reached an agreement on plutonium disposal, a deal that has been stalled since 2000, and which commits both countries to eliminate enough total plutonium for approximately 17,000 nuclear weapons.
  • Recognizing the importance of this summit, and that its goals require a long-term commitment, South Korea has agreed to host the next Nuclear Security Summit in 2012.

And of course this summit follows two major steps on the issues of nuclear security, non-proliferation, and the threat of nuclear terrorism: the release of the Nuclear Posture Review and the signing of the New START Treaty with Russia. This morning the President addressed the first of two major Plenary Sessions, offering his condolences to the people of Poland for their recent losses, and once again laying out the scope of the threat before closing on his vision for progress.

So today is an opportunity -- not simply to talk, but to act.  Not simply to make pledges, but to make real progress on the security of our people.  All this, in turn, requires something else, which is something more fundamental.  It will require a new mindset -- that we summon the will, as nations and as partners, to do what this moment in history demands.

I believe strongly that the problems of the 21st century cannot be solved by any one nation acting in isolation.  They must be solved by all of us coming together.

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.”

That truth endures today.  For the sake of our common security, for the sake of our survival, we cannot drift.  We need a new manner of thinking -- and action.  That is the challenge before us.  And I thank all of you for being here to confront that challenge together, in partnership.

And with that, I’m going to ask that we take a few moments to allow the press to exit before our first session.

UPDATE: From the course of the day, read the President's statement on Russia shutting down its final plutonium reactor, as well as the Trilateral Announcement Between Mexico, the United States, and Canada on Nuclear Security.