Hot Spots, Weak Links
Strengthening Nuclear Security in a Changing World

The Post 9/11 Period

The events of 9/11 in the USA demonstrated a new scale, dedication and organization of terrorist groups, which prompted the international community to re-evaluate the threat posed by terrorism, including potential threats to civilian nuclear programmes. The willingness of terrorists to sacrifice their own lives in the attempts to cause widespread death and destruction has prompted new nuclear security awareness.

While the threat that terrorists will acquire a nuclear weapon or related materials remains the most grave, the threat of a radioactive dispersal device (RDD) or sabotage of a nuclear facility or transport must also be seriously considered. The potential consequences of sabotage with a release of radioactive substances that could affect neighbouring countries point to a transnational dimension of nuclear security, contrary to the perception during the Cold-War period.

Thus, nuclear security in the post-9/11 period must consider the potential of: a) the theft of a complete nuclear weapon; b) the theft of nuclear material for the purpose of constructing a crude nuclear explosive device with or without the active involvement of a State; c) the theft of nuclear and other radioactive materials to construct an RDD; and d) attacks or sabotage directed against a power reactor, a fuel cycle facility, a research reactor or a nuclear transport.

The prevention of such events requires strong actions at the international, regional, and national levels. An internationally accepted and consistently and comprehensively implemented nuclear security regime in broad partnerships should make malicious acts very difficult to pursue.

What is the IAEA Doing?

IAEA training course in Cyprus

At an IAEA training course in Cyprus, participants learn about ways to combat illicit traffi cking in radioactive materials.

The IAEA has adopted an integrated multi-track approach to assisting States in strengthening their nuclear security systems through a comprehensive Plan of Activities for Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism. The Plan covers measures to prevent, detect, and respond to malicious acts involving nuclear and other radioactive materials. It embraces advisory, evaluation, and training services, as well as legislative and technical support.

IAEA Nuclear Security Plan

The IAEA's mandate, technical competencies, extensive experience, and global reach make it a well-suited international organization to effectively assist States in improving their nuclear security systems. To confront the post- 9/11 nuclear security threats and to provide nuclear security assistance to States, the IAEA Board of Governors, in March 2002, approved a Plan of Activities for Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism and assigned the highest priority to its coherent and effective implementation. The Plan covers three lines of defense: prevention, detection and response, supplemented with activities in support of information management and co-ordination.

The implementation of the Plan was estimated to require a minimum of $36 million to be funded largely through voluntary contributions made to an extrabudgetary Nuclear Security Fund (NSF). As of January 2004, over $27 million had been pledged by 24 Member States and one organization, of which almost $18 million has been received. In addition, Member States provide substantial in-kind assistance including equipment, and the use of facilities, services, and cost-free experts for the implementation of the Plan.

The main features of the Plan include:

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