At its meetings in March 2002, the IAEA Board of Governors approved in principal an action plan designed to upgrade worldwide protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive materials. In approving the plan, the Board has recognized that the first line of defense against nuclear terrorism is the strong physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials.
"National measures for protecting nuclear material and facilities are uneven in their substance and application," the IAEA said. "There is wide recognition that the international physical protection regime needs to be strengthened."
A number of States, including Australia ($100,000), Great Britain ($350,000), Japan ($500,000), the Netherlands (EUR 250,000), Slovenia (EUR 14,000), USA ($1 Million) pledged specific sums of money to a special fund set up to support the plan. A number of other Member States announced in-kind support to the plan, including Finland, France, Germany, India, Romania, and Turkey. Other countries expressed hope to finance or provide support to the plan in the near future. Also, in November 2001, the United States and the Nuclear Threat Initiative each pledged $1.2 million for the fund. The Agency has calculated its annual funding needs at $12 million for its programmes and an additional $20 million per year to enable the Agency to respond to urgent situations that require immediate security upgrades. The Board of Governors called upon IAEA Member States to contribute to the fund as a matter of urgency.
"This modest investment in nuclear security will bring benefits for all States. "Mr. ElBaradei said. "All of us are vulnerable because all of us use nuclear materials and radioactive materials can easily move across borders."
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In late October, major security issues facing the IAEA and international community were reviewed in depth at an international symposium on nuclear verification and security of material organized by the Agency. More than 500 national and international experts in fields of nuclear safeguards, non-proliferation, security, and safety took part in a range of sessions. A special session on 2 November focuses on nuclear terrorism and measures to improve national and global regimes for protecting nuclear material and facilities against potential threats.
In addressing the symposium, Dr. ElBaradei said the Agency is critically examing its programmes across the board -- to upgrade physical protection of nuclear material and radioactive sources; to enhance accident prevention at nuclear facilities; and to reinforce emergency response mechanisms, among other areas. A key aim will be to improve the IAEA's capabilities to help States that lack the resources to upgrade the security of their nuclear facilities and material, he said. Toward that end, the feasibility of establishing an international Fund for Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism is being explored.
One contribution to the IAEA -- a grant of $1.2 million over three years -- was announced 29 October by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI), a global foundation set up by Ted Turner, CNN founder, and Sam Nunn, former US Senator, to reduce the threat from nuclear, biological, and chemical weapons.
The grant supports steps to expand the Agency's ability to review security for nuclear facilities worldwide, identify needed security upgrades, and organize contributions from IAEA Member States to carry out the upgrades, said Charles Curtis, NTI President, in announcing the pledge. "We are intending this contribution to be matched -- and more than matched -- by Member States," he said. "We see this as an early installment in what we hope will become a wave of new contributions to this important work."
In expressing appreciation for the funds, Dr. ElBaradei underscored the need for sustained financial investment in nuclear security and safety. "The NTI contribution is an immediate and significant response," he said, "one I hope will be matched on a large scale both by governments and organizations alike. This is a global threat that requires a global response."
How much of an investment is needed -- at least over the short term -- should become clearer once the IAEA Board reviews the Agency's proposed measures in November.