IAEA Director General on CNN
Following is an
unofficial transcript of the Director General's CNN interview, which aired
on 8 November 2001:
CNN: It should come as no surprise that countries with nuclear facilities have heightened security since September 11, and the International Atomic Energy Agency is addressing the terrorism threat. After all, there are more than 400 nuclear power reactors across the globe; 103 of them in the United States.
Mohamed ElBaradei is Director General of the IAEA, and he joins us from Vienna this morning -- thank you for being with us, sir.
Dr. ElBaradei: Thank you.
CNN: All right. If you can, first of all, tell us about this idea of having anti-aircraft installations at nuclear facilities. I believe France has ordered just that. Should other countries go along with that idea?
Dr. ElBaradei: Well, I think we need, as you just mentioned, we need to review security at all nuclear facilities in the world. Security, obviously, was not developed taking into account the terrorist attacks the way we have seen on the 11th of September.
What we need to do is see the best combination of security measures and safety measures, and that I think is what is happening in every country. As you mentioned, France has developed an air defense system, in addition to looking into the safety, the enforcement at nuclear facilities. In the U.S., you have adopted a no-fly zone.
And I think that's very much different from one country to the other. But I think what is important that we should ensure during this difficult time that we have adequate security through a national defense measure, through revisiting the security and safety of every nuclear facility to make sure that they are protected, and in case of an attack, that we can mitigate probably any radioactive release.
CNN: Our correspondent, Steve Young, was just reporting that there is a paucity of study on the issue of airliners going into nuclear reactors. Has the IAEA looked at this issue, and more precisely, looked at it with the issue of today's current fleet of airliners?
Dr. ElBaradei: I think you're right. This has not been factored into the engineering analysis when nuclear facilities were built in the 70s and the 80s. And I think that's what we are, in fact, focusing on right now. There's a lot of engineering analysis going on to see the impact of a large aircraft crash into a nuclear facility, and what needs to be done. That's happening. I know from the NRC that this is going on right now in the U.S. We are working with other member states to make sure that they do similar analysis, and obviously, we need to act and act urgently in this area.
CNN: I have to ask you, sir, why are these studies just happening now? Surely this risk had been identified many years ago.
Dr. ElBaradei: Well, the risk has been identified of an earthquake, of a small accidental crash of a small plane, but I don't think anybody thought that a large airliner would be used as a weapon of terror. I think that is something new. The fact that terrorists will use an aircraft, a large aircraft, to attack a nuclear facility has always been looked at as a remote possibility. Now, it's coming to the forefront, and we need to act and correct any vulnerability that might exist.
CNN: There's a report this morning that paramilitary police in Istanbul arrested two Turks with about a kilo of weapons-grade uranium. When we see something like that in this environment, it causes great concern. Of course, it would cause concern under any circumstances. That, dovetailed with the president of the United States saying that he's convinced that al Qaeda, Osama bin Laden are determined to obtain nuclear weapons.
What's your take on this? Is al Qaeda close to obtaining nuclear materials, nuclear weapons of some kind?
Dr. ElBaradei: My take on that is that, so far, we have not seen any complete evidence that they have gotten hold of nuclear materials, but that doesn't mean we need to be complacent. We are very concerned. The international community should continue to be very concerned, and because we know they are trying desperately to acquire chemical, biological and nuclear materials.
What we need to do is, as you rightly said, tighten control, upgrade physical security, so we do not see the illicit trafficking of nuclear materials we have been seeing in the last few years. We need to make sure that, as I said, we have adequate defense across borders, safety is enhanced, security is tightened, and that we continue to work to make sure that we eliminate terrorism, but we also have in place adequate security to ensure that we continue to benefit from the nuclear industry, from the chemical industry, from other industry, but at the same time, be able to say that we can -- we have adequate security that is correspondent to the risk.
Right now, I believe there is a gap between the risk, as we see it after the 11th of September, and the response mechanism. And that's what we are working on right now, to bridge that gap.
CNN: One final area of concern I want to delve into with you is the issue of nuclear weapons possessed by India and Pakistan. The concern is that the instability in the region, and the issue of Kashmir in particular, might spur some kind of nuclear exchange there, somehow. I want to know how much is your agency looking at the command and control capabilities of both countries, and whether you feel those weapons are safe and sound, so to speak.
Dr. ElBaradei: Well, we are not involved in the military activities of weapon states, so we do not really have much involvement in India and Pakistan military programs. However, we are concerned, as you are, as everybody else, to make sure that, at all times, all weapons states have adequate security and command and control.
We obviously, we'll be ready, and I'm saying that now, and I've been saying it for awhile, we'll be ready to assist any country who might need assistance to ensure that their weapon programs are adequate, adequately secured, and there are redundancies in case of any unauthorized acquisition of these weapons.