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Promoting Nuclear Security

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The IAEA's nuclear security plan of action has three main areas of focus: Prevention; Detection; and Response.

  • Prevention. This involves preventing any illicit or non–peaceful use of nuclear or other radioactive materials — including acts of terrorism. This includes identifying and reducing risks by:

    • Physical protection of nuclear materials in use, storage, or transport;
    • Physical protection of related nuclear facilities;
    • Return of HEU from research reactors to countries of origin, and converting those facilities to use low enriched uranium:

      This often involves partnering – with the IAEA, with the host country, with a donor like the US government or the Nuclear Threat Initiative organization, and with the country to which the HEU will be returned.
      Example: In August 2002 a coordinated transport of fresh fuel was conducted from the research reactor at the Vinca Institute of Nuclear Sciences, in Yugoslavia, to Russia, the country of origin.


    • Interim protection measures at these vulnerable locations (e.g. research reactors);
    • Control of radioactive material – the recovery of lost or "orphaned" sources:

      Example: Work done in Georgia, with international cooperation, to conduct surveys and search for, recover, and secure highly radioactive sources.
      The United States and Russia have also been working with the IAEA on a "tripartite initiative" for radioactive source recovery in FSU States.


    • Management and control of materials (through effective SSACs and through adherence to the Code of Conduct on Radioactive Sources);


    • The Agency is continuing to help States with Design Basis Threat (DBT) assessments, which are vital for the identification, categorization and security of radioactive sources, as well as risks to nuclear facilities.

  • Detection. This involves putting systems in place to help countries detect any illicit activity:

    • Includes border patrols, better equipment at border crossings;
    • Training of customs officials;
    • Increased cooperation between law enforcement officials;
    • IAEA maintains a database on illicit trafficking. (The Agency's Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB), contains information on 576 confirmed cases of illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive materials as of 6 April 2004. The ITDB has recorded 29 such cases so far in 2004 (and 60 cases occurred in 2003).

  • Response. This involves providing rapid assistance to governments, on request, to respond to emergencies:

    • To date, most incidents have involved helping with the recovery and securing of radioactive sources;
    • Also put plans in place for responding to acts of sabotage or acts of terrorism involving nuclear or radioactive materials.