Reinforcing Security of Radioactive Sources an Urgent Concern
At a press briefing for international journalists 11 March in Vienna, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham and Russian Minister of Atomic Energy Alexander Rumyantsev spoke of the pressing need to strengthen security against nuclear and radiological terrorism. The briefing was held in conjunction with the International Conference on Security of Radioactive Sources, where more than 600 experts from 110 countries are examining the global picture.
In many countries, regulatory control of radioactive sources - used extensively in medicine and industry - remained weak. Dr ElBaradei told the press that the Agency was aware of a number of powerful radiological sources outside of regulatory control, which the IAEA was working to recover.
Global concerns about the security and safety of radioactive sources escalated following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States. There are fears that radioactive sources could be used by terrorists as radiological dispersal devices, or so called "dirty bombs".
"Source security has taken on a new urgency since 9/11," Dr ElBaradei said. There are millions of radioactive sources used throughout the world. Most are very weak, and would have little impact. What we are focusing on is preventing the theft or loss of control of the powerful sources," Dr ElBaradei said.
As part of efforts to beef up global security of high-risk radioactive sources, Spencer Abraham announced a new Radiological Security Partnership initiative. The US will channel $3 million though the Agency to support ongoing efforts to help developing countries secure unprotected or "orphaned" radioactive sources. Among other measures, the initiative provides $15 million to prevent illicit trafficking in high-risk radioactive sources globally, by focusing on major transit and shipping hubs.
Russian Minister of Atomic Energy, Alexander Rumyantsev, said the security and safety of radioactive sources was one of the highest priorities for Russia. "Following the disintegration of the USSR, we have lost the possibility for legal recourse for radiological sources outside of Russia. This uncontrolled situation let to tragic consequences in Georgia."
In June 2002, the Agency, the US and Russia established a tripartite working group to locate, recover, secure and recycle orphan radiological sources in the former Soviet Union.
The IAEA has been directly involved in numerous efforts in countries throughout the world, to help secure high-risk radioactive sources. Further efforts are under way as part of the Agency´s comprehensive Action Plan for combating nuclear terrorism, the fund for which has grown to more than $12 million.