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IAEA Chief Calls for Action to Improve Nuclear Security

Yukiya Amano and Allison M. Macfarlane

At the International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security hosted by the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission in Washington, D.C., the Honorable Allison M. Macfarlane, Chairperson of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, greets IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano (Photo: I. L. Couret, Nuclear Regulatory Commission, 4 December 2012)

The first International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security is convening in Washington, D.C. from 4 to 6 December 2012, hosted by the United States Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). Organized as a direct result of the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit held in Seoul, South Korea, the International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security enhances awareness of the importance of comprehensive national regulatory security programs, and builds relationships among regulatory authorities responsible for nuclear and radioactive materials security.

Regulators from around the world are discussing how to enhance regulatory approaches for security at civilian facilities. They are also considering the means to establish and maintain a strong, independent legal and regulatory framework, supported by technically skilled personnel and adequate resources to protect and secure nuclear and radioactive materials.

In his address to the nuclear regulators, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano said that the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials was an "important area of unfinished business in nuclear security." The Amendment, agreed seven years ago, but as yet not in force, expands the Convention's coverage beyond the physical protection of nuclear material in international transport to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, as well as the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage.

"The Amendment's entry into force would make an important difference to global nuclear security by enhancing national security frameworks and international cooperation," the Director General stressed and said he was doing all he could to help make it happen.

Since terrorists and other criminals do not respect international borders and no country can respond effectively on its own to the threat which they pose, the Director General noted that international cooperation is vital. In his address, the Director General detailed the IAEA's work in helping to minimize the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material falling into the hands of terrorists, or of nuclear facilities being subjected to malicious acts. "For instance, we make it more difficult for criminals and terrorists to traffic nuclear and radioactive material across borders," he said, describing how the IAEA helps Member States by providing detection equipment at border crossings and training border guards.

In July 2013, the IAEA will host an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. The Director General informed the regulators that it would be one of the most important meetings that the IAEA will host in 2013 and he encouraged all countries to participate at ministerial level to underline the growing international political commitment to achieving tangible improvements in nuclear security.

The Director General noted that the "United States has been a very important partner in the IAEA's nuclear security activities right from the start." It is the largest donor to the IAEA's Nuclear Security Fund, actively supports IAEA nuclear security programmes and is providing funding, equipment and training to other Member States.

Background

The IAEA helps countries to put laws and regulatory infrastructure in place to protect nuclear and other radioactive material. The IAEA's internationally accepted guidance and standards are used as a benchmark for nuclear security. Through expert peer review missions, specialist training and human resource development programmes, the IAEA helps countries apply the standards, as well as strengthen physical security at nuclear, industrial or medical facilities where nuclear or other radioactive material is stored, or while it is being transported. IAEA experts help ensure that radioactive sources, which were not properly secured, were transported either to a safe and secure national storage facility, or repatriated to their country of origin. With the IAEA's help, a considerable amount of high enriched uranium has been placed into more secure storage. In the past ten years, the IAEA has provided nuclear security training to over 12 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security.

-- By Peter Kaiser, IAEA Division of Public Information


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