International Cooperation Key to Nuclear Security

IAEA Director General Addresses Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano joins Heads of States and other international organizations attending the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

International cooperation is vital to ensure global nuclear security, IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano stressed in a statement to high-level delegates attending the Nuclear Security Summit in Seoul, South Korea. More than 50 Heads of States and international organizations are meeting at the Seoul Summit to discuss global nuclear security issues, particularly measures to protect and secure nuclear materials and facilities.

In his statement to the Summit on 27 March 2012, Director General Amano said that national governments continue to have primary responsibility for nuclear security, but noted some positive developments in international cooperation in the past two years. He pointed out that more than 100 countries are reporting incidents of thefts or other illicit activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials to the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database, which now tracks several hundred incidents every year. Mr. Amano urged all countries to continue to share information on illicit trafficking with the IAEA in order to ensure that the world has a comprehensive overview of the threat and can respond effectively.

One area where more action is urgently needed is ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials, the Director General emphasized. The Amendment was agreed in 2005 but has still not entered into force because not enough countries have ratified it. The Amendment would expand coverage of the Convention to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, transport and storage, and the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of terrorism, and its

Entry into force would make an important difference to global nuclear security. In his statement, Mr. Amano urged all countries to do so as a matter of urgency.

The Director General also highlighted how the Fukushima Daiichi accident in 2011 was a stark reminder of the important connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security.

"Ensuring that nuclear power plants are fitted with multiple safety systems helps both to prevent accidents and to guard against possible sabotage," he said. "The IAEA has just established a Nuclear Security Guidance Committee in which all Member States can participate in developing best practices in nuclear security, taking account of nuclear safety considerations."

On strengthening nuclear security, Mr. Amano also stressed the importance of the "human element". "Strengthening nuclear security is not just about spending money on 'guns, gates and guards'," he said. "Training specialist staff and transferring know-how are of equal importance." He pointed out that in the past ten years, the IAEA has trained over 10 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security and helped to improve security at around 110 facilities. "The IAEA could do much more," Mr. Amano said, "but we need adequate resources to do our job properly."

Later today, participating leaders to the Nuclear Security Summit are expected to announce the Seoul communiqué, which expresses support for the work of the IAEA and reaffirms international commitments to minimizing the use of highly-enriched uranium and plutonium, and expands discussions on nuclear safety in the context of nuclear security following the nuclear crisis in Japan.

"I welcome your support for the IAEA, as expressed in the Communiqué, and will continue to work with all of you to help make the world safer from nuclear terrorism," Mr. Amano said.

Last update: 11 November 2014