Experts in nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament issues are taking part in a two-day seminar hosted by the IAEA that explores new approaches to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, enhancing nuclear security and multinationalizing the nuclear fuel cycle. IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, in opening the sessions and later briefing reporters, reaffirmed his view that urgent action and stronger laws are needed to close serious gaps in controls on exports of sensitive nuclear material and equipment. It is clear, he said, that the control system now in place is not working to prevent "black market" trafficking, and he underlined the urgency of establishing a reinforced global security framework.
The black market cases that have been exposed so far in connection with the IAEA's nuclear verification work, he said, are "just the tip of the iceberg". Much more work needs to be done and more resources will be needed, he emphasized, to follow through on examining a "chain of activity" in the nuclear black market and to make sure such cases are not repeated.
Mr. ElBaradei also emphasized the importance of reducing the role that nuclear weapons play in international security, and of lowering the numbers of nuclear weapons from the current 30,000. He called for an inclusive, universal system of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament as the only way forward.
On multinationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, Mr. ElBaradei said that it is time to limit the processing of weapon-usable material (separated plutonium and high-enriched uranium) in civilian nuclear programmes, as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment, by agreeing to restrict these operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control. He said that consideration should be given to multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste. Considerable advantages -- in cost, safety, security and non-proliferation -- would be gained from international co-operation in these stages of the nuclear fuel cycle. These initiatives would not simply add more non-proliferation controls, to limit access to weapon-usable nuclear material; they would also provide access to the benefits of nuclear technology for more people in more countries.
The expert seminar hosted by the IAEA concludes 6 February in Vienna. Participating are leading international researchers, scholars, and representatives of non-governmental "think tanks", international organizations, and regional and global political institutes engaged in efforts against weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation. Topics being addressed include nuclear verification and safeguards; innovative approaches to managing the nuclear fuel cycle; and nuclear security.