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Heightened Security for Peaceful Uses: Five Years of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material


Five years ago today, the entry into force of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A/CPPNM) marked a milestone in nuclear security. Whereas the original CPPNM requires the physical protection of nuclear material in international transport, the Amendment, which entered into force on 8 May 2016, expands the scope of the Convention to cover physical protection of nuclear facilities and nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport. The Amendment also adds to the list of criminal offences involving nuclear material and nuclear facilities covered under the Convention, and it strengthens the basis for international cooperation.

“Every day, nuclear science and technology improve the quality of our lives. Nuclear reactors generate a third of our clean power, and radiotherapy machines help to protect and treat cancer. Around the world, nuclear applications make water safe to drink and help boost crops,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in his video message. “As we harness the benefits of nuclear science and technology, we must also recognize and address the threats to peaceful uses of nuclear material. The Convention and its Amendment play a critical role in ensuring that the nuclear material used for peaceful purposes doesn’t get into the hands of people who may want to misuse it.”

A legal framework that helps ensure nuclear material is properly secured and that serves to prevent malicious acts involving nuclear material is important for all countries, regardless of whether they operate nuclear facilities. The CPPNM and its Amendment are key parts of the legal foundation for nuclear security, setting legal obligations to establish a physical protection regime, to criminalize certain offences and to engage in and support international cooperation, for example, in the case of theft, sabotage or other unlawful possession of nuclear material.

“Joining the A/CPPNM has enhanced and strengthened Thailand’s nuclear security infrastructure, through capacity building and experience sharing with other State Parties, stakeholders and the IAEA,” said Ambassador Morakot Sriswasdi, Resident Representative of Thailand to the IAEA. “Becoming a State Party to the Convention and its Amendment enables Thailand to foster cooperation and expand access to nuclear technology and its peaceful applications.”

Call for all countries to adhere to the Amendment

Teodolinda Rosa Rodrigues Coelho, Ambassador and Resident Representative of Angola to the IAEA, deposited an instrument of accession to the CPPNM and its Amendment, during the 64th IAEA General Conference in Vienna, Austria, 21 September 2020. With Angola, there are now 162 Parties to the CPPNM and 125 to the Amendment. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Universal adherence to the CPPNM, as strengthened by its Amendment, will help harmonize national approaches to preventing and responding to criminal and other unauthorized acts involving nuclear material and facilities, recognizing that such acts perpetrated in one country could have consequences for others. Though in force, the Amendment is not yet universally applied. “I want to encourage the leaders of countries to join us. We stand ready to support you in this process,” Mr Grossi said. “Let’s work together to secure the material and the facilities of one of the world’s most precious scientific resources because when we do, everyone benefits.”

The CPPNM currently has 162 Parties, of which 125 have also joined the Amendment. Most recently, on the sidelines of the 2020 IAEA General Conference, Angola joined the CPPNM, together with its Amendment.

To promote the adherence to and to assist in the implementation of the A/CPPNM, the IAEA provides legislative assistance, training courses and guidance on the design and maintenance of physical protection systems and for accounting of nuclear material in use, storage and transport. The IAEA also establishes and maintains guidance on all aspects of nuclear security through the Nuclear Security Series documents and offers peer review and advisory services on national physical protection and nuclear security regime in relation to materials out of regulatory control. In March, the IAEA launched a new e-learning course on the legal framework for nuclear security to raise awareness and to further support universalization of the A/CPPNM to establish and maintain effective nuclear security regimes that include elements that address nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control.

Next year, the IAEA will host a Conference of Parties to the A/CPPNM, as foreseen under the Convention as amended, in order to review the implementation of the Convention and its adequacy in light of the then prevailing situation. “The Conference will provide an opportunity for the Parties to the Amendment and the CPPNM to underline their political commitment to nuclear security. It will also be an occasion to promote further universalization,” said Ambassador Benno Laggner, Switzerland’s Resident Representative to the IAEA and Co-President of next year’s Conference. “I hope that we will have a substantive dialogue and exchange of best practices that will lead to more effective implementation.”

Read more about how the IAEA assists countries in implementing international legal instruments

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