IAEA Plays Central Role in Global Efforts to Strengthen Nuclear Security, Says IAEA Director General

IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

The IAEA’s central role in supporting international efforts against the threat of nuclear terrorism was among the key issues highlighted by Director General Yukiya Amano in a keynote address today  at the Nuclear Industry Summit in Washington D.C.

The conference, an official side event of the Nuclear Security Summit being hosted by U.S. President Barack Obama, is focussing on managing cyber threats, securing the use, storage and transport of radiological and nuclear materials, and the role of the nuclear industry in the world.

“We provide guidance covering key aspects of nuclear security,” Mr Amano said. “We help to make borders more secure by installing radiation monitors at ports and border crossings. We help countries to improve physical protection at nuclear installations and hospitals, so that radioactive material is not stolen. We provide training and equipment to law enforcement personnel to help them identify and intercept illicit trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material.”

Cyber safety

Mr Amano said the nuclear industry has not been immune to cyber-attacks. “There have been cases of random malware-based attacks at nuclear power plants, and of such facilities being specifically targeted,” he said.

“The IAEA continues to do what it can to help governments, organizations, and individuals adapt to evolving technology-driven threats from determined cyber adversaries.” It was important that all internationally agreed nuclear instruments are in force and actually used, he added.

Entry into force of the Amendment to the CPPNM

Reflecting on the importance of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), Mr Amano said that over the last few years the IAEA has worked hard to encourage countries to adhere to the Amendment. “Today, adherence by seven countries is needed for entry into force, which I expect to happen within months.”

The Amendment makes it legally binding for countries to protect nuclear facilities, as well as nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport. It provides for expanded cooperation among countries on locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material.

There has been a 70 per cent rise since 1999 in the amount of nuclear material in peaceful purposes and this trend will continue as global use of nuclear power increases, the IAEA Director General said.

Although there has not been a major terrorist attack involving nuclear or radiological material, Mr Amano stressed that it was important to remain vigilant.

IAEA Member States have reported nearly 2,800 incidents involving radioactive material going out of regulatory control since 1995. “Only a handful of these incidents involved material that could be used to make a nuclear explosive device. But some of the material that goes missing could be combined with conventional explosives to create a dirty bomb.”

Mr Amano said the IAEA greatly valued its cooperation with the nuclear industry.

"As far nuclear security, in particular, is concerned, we could not do our jobs without the innovative systems and equipment which industrial engineers and scientists are constantly developing to enable all of us to counter nuclear terrorism," he added.

The IAEA Director General will attend the Nuclear Security Summit, from 31 March to 1 April, as an observer.

Last update: 1 April 2016