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International Community Meets to Reaffirm Common Commitment for Strengthening Nuclear Security

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IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi opening the IAEA Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts in Vienna on 10 February 2020. (Photo: H. Boening/IAEA)  

Over 57 ministers and more than 2000 experts from over 130 countries and 35 international organizations are meeting at IAEA headquarters this week to reaffirm their common commitment for strengthening nuclear security globally. At the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts (ICONS 2020), taking place from 10 to 14 February in Vienna,  participants will also take stock of their efforts to ensure the security of nuclear material and technology.

“Nuclear security applies to every country, whether it does or does not have nuclear and other radioactive material,” said IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in his opening statement at the event. “Threats to nuclear security know no borders and the IAEA is the focal point for international cooperation to ensure that we can all work together to address and respond to this global challenge.”

The aim of nuclear security is to prevent, detect and respond to potential nuclear security events if terrorists or other malicious actors get hold of nuclear or other radioactive material or sabotage associated activities.

Earlier today, delegates adopted a declaration to enhance global nuclear security and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism and other malicious acts. In the declaration, IAEA Member States reaffirmed the common goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and recognized that nuclear security contributes to international peace and security. Read the full text of the ministerial declaration here.

“The contribution of the IAEA to global peace, security and development is pivotal. I am confident that today’s outcomes will be reflected in the IAEA’s 2022 to 2025 Nuclear Security Plan. This is our chance to shape the vision which will channel Member States’ efforts and the work of the IAEA to ensure nuclear security in the coming years,” said Bogdan Aurescu, Romania’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, co-president of the Conference.

As the world’s only ministerial-level international conference on nuclear security, this platform brings together ministers, policy makers, technical and legal experts to discuss and identify specific issues to further enhance nuclear security and to address the key role it plays to ensure the sustainability of benefits from the peaceful applications of nuclear technology.

“As an inclusive international platform for nuclear security issues, ICONS is a truly unique opportunity for the international community to take ownership of strengthening nuclear security on national and multilateral basis,” said Federico Alfaro Boyd, Viceminister of Foreign Affairs of Panama, Co-President of the Conference.

At over 50 technical sessions during the week, experts will explore a large range of technical and scientific questions, such as confronting insider threat by workers or others with legitimate access to nuclear installations and material, increasing transport security, and the use of emerging technologies. Other sessions include the deterrence benefits of criminalizing offenses to unauthorized access and use of materials; the IAEA’s technical support to countries; physical, cyber and human elements of national nuclear security regimes; and the importance of integrating nuclear security into human resources development programs at nuclear installations and other facilities where radioactive material is used.

Hands on activities to interact with nuclear security

Over 30 side events will allow the participants to engage with nuclear security through hands-on activities. From virtual reality tours of the fictitious Shapash reactor to detect insider threats, nuclear security e-learning modules, radiological crime scene management and response simulation to a simulated cyber-attack on a power plant, participants will have a chance to ‘interact’ with nuclear security.

At the side events, NuSec Talks: 2020 and Beyond, Stories from the Member States, and Humans in Nuclear Security, participants will hear the personal stories and aspirations of men and women from various countries and cultures who are dedicated to supporting efforts to strengthen nuclear security.

At a ministerial-level interactive session held Monday afternoon, ministers analysed a scenario that involved transportation, cyber security, insider threat, nuclear forensics and legal and international cooperation issues to demonstrate the benefits of implementing the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A-CPPNM), which establishes measures related to the prevention, detection, and punishment of offenses relating to nuclear material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport.

“The international legal framework of the CPPNM and its Amendment reflects the conviction that security for one is security for all,” said Mr Grossi at a roundtable discussion following the session. “A nuclear security incident in one State would have effects far beyond the State’s borders, and universal implementation of the CPPNM and its Amendment will ensure that those that seek to use nuclear and other radioactive material for malicious purposes are brought to accountability in every country.”

ICONS 2020 is the third conference in this series. Previous ICONS were hosted by the IAEA in 2013 and 2016.

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