The threat of nuclear terrorism has not diminished, but a "new reality" is shaping nuclear security's global directions, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told experts attending an international security conference that opened in London today.
Much progress has been made through international cooperation over the past three years to combat the risks of nuclear terrorism, Dr. ElBaradei said. "Vulnerabilities still exist," he said, in urging countries to focus on setting "priorities for moving forward" against them. He noted that stronger global cooperation is leading to more effective and credible approaches to nuclear security - "not only for detecting and responding to illicit trafficking, but also for the protection of nuclear power plants, research reactors, accelerators, and the array of nuclear and other radioactive materials that support these and other nuclear applications."
Since March 2003 the IAEA has been working with countries worldwide to strengthen the security of nuclear and radiological materials. One effort is helping governments to recover stolen, lost and vulnerable radioactive sources. They include disused sealed sources from Bolivia, Cote d´Ivoire, Haiti, Iran, Malaysia, Panama, Sudan and Thailand, which the Agency helped to safely condition or ship back to the original suppliers.
"For those of us in the nuclear field, it has become obvious that our work to strengthen nuclear security is both vital and urgent - and that we must not wait for a ´watershed´ nuclear security event to provide the needed security upgrades," the Director General said.
As part of its strategy to prevent, detect and respond to nuclear terrorism, the IAEA is assisting countries to train customs officials, install better detection equipment at border crossings, and review programmes through some 125 security advisory and evaluation missions sent to nuclear facilities worldwide. The IAEA´s security activities are largely funded through the IAEA´s Nuclear Security Fund, which has received over $35 million from 26 countries and organisations since September 2001.
Dr. ElBaradei noted that some countries still lacked the programmes and resources to respond properly to the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. "For these countries, international cooperation is essential to help them strengthen their national capacities."
The IAEA illicit trafficking database shows over 650 confirmed incidents of trafficking in nuclear or other radioactive material since 1993. Last year, nearly 100 such incidents occurred, 11 of which involved nuclear material. As part of measures to strengthen global nuclear security, the IAEA will look to establish comprehensive nuclear security guidelines and recommendations, and to assist States with their implementation.
The IAEA´s International Conference on Nuclear Security: Global Directions for the Future runs from 16 - 18 March 2005. It is hosted by the Government of the United Kingdom and organized in cooperation with the European Commission (EC), the European Police Office (Europol), the International Criminal Police Organization (ICPO-Interpol), the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), and the World Customs Organization (WCO).
The first day will review the achievements and shortcomings of international efforts to strengthen nuclear security; day two will explore how the international nuclear security regime is adapting to new measures - and the IAEA role in underpinning them; the focus of the final day is on additional steps that can be taken internationally to forge a common "security culture" against global threats of nuclear terrorism.
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