Close to €7 million will be spent on improving nuclear and radiological security in Africa, after the European Union approved funds to bolster the IAEA´s activities in the continent. The €7 million grant is the single largest contribution to the IAEA´s Nuclear Security Fund, which was set up to improve nuclear security worldwide following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the USA.
The money will immediately rollout to new and existing nuclear security activities in 35 countries, including 27 African States. The funds are targeted to upgrade physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities in the countries, secure vulnerable radioactive sources, and combat illicit trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials.
IAEA Director General, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, welcomed the contribution and praised the EU for its ongoing support.
"It allows the Agency to continue to work with its African Member States to improve nuclear security in the region and beyond. Nuclear science and technology offers great benefits but must be guarded against misuse." the Director General said.
The IAEA´s security activities are largely funded through its Nuclear Security Fund. This latest EU contribution brings the total received to $53 million from 26 countries and organizations since March 2002. While Dr. ElBaradei welcomed this latest, significant contribution, he added that "the IAEA´s nuclear security programme remained 90% funded through unpredictable and heavily conditioned voluntary contributions."
Earlier joint work by the EU and IAEA in 2006 has identified and prioritized countries where nuclear security needs to be bolstered and proposed ways to address concerns. Ghana, South Africa, Morocco and Nigeria are among countries the IAEA will work with to secure nuclear and radioactive materials and sites at risk of sabotage. South Africa, Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia are among countries the IAEA will assist to strengthen their capabilities to detect and respond to illicit trafficking. While Azerbaijan, Cape Verde, Comoros, Croatia, Swaziland, and the Former Yugoslavia Republic of Macedonia are among States the IAEA will support to strengthen national legislation and regulatory infrastructures related to nuclear and radioactive material.
The new money allows the IAEA to begin its third phase of EU funded nuclear security activities. The first phase targeted countries in the Balkans, the second phase, the Mediterranean and North Africa. This latest phase in Africa, follows calls by African leaders meeting in Algeria in January 2007 to improve nuclear security in their region.
In a joint statement issued at that meeting some 45 countries said: "African Ministers and Officials... undertake to strengthen nuclear safety and security measures within a global approach aiming at promoting safe and accountable use of nuclear energy". The pledge came at the end of a two-day African Regional Conference on Nuclear Energy and the peaceful uses of nuclear technology in Africa. Addressing the two-day meeting in Algeria, Director General ElBaradei said "for nuclear technologies to remain viable as tools for development, they must be used safely, securely and exclusively for peaceful purposes".