Major public international events are confronting a new security reality - the risk of the malicious use of nuclear or other radioactive material.
When the 15th Pan American Games get under way in Rio de Janeiro tomorrow (Friday, July 13) the 6,000 athletes competing, and hundreds of thousands of games goers, will be protected by a set of sophisticated security measures.
The Rio Games´ nuclear security system builds on similar measures taken at the 2004 summer Olympics and last year´s Football World Cup, by the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In Brazil, enforcement authorities have been equipped with radiological expertise to protect the Game´s 6,000 athletes and the expected million of fans from throughout the Americas.
For events of this scale organizers have had to acknowledge that traditional security measures, like guards, guards and gates, are no longer enough. This has created an unusual but highly effective marriage of expertise between groups like scientists and police, intelligence experts and fire fighters.
"The IAEA has been hard at work for over fifty years in radiation safety and security. We are now further developing these skills as they become increasingly relevant to large scale public events like the Pan American Games," said Anita Nilsson, Director of Nuclear Security at the IAEA.
The steps taken in Rio are the result of intense cooperation between Brazil´s Nuclear Energy Commission, CNEN, and the IAEA. With the provision of expert advice and specialised technical assistance from the IAEA, CNEN has trained and equipped enforcement authorities to measure and detect radioactive material.
Brazil´s national capacity is furthered by the nuclear security support from the IAEA which includes:
- Advising on physical protection measures to secure radioactive material;
- Furnishing information related to illicit trafficking or other unauthorized use of radioactive materials in the country or region;
- Providing equipment and training for detection of criminal acts involving radiation; and
- Assisting in training and the creation of coordinated responses.
The result of these efforts is a systematic approach to nuclear security - one that incorporates prevention, detection, and response. A coordinated effort allows for a quick and comprehensive response to incidents which might have malevolent intent.
"The Pan American Games are a good opportunity to increase this cooperation and establish new objectives for the future regarding security," explained Luiz Mello, Head of the Physical Protection Group, Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission (CNEN).