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Security of Radioactive Material: Why it Matters

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International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material: The Way Forward for Prevention and Detection, IAEA, Vienna, Austria. 5 December 2018. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

At the IAEA’s International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material: the Way Forward for Prevention and Detection, held 3-7 December 2018 in Vienna, the more than 700 participants from more than 100 countries discussed how to best prevent that radioactive material  ends up in the wrong hands, while still enabling it to be used for beneficial purposes. The detection of radioactive material that is lost, stolen or otherwise missing was another focus on the Conference, which explored the links between detection and prevention work. We checked in with some of the participants to learn more.

What is the biggest challenge in your field?

Lawrence Dim, Director General of the Nigerian Nuclear Regulatory Authority:

One of the biggest challenges is that many countries don’t have the infrastructure, like a regulatory authority. Another, even where there are regulatory bodies, training and competency are lacking. Also, it is difficult to go back in history to trace the sources that came out of regulatory control before the regulatory body was established.” 

What can the countries do to strengthen the security of radioactive material?

Nathalie Semblat, Deputy Director and Senior Program Manager, Weapons Threat Reduction Program Division, Global Affairs Canada:

“We support international cooperation projects and provide funding for the (IAEA) Nuclear Security Fund. We should better coordinate and prioritize the sequencing of how we need to strengthen security of radioactive material. We also have to address the higher and more immediate threats. The only way we can do this is if a Member State identifies the issue and requests assistance and then we can collaborate with the IAEA and other stakeholders to mitigate the threat and determine the appropriate sequencing.”

How has the IAEA helped your country?

Nafaa Reguigui, Director of Nuclear Safety and Security, National Centre for Nuclear Science and Technologies, Tunisia:

With the help of the IAEA, through the Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plan programme, we managed to train a lot of people at the regulatory body and technical organizations, customs, police, and military. Customs even set up a new brigade for dealing with radioactive material. They didn’t have this before. Before, they didn’t even believe the threat was there (…) and now they recognize their responsibility. And it is due to the trainings provided by the IAEA. In terms of technical capability, in 2007, customs had maybe two or three portable radiation detectors. Now, every single border crossing point has detectors. Due to the help from the IAEA, we have had a positive impact in terms of technical capability and changing of the culture among the stakeholders.”

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