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IAEA Database on Trafficking of Nuclear and Other Radioactive Material Records 4243 Incidents Since 1993

Vienna, Austria

A total of 4243 incidents of illegal or unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material have been reported in the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) since 1993, according to a new factsheet released by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) today. In 2023, 168 incidents were reported by 31 States, in line with historical averages.

The ITDB receives information on incidents ranging from illegal possession, attempted sale and smuggling of nuclear and other radioactive material to unauthorized disposal of material and discovery of lost radioactive sources. Six of the incidents reported in 2023 were likely related to trafficking or malicious use. There was insufficient information to determine the intent of ten incidents. The 152 incidents that were not connected to trafficking or malicious use primarily resulted from unauthorized disposal, unauthorized shipment or the discovery of radioactive material.

“The reoccurrence of incidents confirms the need for vigilance and continuous improvement of the regulatory oversight to control, secure and properly dispose radioactive material,” said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security. “The ITDB is a valuable resource that allows for the identification of potential threats and trends to support international cooperation and to improve the implementation of nuclear security.”

An analysis of the types of material involved in reported incidents indicates a decline in incidents involving nuclear material, such as uranium, plutonium and thorium. Since 1993, 14 per cent of all incidents involved nuclear material, 59 per cent involved other radioactive material and about 27 per cent involved radioactively contaminated and other material.

More than half – 52 per cent – of all thefts reported since 1993 have occurred during authorized transport, and in the last decade, transport-related thefts accounted for almost 65 per cent of all thefts.

“Nuclear and other radioactive material remain vulnerable to security threats during transport. Figures from the ITDB highlight the ongoing importance of strengthening transport security measures,” Buglova said. “The IAEA assists States with strengthening their national nuclear security regimes to guard nuclear and other radioactive material with physical protection and computer security measures to ensure it does not fall into the wrong hands.”

The release of the ITDB factsheet coincides with this week’s International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS). ICONS 2024 provides a forum for ministers, policymakers, senior officials and nuclear security experts to discuss the future of nuclear security worldwide, while providing an opportunity to exchange information, share best practices and foster international cooperation.

About the ITDB

With 145 participating States, the ITDB fosters global information exchange about incidents that involve nuclear and other radioactive material falling out of regulatory control because they were lost, stolen, improperly disposed of, or otherwise neglected. The ITDB’s data is voluntarily reported, and only participating States and relevant international organizations, such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), can access it. Somalia and Togo most recently joined the ITDB in 2023.

The ITDB covers incidents involving nuclear material, radioisotopes and radioactively contaminated material such as scrap metal. By reporting lost or stolen material to the ITDB, countries increase the chances of its recovery and reduce the opportunities for it to be used in criminal activities. States can also report scams or hoaxes where the material is purported to be nuclear or otherwise radioactive.

States wishing to join the ITDB need to submit the request, by post or email, to the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security through the official channels (i.e. Permanent Mission, Ministry of Foreign Affairs or a national competent authority for nuclear security matters).

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