You are here

IAEA Outlines Measures to Enhance Protection Against Nuclear Terrorism

Mr. ElBaradei presented a report today to the Agency's Board of Governors, outlining plans for substantially expanding and strengthening IAEA programmes relevant to improving nuclear security.

"We need to urgently identify the most vulnerable locations and see they get the necessary security upgrades," Mr. ElBaradei said. "In the long term, we need to ensure all countries have a stringent nuclear security framework in place - with high standards to abide by, state-of-the art equipment, and people trained in security." Past efforts have focused largely on diversion of nuclear material by States for non-peaceful purposes, without the same degree of focus on malicious activities by sub national groups -- thus creating a gap between the risk of nuclear terrorism and existing response capabilities.

The report addresses the IAEA's response to the following threats from acts of nuclear terrorism by a subnational group: acquisition of a nuclear weapon; acquisition of nuclear material to construct a nuclear weapon or to cause a radiological hazard; acquisition of other radioactive materials to cause a radiological hazard; and violent acts against nuclear facilities to cause a radiological hazard.

The report puts a price tag on its proposed programme upgrades at $30-50 million per year, representing an initial 10-15% increase in the IAEA's overall resources. Additionally, Mr. ElBaradei said the IAEA's budget is currently underfunded by about $40 million due to a budgetary policy over many years of "zero real growth", and called on Member States to provide the resources required to cope with the newly emerging threat.

"In addition to the resources required for urgent international assistance," Mr. ElBaradei said, "the necessary global upgrades to meet the full range of possible threats would be in the range of hundreds of millions of dollars and would have to be carried out by individual States and through bilateral and multilateral assistance". The IAEA would play a coordinating role in delivering this assistance.

"These measures should be regarded as an insurance policy designed to help protect the whole world against an act of nuclear terrorism," says Mr. ElBaradei. "The premiums might seem steep, but they are worth the investment to protect ourselves."

Mr. ElBaradei says, "An effective response must consider: national vs. international roles; urgent (short term) priorities vs. medium and long term strategies; and both safety and security aspects. The most immediate task is to get the facts -- to achieve a more complete picture of nuclear security worldwide, to enable a rapid response to the most urgent needs, and to develop a coherent plan for longer term action."

Expected outcomes

If States provide adequate funding, Mr. ElBaradei predicts that the enhanced and additional activities proposed in his report should lead over time to a powerful national and international security framework for nuclear facilities and material.

"If we can establish international standards, effective security systems and oversight in all States, and better monitoring of borders, then we can provide a guarantee that the world will be a much safer place," Mr. ElBaradei said.


Last update: 26 July 2017