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IAEA Releases Annual Data on Illicit Trafficking of Nuclear and other Radioactive Material

Vienna, Austria

A total of 146 incidents of illegal or unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material were reported in 2022, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today in an annual fact sheet summarizing data from the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB). The numbers, which include some incidents connected to illicit trafficking or malicious use, remained at around the same levels as in recent years.  

The ITDB aims to foster global information exchange about events 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 detailed data is confidential, and only participating States and relevant international organizations, such as the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL), can access it.

The ITDB contains information from 143 participating states. It covers events involving nuclear material, radioisotopes and radioactively contaminated material such as scrap metal. States can also report scams or hoaxes where the material is purported to be nuclear or otherwise radioactive. This year’s ITDB data is based on voluntarily submitted reports from 31 States. 

In five of the 146 incidents reported in 2022, there was sufficient information to determine that they related to trafficking or malicious use. Three of these five incidents involved scams. The material involved in the two other trafficking-related incidents was seized by the relevant competent authorities within the reporting States.

“The ITDB maintains and analyses reported information with a view to identifying common threats and patterns,” said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “By analysing trends in States’ reports, we support international cooperation in nuclear security and help States to improve their regulations governing the use, storage, transport and disposal of nuclear or radioactive material.”

A total of 4075 cases have been recorded in the ITDB since 1993. Three hundred forty-four of these cases were related to trafficking or malicious use. The frequency of such incidents remains low while cases of attempted scams involving non-nuclear material that was claimed to be nuclear or radioactive have been rising.  

Additionally, trends from the ITDB show that thefts occurring during the transportation of nuclear or radioactive material stand at almost 52% of all reported cases since 1993. The figure has reached almost 62% for the preceding ten-year period, highlighting the ongoing importance of strengthening transport security measures.

“The ITDB is uniquely equipped to help the IAEA identify trends that indicate vulnerabilities and areas for increased focus. We encourage all States to report incidents to ITDB systematically,” said Buglova.

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