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Director General's Statement at International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts

Vienna, Austria

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

(As prepared for delivery)

Good morning, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.

I am very pleased to welcome you all to this IAEA International Conference on Nuclear Security.

I thank Minister Aurescu of Romania and Vice-Minister Alfaro of Panama for agreeing to serve as co-Presidents.

I also pay tribute to the tireless efforts of the Co-chairs in ensuring that the Ministerial Declaration which you will adopt today enjoys the consensus of all participating States.

This is the third IAEA ministerial conference on nuclear security. I am pleased to see record participation by ministers, which reflects the great importance which your governments attach to this issue.

We live in a world in which nuclear activities are growing in a very sustained way. The number of nuclear power plants, laboratories and locations dealing with nuclear material is increasing. This is a magnet for groups with malicious intent, which see in this material a possibility to create panic and bring distress and pain to our societies.

The sub-title of the conference, “Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts,” is an acknowledgment that considerable progress has been made throughout the world in recent years in protecting nuclear and other radioactive material against malicious use.

But we need to do more.

Nuclear security is the responsibility of individual countries. However, the need for international cooperation to guard against nuclear terrorism is universally recognised, as is the role of the IAEA as the inclusive global platform for that cooperation.

The IAEA’s role is indispensable.

Nuclear security is about more than just preventing nuclear terrorism. It is essential for ensuring that countries can enjoy the great benefits of the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology sustainably, and for maintaining public confidence.

Maintaining the highest levels of nuclear security should not be seen as an obstacle to using nuclear technology, but rather as an enabler.

Contrary to perceptions in some quarters, the use of nuclear power continues to grow. More and more use is also being made of non-power applications of nuclear technology in industry, health care, agriculture, food production, and many other areas.

This means that the amount of nuclear and other radioactive material in the world continues to increase, as does the number of facilities in which such material is stored. This material and these facilities must be protected against malicious use.

The IAEA offers countries practical assistance, expert advice, equipment and training to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive material, and associated facilities, are secure.

Demands for our assistance in nuclear security are constantly increasing.

Let me give you a few numbers to illustrate the contribution of the IAEA since our last ministerial conference in 2016.

We provided face-to-face training to nearly 7,000 people (including police and border guards) in nuclear security. More than 6,000 other officials completed e-learning courses, which we make available in all six official IAEA languages.

We donated radiation detection equipment to 33 countries, including personal detectors and radiation portal monitors for scanning vehicles and containers at seaports and border posts.

We provided practical nuclear security support at 17 major public events, including World Youth Day in Panama, which was attended by Pope Francis and the presidents of seven Latin American countries.

We lent countries more than 1,200 personal radiation detectors and related equipment for other public events.

We sent 15 expert missions to advise countries on improving security at nuclear facilities, hospitals and other places where nuclear materials are held.

We helped six countries to develop Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans, which enable them to establish a comprehensive system to protect nuclear and other radioactive material.

We released 12 new publications in our Nuclear Security Series, providing very practical guidance.

We continued to expand our Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB), in which 140 countries now participate. In the last three years, more than 600 new incidents of nuclear or other radioactive material going out of regulatory control were reported by 71 countries.

With active encouragement from the Agency, five countries have adhered to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its Amendment, while 10 CPPNM States have adhered to the Amendment. The Convention is the only legally binding treaty on the protection of nuclear material and it is a very important instrument. The Amendment widened its scope.

In December 2018, we hosted an International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material, focusing on prevention and detection, with participation from more than 100 countries.

As you can see, we have been busy – and this is just a selection of our activities.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Strengthening the Agency’s assistance to countries in the field of nuclear security will be a priority for me as Director General.

I believe more could be done to make us a real focal point in practice, not just in name, and to improve coordination among countries.

We are in a position to integrate and bring together the many valuable – but often scattered – efforts being made throughout the world to guard against nuclear terrorism and other threats, not just by governments, but also by think tanks, NGOs and others. Let us bring all such efforts home to the Agency.

I encourage all countries to make full use of IAEA expert peer review and advisory missions. These are among the most important services which we offer.

I hope that, in time, IAEA nuclear security guidance will enjoy the same status as our Safety Standards. As you know, the Safety Standards are not legally binding, but, in practice, they are adhered to by all our Member States and embedded in national practice.

I believe that funding for the IAEA’s nuclear security activities needs to be put on a more sustainable footing. Nuclear security is much too important to be dependent on extra-budgetary contributions, as is the case today.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Nuclear and radioactive material will always attract malevolent interest from terrorists and other criminals. We can never relax our guard. Even countries with little or no nuclear or other radioactive material on their territory must remain vigilant.

Let me conclude by thanking you once again for your presence here today, which demonstrates high-level political support for the work of the IAEA in nuclear security.

The goals you set will help to make the world safer and more secure for us all. The IAEA will continue to play its part in ensuring that those goals are translated into practical action.

I wish you a very successful Conference.

Thank you.

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