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IAEA Activities in Nuclear Security

Delft, The Netherlands | Reactor Institute Delft

Good morning, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am pleased to take part in this event marking the launch of the new Masters Programme in Nuclear Security at the Reactor Institute Delft.

The Institute has been an IAEA Collaborating Centre for nearly four years. Our two organisations have worked closely together in training and research, as well as in areas such as establishing quality management systems at nuclear analytical laboratories in IAEA Member States.

The launch of the new Masters Programme in Nuclear Security by the Delft University of Technology marks a new stage in our cooperation.

Four other European universities are also taking part in the programme: the University of Oslo, the Technical University of Vienna, the Brandenburg University of Applied Sciences, and the University of Manchester Dalton Nuclear Institute.

I am pleased that the syllabus for the course has been developed from the IAEA's Educational Programme in Nuclear Security. I commend this effort to train a new generation of experts who can help to improve global nuclear security.

Strengthening nuclear security throughout the world remains a challenge for all of us. National governments have primary responsibility for nuclear security, but international cooperation is vital.

Two years ago, in a sting operation, police in the Republic of Moldova seized a quantity of high-enriched uranium. The uranium was carried in a shielded container to prevent it from being detected. The smugglers claimed that the seized material was just a sample and that they could provide more. This case showed a new and worrying level of sophistication.

The Moldovan example also showed that, by working together, we can respond effectively. In this case, the IAEA had provided training and specialist equipment to Moldova. Thanks to that cooperation, the Moldovan police were able to stop the smuggling.

Heads of government have paid increasing attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism in recent years. Two nuclear security summits have taken place, in Washington and Seoul. A third will take place here in the Netherlands next year.

The summit process has been very useful in focussing attention on this important issue. But it is important to ensure that all states play their part in strengthening nuclear security.

I am sometimes asked which country, or countries, I worry about most as far as nuclear security is concerned. My reply is that the most dangerous countries are those that do not take nuclear security seriously.

In July this year, the IAEA will host an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. This will bring together ministers, senior officials and experts in the field. The Conference is open to all countries.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA plays the central role globally in helping countries to ensure that nuclear and other radioactive materials do not fall into the hands of terrorists.

As I mentioned, we provide specialist training and equipment such as radiation detectors for police and border guards. We help countries to ensure adequate physical protection for nuclear and other radioactive material. That can mean basic things like higher walls and fences and tighter access controls. We help countries to put systems in place to respond quickly and effectively if a malicious act should occur. With our assistance, a considerable amount of high-enriched uranium has been placed in more secure storage.

The IAEA maintains a unique Incident and Trafficking Database which keeps track of thefts of nuclear and other radioactive materials, and of other illicit activities. We are working with many countries to establish global networks of Nuclear Security Support Centres to improve nuclear security. And we conduct International Physical Protection Advisory Service missions, which provide expert advice on securing nuclear and other radioactive materials. These peer review missions are very valuable for helping countries to identify possible gaps in security.

A number of international legal instruments have been developed in the nuclear security field and these have proven very valuable. However, I would like to flag one area where more international action is urgently needed: that is the ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The Amendment was agreed in 2005, but it has still not entered into force. The original Convention covers only the physical protection of nuclear material in international transport. The Amendment would expand its coverage to include the protection of nuclear material in domestic use, transport and storage, and the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of terrorism. Entry into force of the Amendment would make an important difference to global nuclear security.

Nuclear security is not just about protecting nuclear power plants and related facilities from malicious acts. Nor is it just about materials with potential military uses, such as plutonium and high-enriched uranium. It is also vitally important to ensure that radiological sources, such as those widely used in medicine and industry, do not fall into the wrong hands. A so-called "dirty bomb" detonated in a major city could cause mass panic and have serious economic and environmental consequences.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Fukushima Daiichi accident in Japan two years ago reminded us of the important connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security. Implementing multiple safety measures at nuclear plants also helps to protect them against terrorist sabotage. Last year, the IAEA established a Nuclear Security Guidance Committee in which all Member States can participate in developing best practices in nuclear security, taking account of nuclear safety considerations.

After the Fukushima Daiichi accident, some people predicted that nuclear power would go into decline.

However, the evidence suggests that this will not be the case. Globally, nuclear power looks set to continue to grow steadily, although more slowly than we expected before the Fukushima Daiichi accident.

Nuclear power offers many benefits. It can help to improve energy security, reduce the impact of volatile fossil fuel prices, mitigate the effects of climate change and make economies more competitive. These are the main reasons which new countries tend to give for wanting nuclear power plants.

There are 437 operating nuclear power reactors in the world today. The latest IAEA projections suggest that number could increase by 80 or 90 in the next 20 years. It could even double.

At present, there are 68 new reactors under construction. The main growth in the coming decades is expected in countries such as China and India, which are already major users of nuclear power. However, a number of new countries, including Turkey, Vietnam, Jordan and Nigeria, also plan to build their first reactors.

It is essential that new reactors incorporate the highest standards as far as nuclear security, nuclear safety and nuclear safeguards are concerned. It is also clear that we will need a new generation of policy-makers and nuclear professionals, people like you, who will have a proper understanding of the importance of nuclear security.

That is why courses such as this new Masters Programme are so important.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am very grateful to the Delft University of Technology, and in particular to the Reactor Institute Delft, for being such valuable partners for the IAEA. I look forward to presenting a plaque, after this meeting, confirming that the Institute has been re-designated as an IAEA Collaborating Centre for another three years.

I also express my appreciation to the four other universities involved.

And I wish all students and faculty every success in your important work.

Thank you.


Last update: 25 Nov 2019

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