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Remarks at Ceremony Commemorating Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Vienna Austria

Vienna, Austria | Ceremony Commemorating Tenth Anniversary of 9/11 Terrorist Attacks

Excellencies, Dear Colleagues, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I was in Washington, in the offices of the Monterey Institute at Dupont Circle, during the 9/11 attacks. I remember vividly seeing the smoke and flames rising from the Pentagon. I remember the mass exodus from the city centre, the clogged roads, the half-empty supermarket shelves as people stocked up on emergency goods. I remember the noise of jet-fighters flying low over the city.

An IAEA Board of Governors meeting was taking place in Vienna at the time. Proceedings were interrupted as news of the attacks reached the Boardroom. Board members watched, horrified, as the events in New York and Washington unfolded in front of them on live television.

In the aftermath of those terrible attacks, the international community came together with renewed resolve to consider how best to respond to the threat of terrorism. There was a new recognition of the particular risk of terrorists obtaining nuclear or radioactive material. Risks include terrorists attempting to steal a nuclear weapon or build a nuclear device themselves. Or terrorists might try to acquire radioactive materials to create a so-called "dirty bomb". They could also attempt to sabotage nuclear power stations, storage facilities or transport operations with the aim of spreading radioactive contamination.

In the 10 years since 9/11, the IAEA, as the leading international organization in the nuclear field, has steadily expanded its nuclear security programme. This is primarily a national responsibility, but we help countries to put in place effective nuclear security programmes. Our work includes helping to ensure the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities, providing training and equipment for border guards and other law enforcement agencies to help them detect nuclear and radioactive materials, helping with nuclear security at major public events, such as the Olympic Games or the World Cup - and much more.

Information-sharing among governments is of vital importance. The IAEA maintains a unique Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) programme, in which 113 countries participate. In the year to June 2011, 172 incidents were reported to the Database, involving cases such as unauthorised possession of nuclear material or radioactive sources. One incident involved the attempted sale of high enriched uranium. HEU can theoretically be used to make nuclear bombs if a sufficient quantity is available. Incidents of this nature illustrate that illicit trafficking remains a real and current concern.

These are just a few examples of the work which the IAEA is doing to protect the world against the risk of nuclear terrorism.

I would like to end by expressing my profound sympathy for the people of the United States over those dreadful attacks 10 years ago. I renew my pledge that nuclear security will remain a high priority for me throughout my tenure as Director General.

Thank you.


Last update: 26 July 2017