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IAEA Director General's Statement at Nuclear Security Summit

Washington D.C., USA

(As prepared for delivery)

Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA has been active in nuclear security for decades. After the 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, we significantly stepped up our activities.

The first Nuclear Security Summit six years ago had a major impact on our work. In 2010, some countries still questioned whether the IAEA had a mandate to work on nuclear security. Now, no-one disputes this. Today, nuclear safety and security are priority areas in the IAEA budget. Our regular budget for nuclear security has increased five-fold, but it is still not sufficient.

The 2010 Summit set out a far-sighted programme to improve nuclear security. The IAEA has played the leading role as the global platform for strengthening nuclear security, and we have delivered concrete results.

Since 2010, the IAEA has trained over 10,000 people in nuclear security, including police and border guards. We have given countries more than 3,000 instruments for detecting nuclear and other radioactive material, and carried out around 60 advisory missions to help States improve their nuclear security frameworks. 

We maintain a unique global Incident and Trafficking Database, through which 133 countries report incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material. Nearly 3,000 such incidents have been reported since the database was established in 1995.

States should make better use of this database and report all relevant incidents in order to improve everyone’s understanding of the scale of the problem.

Countries all over the world have invested in nuclear security, often with support from the IAEA and financial assistance from some of the countries here today. We work closely with the more than 100 other IAEA Member States which are not represented at this Summit meeting.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Protection against possible nuclear terrorist attacks will be enhanced as an important legal instrument — the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material — enters into force. It will reduce the likelihood of terrorists being able to detonate a “dirty bomb”, and the risk of a terrorist attack on a nuclear power plant.

Entry into force of the Amendment has been a painfully slow process. Under the Amendment, countries are required to establish appropriate physical protection regimes for nuclear material. They also take on new obligations to share information on sabotage, and credible threats of sabotage.

As the Amendment enters into force, I will bring the Parties together to work out ways of improving the mechanisms for sharing such information, while protecting confidentiality. I plan to host annual meetings of national Points of Contact for the Convention, as well as periodic Review Conferences. However, even with entry into force, there will still be a large number of countries which are not parties to the Amendment. So our new goal must be universal application of the amended Convention.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA has unique emergency response capabilities in the form of our Incident and Emergency Centre. It would become operational within minutes after a State reported a nuclear security-related incident to us. We could send nuclear security experts and radiation measurement teams to the affected country, help organise medical assistance and organise nuclear forensics investigations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

With 168 Member States, the IAEA has the global reach and the technical expertise to serve as an effective global nuclear security platform. We will hold an International Conference on Nuclear Security, with a ministerial component, in December. Please encourage ministers from your country to attend.

In order to maintain the momentum, I expect that this high-level conference will take place every three years in future.

The IAEA’s responsibilities in nuclear security will grow in the coming years. We need sustained political and financial support from you. Working closely with national experts and key international partners, the IAEA will continue to deliver tangible improvements in nuclear security.

Thank you.

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