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Statement at International Symposium on Nuclear Security

Vienna, Austria

Good morning Ladies and Gentlemen,

On behalf of the Director General, Mohamed El-Baradei, I would like to welcome you to the International Symposium on Nuclear Security. The number and senior level of the participants at this event is clear evidence of the global interest in nuclear security and the importance placed upon it by the international community. This symposium is the third major event organised by the IAEA focusing on nuclear security since 2002.


Importance of Symposium

This Symposium takes place against a backdrop of renewed interest in nuclear technologies, not only in nuclear power generation to address the global need for reliable nuclear energy, but also in other nuclear applications such as medical and industrial uses. This Symposium also takes place at a particularly opportune moment for the IAEA as we prepare to draw up the next four-year Nuclear Security Plan. Therefore, this Symposium plays an important role in assessing the achievements of the international nuclear community in improving nuclear security, identifying future challenges and, in particular, finding ways in which international cooperation through the IAEA can address the challenges in a comprehensive but focused and effective manner.


Historical Background

The Agency´s nuclear security related activities started in the 1970s through the provision of ad hoc training courses and the publication of recommendations on physical protection. However activities to assist States in their efforts to combat nuclear terrorism have accelerated significantly over the last eight years following the agreement of the Board of Governors in November 2001 in response to the 9/11 event in the US and in March 2002 with the first Plan of Action to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. This Plan was designed to be an immediate response to new type of terrorist threat including the perception that nuclear and other radioactive material could no longer be regarded as self protecting. Agency efforts were designed to address the four types of threat, (1) the threat of sub-national or trans-national groups acquiring a nuclear explosive device; (2) the threat of using nuclear material to build an improvised nuclear device; or (3) the threat of acquiring radioactive material to construct dispersal device; and (4) the threat of sabotage at installations, locations or transports involving such material.

In September 2005, the Board approved a second nuclear security plan, which built on the achievements and lessons learned from the implementation of the first Plan. This current plan will run until the end of this year.

Work carried out under both plans has been almost entirely funded by voluntary contributions to the IAEA and I would like to take this opportunity to express my sincere gratitude for the generous support that we have received - political, financial and in kind over the past seven years.


Results of Agency Efforts in Security

It is difficult to quantify the outcome of the implementation of Agency nuclear security activities and it is perhaps tempting fate to do so. However, I believe that it is accurate to say that as a result of the Agency´s efforts in nuclear security, States are more aware of the increased threat and the need for greater international cooperation to counter that threat. States are also now better equipped to deal with the threat. Moreover, the Agency, through activities such as assisting States in their efforts to repatriate HEU fuel and to secure many dangerous radioactive sources, has helped to reduce the size of the threat. Nevertheless, there is no room for complacency. But security as well as safety is constant work in progress.

Let me outline some of the lessons that we have learned in the course of implementing the two nuclear security plans. I have just alluded to the first of these lessons - that there is always room for improvement. This reality presents us with significant challenges. However, as we continued to gain experience and make improvements in nuclear security, we have developed a better understanding of the threat and the response needed.

With over seven years of experience in implementing the two nuclear security plans, we have developed a much better knowledge base. Learning from the ancient wisdom of Socrates, we now have a better understanding of what we do not know and have a better idea regarding how to address these gaps in our knowledge. However, addressing these gaps will be neither easy nor quick and it will require further international cooperation and substantial resources.

Recent reports from numerous security experts, including the assessment made last week by the United Kingdom, have consistently made it clear that the threat of terrorism involving nuclear or other radioactive material is real. The threat is also increasing in geographic scope, as more people use radioactive materials and, at the same time, articulate grievances, real or imagined. The Director General has made it clear on many occasions that a long term solution to the threat of terrorism will have to address the root causes of social discontent. The Agency, through its various programmes for supporting sustainable development, stands ready to contribute to this long term approach.

These global challenges are indeed important, but many span beyond the scope of today´s discussion. It is also important that we focus on more immediate issues. As the variety of nuclear technology, radioactive materials and the related knowledge spreads, so do the threats too that they may be used for malicious purposes. Furthermore, assuring the security of the nuclear industry and radioactive materials is more complex due to the increased multinational character of today´s nuclear activities and the strong trans-border characteristics when compared with other activities. What this means is that more comprehensive and internationally-coordinated approaches are required to meet the challenges.

This leads me to the second lesson - to achieve security one has to involve all parts of the international community. States are not prepared to accept discriminatory regimes. We have to ensure nuclear security in ways which enable and facilitate the use of nuclear technology enshrined in the Agency´s Statute and which at the same time do not compromise the safety and security of the public at large.

The third lesson relates to the role of the State. It is clear that the responsibility for security rests with the State. However, numerous recent examples of terrorist activity have demonstrated that nowadays no State, particularly no single State authority, can fulfil that responsibility by itself. As the poet John Donne said that "No man is an island, entire of itself". This thought is especially true in the realm of security. Experience has shown that no State or organisation can rely solely on increased physical protection of materials and facilities to ensure nuclear security. Effective coordination and cooperation with all the relevant organisations within and outside of the State is essential.

The fourth lesson is related to the multi-faceted character of a proper security system and the importance of legal and technical frameworks. In new facilities, integration of security into smarter designs certainly helps. But, a comprehensive system of security also requires better knowledge bases and analytical capacities. Furthermore, a greater understanding is needed regarding what sensitive information needs to be protected and what information can be more actively shared. This system has to be rooted in a universal and credible legal framework, with objectively established standards and the ability and willingness of the international community to learn from each other in meeting the requirements of these standards individually and collectively. Greater international cooperation is indispensable in bringing this about.

The international nuclear community has responded to the challenge of greater synergy and integration through the establishment of a global nuclear security regime based on a framework of legally-binding and non legally-binding instruments for security. However, this framework is at an early stage of its development. For example, we appreciate the commitment shown by the 85 States that have committed to the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources but we need to extend the coverage to all States who use such sources and to enhance implementation of the measures introduced by the Code.

The IAEA will continue to assist these efforts by fostering a global nuclear security regime that includes standards and provides peer reviews and advisory services to facilitate the application of these standards. Indeed, a number of the international instruments assign a role to the Agency. And the IAEA is the best-placed global body capable of establishing such standards and supporting their implementation. Integration of safety standards with security standards, as necessary, is already being undertaken by the Commission for Safety Standards.

The fifth lesson is that work to improve nuclear security cannot and should not remain static. The Agency believes that the global nuclear security regime and its key elements must be evaluated from time to time to assure that they remain fit for purpose and current. In addition, to maintain constant vigilance, the application of the standards and other instruments in individual States should be subject to periodic review, through self assessment and the use of Agency services on a voluntary basis.

The global nuclear security regime will have to face the challenges created by the wider use of nuclear technology, materials and knowledge. The benefit for States joining the international nuclear community is that they have an opportunity to shape the regime itself and, through international cooperation, to better meet its requirements.


Looking to the Future of Nuclear Security

Now, the key issue for us is, "how can the IAEA´s next nuclear security plan respond to the challenges and support the global nuclear security regime that I have just described?" The next plan will have to continue to address areas previously identified where improvement is needed. We have, of course, reflected on the lessons learned from the implementation of the first two plans and will respond to challenges and responsibilities given to us by the international community through different instruments and relevant UN Security Council Resolutions. However, I must strike a note of caution. In the light of the expanding use of Agency services, as well as a higher awareness of the threat, it is clear that we cannot carry on our work in an ad hoc manner that relies on voluntary funding. The Agency must have predictable and assured funding to enable it to meet the responsibilities that the international community has placed on it.

There are at least four main points to be considered for this new programme:

    • The first essential element is the integrated implementation of a State´s national security system which brings in all stakeholders such as the police and intelligence services as well as regulators and operators. The development and comprehensive and effective maintenance of a robust national system of security is essential in each country, particularly for those launching new nuclear power programmes.


    • Second, we must recognise that although nuclear security is the responsibility of the individual State, it cannot be achieved by an individual States acting alone. Nuclear security can be facilitated and enhanced by international cooperation, adequate protection of sensitive information, the sharing of information and good practices and the sharpening of analysis through more in-depth international cooperation.


    • Third, the IAEA must assist the international nuclear community to continuously improve the global nuclear security regime through the establishment of authoritative and objective reference standards in a universal, non-discriminatory manner.


  • And fourth, the Agency must provide review and advisory services to assist States to meet the requirements of the framework. This includes self assessment and peer review missions, knowledge sharing and human resource development that addresses all applications of nuclear technology.

Anita Nilsson will give more details of our proposals in her intervention but the system that I have outlined will provide for the security of nuclear and other radioactive material and associated facilities from cradle to grave. Issues such as improving the design of nuclear facilities so that they take account of security will also be addressed.

In the next plan, the IAEA will improve and develop the activities that have proved to be beneficial to States and the global nuclear security regime. To do this we will need to carry out more in depth analysis of the needs of States and adjust the current bilateral orientation of the provision of services. In addition, we need to be more inclusive and to address vendors and operators, for instance through the World Nuclear Association and the World Institute for Nuclear Security.


Concluding Remarks

I would like to end my remarks by asking that we give more thought to the way our efforts are perceived by the general public. They have to be assured that nuclear security is under constant review and improvement. We must find ways to let the public know about our efforts and involve them in the solutions.

In my remarks, I have tried to identify a few key lessons learned over the past seven years and to set out a few of the challenges that we must address as we seek to make improvements to the developing global nuclear security regime. I look forward to the discussion as you address these, and other issues over the next few days and invite you to make further suggestions on how the IAEA´s next nuclear security plan can address the challenges ahead.

Thank you for your attention.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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