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Statement at NRC International Regulators Conference on Nuclear Security

Washington USA


Madam Chairman, Ladies and Gentlemen,

I would like to begin by thanking NRC Chairman Allison Macfarlane for hosting this first regulatory Conference on nuclear security involving regulators, law enforcement agencies and the IAEA.

The United States has been a very important partner in the IAEA's nuclear security activities right from the start. It is by far the largest donor to our Nuclear Security Fund. It has actively supported our programmes and has been generous in providing funding, equipment and training to other Member States.

When President Obama hosted the first Nuclear Security Summit in April 2010, he said it was important that that event should be part of a "serious and sustained effort" to improve nuclear security throughout the world.

Since then, a growing number of governments have given high-level attention to this vitally important issue. This is very encouraging.

Today, I am especially pleased to see regulators coming together to focus on this subject. I am confident that your meeting will make a valuable contribution to strengthening global nuclear security.

I would like to share with you some important recent milestones in the IAEA's nuclear security work.

As you know, primary responsibility for ensuring nuclear security lies with national governments. However, governments have recognized that international cooperation is vital. Terrorists and other criminals do not respect international borders and no country can respond effectively on its own to the threat which they pose.

In September, our Member States - there are now 158 - reaffirmed the central role of the IAEA in "ensuring coordination of international activities in the field of nuclear security, while avoiding duplication and overlap."

Our central role reflects the Agency's extensive membership, our mandate, our unique expertise and our long experience of providing technical assistance and specialist, practical guidance to countries.

To put it simply, our work focuses on helping to minimize the risk of nuclear and other radioactive material falling into the hands of terrorists, or of nuclear facilities being subjected to malicious acts.

The IAEA has established internationally accepted guidance and standards which are used as a benchmark for nuclear security. We help countries to apply these through expert peer review missions, specialist training and human resource development programmes.

The Agency also helps countries to put laws and regulatory infrastructure in place to protect nuclear and other radioactive material. We have helped States to implement their international obligations in this area.

We are constantly working with you, our Member States, to strengthen the assistance which we are able to offer.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Earlier this year, I established the Nuclear Security Guidance Committee. The purpose is to ensure the inclusive participation of all Member States in the development and revision of guidance and standards in nuclear security.

We have already seen concrete results. In June, the Committee approved the Nuclear Security Fundamentals document Objective and Essential Elements of a State's Nuclear Security Regime. This was the first security guidance document to be proposed to, and endorsed by, the IAEA Board of Governors. It was also endorsed by our General Conference in September.

I encourage all countries to review their current arrangements in the light of this document. We are happy to assist countries in the continuous improvement of their nuclear security infrastructure. We run coordinated research projects which are designed to develop technical standards to underpin nuclear security guidance and standards. Collaborative networks of countries promote best practices.

This is only one small part of our extensive nuclear security activities. Let me give you a few further examples.

The IAEA helps countries to strengthen physical security at nuclear, industrial or medical facilities where nuclear or other radioactive material is stored, or while it is being transported.

We make it more difficult for criminals and terrorists to traffic nuclear and radioactive material across borders by providing detection equipment at border crossings and training border guards.

We have helped to ensure that radioactive sources which were not properly secured were transported either to a safe and secure national storage facility, or repatriated to their country of origin. We have also helped countries to put a considerable amount of high enriched uranium into more secure storage.

The IAEA has a strong focus on education and training. In the past ten years, we have trained over 12 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security. Six universities around the world will soon offer a Master's degree in Nuclear Security Education. This will be based on a syllabus developed by the Agency and Member States, reflecting IAEA standards and guidance.

Our programme of peer reviews and advisory services continues to grow. So far, 57 International Physical Protection Advisory Service missions have been conducted in 37 countries, including two nuclear-weapon states. The United States will host one next year.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database - known as the ITDB - has long been the most authoritative global source of information on thefts or other unauthorized activities involving nuclear or other radioactive materials.

More than 2 200 incidents have been registered since the Database was established in 1995. Most of these were fairly minor, but some were more serious. Taken together, they show that much work is needed and that we must never become complacent.

Representatives of 81 countries met in Vienna in July to consider ways of enhancing the value of the Database to Member States. One important recommendation which they made was to change its name to the Incident and Trafficking Database.

Its goal is now defined as "to track incidents of nuclear and other radioactive material not under regulatory control." The change is intended to better reflect the nature of all the incidents contained in the Database.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

One important area of unfinished business in nuclear security is ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials. The Amendment was agreed in 2005 but 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, storage and transport, and the protection of nuclear facilities against acts of sabotage.

Entry into force of the Amendment would make an important difference to global nuclear security by enhancing national security frameworks and international cooperation. I am therefore doing all I can to help make it happen. I have written to the authorities of countries that have not yet ratified the Amendment. We have also been active in helping to organize regional seminars on the subject. The Government of Argentina, which has approved the Amendment, recently hosted a very successful seminar in Buenos Aires and is sharing its experience with countries of the region. I hope we will see continued steady progress towards entry into force of this important instrument.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Fukushima Daiichi accident last year reminded us of the important connection between nuclear safety and nuclear security.

Implementing effective safety measures at nuclear plants also helps to protect them against sabotage. This means that safety measures and security measures must be designed and implemented in a synergistic manner.

In its nuclear security resolution in September, our General Conference encouraged Member States to "ensure that nuclear security is fully taken into account at all stages in the life cycle of nuclear facilities."

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In July next year, the IAEA will host an International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna. This is one of the most important meetings that the IAEA will host next year. I encourage all countries to participate at ministerial level to underline the growing international political commitment to achieving tangible improvements in nuclear security. Broad ministerial participation will help to add political weight to this important conference. The Conference is also open to regulators, policy-makers, law enforcement agencies and practitioners. Outcomes will be reflected in the IAEA Nuclear Security Plan for 2014–2017.

In conclusion, Ladies and Gentlemen, let me wish you every success with your important deliberations.

I look forward to continued close cooperation with all of you to minimize the threats to nuclear security throughout the world.

Thank you.


Last update: 26 July 2017