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Statement at Nuclear Security Summit

Seoul, South Korea

Seoul, South Korea | Nuclear Security Summit

Mr. President, Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen,

The Fukushima Daiichi accident last year reminded us of the important connections between nuclear safety and nuclear security. Implementing multiple safety measures at nuclear plants also helps to protect them against terrorist sabotage. In order to take this work forward, I have just established a Nuclear Security Guidance Committee. All of you can participate in developing best practices in nuclear security, taking account of nuclear safety considerations.

During the course of yesterday and today, all of you have referred to the activities of the IAEA, so I hope you will let me share some of the details of those activities with you.

Last year, 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.

I mention this example to demonstrate that the seriousness of the threat of nuclear terrorism has not diminished. But I also wanted to show that, by working together, we can respond effectively. In this case, the IAEA had provided training to around 60 Moldovan officials and given them some 70 items of specialist equipment. Thanks to that cooperation, the Moldovan police were able to stop the smuggling.

This Summit is considering not just the security of nuclear materials, but also that of radioactive sources. These materials, such as cobalt-60, could be used along with conventional explosives to make so-called dirty bombs. A dirty bomb detonated in a major city could cause mass panic, as well as serious economic and environmental consequences.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

National governments have primary responsibility for nuclear security, but international cooperation is vital. In the past two years, there have been some positive developments, but more needs to be done.

In addressing nuclear security, information has a vital importance. More than 100 countries now report incidents of thefts or other illicit activities involving nuclear and other radioactive materials to the IAEA Illicit Trafficking Database. It tracks several hundred incidents every year, but this could just be the tip of the iceberg. I would like to see all countries participating in the Database.

We are presently working with many of you to establish global networks of Nuclear Security Support Centres to improve nuclear security. Upon the request of IAEA Member States, we are coordinating these activities.

One area where more action is urgently needed by the Member States 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 problem with the original Convention is that it 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. Entry into force of the Amendment would make an important difference to global nuclear security.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Strengthening nuclear security is not just about spending money on "guns, gates and guards". Human elements such as training specialist staff and transferring know-how are of equal importance. In the past ten years, the IAEA has trained over 10 000 people in more than 120 countries in nuclear security. We have helped countries put a considerable amount of high enriched uranium into more secure storage. We are receiving more requests for peer reviews which is a very encouraging sign.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I welcome and thank you for your support for the IAEA, as expressed at this Summit and the communiqué which you are about to adopt. We will work with all of you to help make the world more secure from nuclear terrorism.

Thank you.

Last update: 16 Feb 2018


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