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UN atomic watchdog: preventing nuclear terrorism

UN atomic watchdog calls for additional steps to guard against nuclear terrorism

With efforts to prevent nuclear weapons and radioactive materials from falling into terrorist hands a top priority, the United Nations atomic watchdog has called for a series of steps ranging from a reliable flow of funding to better insight into illicit trafficking to ratification of an international treaty to protect nuclear materials.

“As we evolve towards a more mature global nuclear security approach, it is important that we develop a clearer overall picture of remaining security vulnerabilities,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the opening session of the Agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna yesterday.

“For example, we need to improve our understanding of the patterns that characterize illicit trafficking activity, in order to provide Member States with the information needed to effectively combat such activity,” he added.

Few areas of activity have undergone such major expansion in so short a period as the IAEA’s nuclear security programme in the four years since the terrorist attacks against the United States on 11 September, 2001, he said, citing over 100 Agency nuclear security field missions and the training of 1,500 people from all regions in the prevention of nuclear and radiological terrorism.

He pointed to tangible results such as increased security awareness among national officials, strengthened physical protection at nuclear facilities, recovery and enhanced security for hundreds of high intensity radioactive sources and better cooperation among international law enforcement organizations.

He also cited enhanced detection capabilities at border crossings, more and better trained personnel, improved preparedness for responding to incidents and broader participation in the Agency´s Illicit Trafficking Data Base, which serves as a key mechanism for the analysis of global and regional trends.

He urged all Parties to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material to ratify as soon as possible major changes agreed to in July which make it legally binding for States Parties to protect nuclear facilities and material meant for peaceful domestic uses.

The changes, which also provide for expanded cooperation among States on measures to recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate the consequences of sabotage and prevent and combat related offences, will come into effect once they are ratified by two-thirds of the States Parties, and Mr. ElBaradei urged Parties in the meantime to act as if they were in force.

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