Radioactive material “a magnet for groups with malicious intent” – UN


Government ministers and high level representatives from more than 140 countries have adopted a new declaration to enhance global nuclear security and counter the threat of nuclear terrorism.

More than 50 ministers and 2 000 experts attended the International Conference on Nuclear Security, hosted by the UN nuclear watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), in Vienna.

From a possible cyber-attack on a nuclear power plant to illicit trafficking of radioactive materials, nuclear security is a growing international concern, said IAEA. The agency and its member states have intensified efforts to strengthen nuclear security but agree more action is needed.

“Nuclear and radioactive material is a magnet for groups with malicious intent that see in this material a possibility to create panic and bring distress and pain to our societies,”Rafael Mariano Grossi IAEA president said, at the opening of the conference at IAEA headquarters, before the declaration was adopted.

Nuclear technology and science help improve the lives of millions around the world in areas ranging from clean energy and cancer care to food security and pest control.

But the nuclear and radioactive materials used to produce these benefits must be secured to prevent them falling into the wrong hands, said IAEA.

This entails preventing, detecting and responding to malicious acts involving nuclear material or radioactive substances.

In the declaration, IAEA member states reaffirmed the common goals of nuclear non-proliferation, nuclear disarmament and peaceful use of nuclear energy. It also recognises that nuclear security contributes to international peace and security.

“We remain concerned about existing and emerging nuclear security threats and are committed to addressing the threats”, the ministerial declaration said. “We encourage member states to implement threat mitigation and risk reduction measures that contribute to improving nuclear security, including, but not limited to, ensuring protection of nuclear and other radioactive materials and facilities.”

Nuclear security is a national responsibility with the central role of the IAEA is facilitating and co-ordinating international co-operation.

“The adoption of a Declaration at ministerial level is indicative of the continuous commitment to nuclear security of IAEA member states. It is a concise, politically driven and forward-looking document, adding value to the efforts of strengthening nuclear security worldwide,” Bogdan Aurescu, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Romania and co-president of the conference, said.

“In the coming years, global stocks of nuclear material are expected to grow, especially as we look into emerging nuclear technologies and their role in mitigating the consequences of climate change”, said Federico Alfaro, Vice-Minister of Foreign Affairs of Panama and conference co-president. “We cannot allow such material to fall into the wrong hands.”
The conference addressed topics including how to secure nuclear materials from theft or sabotage during transport, the use of nuclear forensics to assist criminal investigations and emergency preparedness and response in the event of a nuclear security emergency.

It follows earlier IAEA nuclear security meetings held in 2013 and 2016. Since the last conference, IAEA activities to strengthen nuclear security include training nearly 13 000 experts, donating radiation detection equipment to 33 countries and providing support to 17 major public events. This included World Youth Day in Panama, attended by Pope Francis and the presidents of seven Latin American countries.