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Security of nuclear material examined at UN-sponsored conference in Stockholm

Security of nuclear material examined at UN-sponsored conference in Stockholm

The need for stepped-up international efforts to prevent and halt the illicit use of nuclear materials around the world is the focus of a United Nations-sponsored conference currently under way in Stockholm, Sweden.

Organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the week-long event opened on Monday under the formal title, "Security of Material: Measures to Prevent, Intercept and Respond to Illicit Uses of Nuclear Material and Radioactive Sources."

In a message to the conference, which has drawn some 300 participants, IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, called for international cooperation to upgrade security measures, improve capabilities for responding to illicit trafficking, and enhance the protection of facilities against terrorism and sabotage. "The most difficult challenge will be the effective consolidation of all these measures into integrated, efficient national systems," he added.

Since 1993, there have been over 370 confirmed incidents of illicit trafficking, according to the IAEA. While most of these incidents do not involve material that can be used for making nuclear weapons, they have prompted stepped-up efforts to prevent and combat the illicit trade.

The IAEA sets basic guidelines used in the development of national physical protection systems and international agreements, and supports Member States in improving their nuclear material accountancy and physical protection systems. The Agency also maintains a database of reported incidents.

Rolf Ekeus, Head of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute and a keynote speaker, called for the incorporation of IAEA guidelines into national legislation and coordination among States in their efforts to combat the problem. "The IAEA should be given a leadership role," he said. "An individual State cannot do it on its own."

The meeting, hosted by the Swedish Nuclear Power Inspectorate, is being held in cooperation with the World Customs Organization, the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL) and the European Police Office.