Global perspective Human stories

Threat of nuclear terrorism is growing, UN atomic energy agency warns

Threat of nuclear terrorism is growing, UN atomic energy agency warns

The ruthlessness of the September attacks against the United States has alerted the world to the potential of nuclear terrorism, making it "far more likely" that terrorists could target nuclear facilities, nuclear material and radioactive sources worldwide, the chief of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said today.

"September 11 presented us with a clear and present danger and a global threat that requires global action," said IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, according to a statement released by the agency at its headquarters in Vienna. "Many of our programmes go to the heart of combating nuclear terrorism, but we now have to actively reinforce safeguards, expand our systems for combating smuggling in nuclear material and upgrade our safety and security services."

Over 400 experts from around the world have been meeting at the IAEA's Vienna headquarters since 29 October at an international symposium on nuclear safeguards, verification, and security. On Friday, they will hold a special session on combating nuclear terrorism.

The IAEA, which helps countries to prevent, intercept and respond to terrorist acts and other nuclear safety and security incidents, has the only international response system in place that would be in a position to immediately react in case of a radiological emergency caused by a nuclear terrorist attack.

To prevent a terrorist nuclear attack, the Agency is now proposing a number of new initiatives. It estimates that at least $30-$50 million annually will be needed in the short-term to strengthen and expand its programmes to meet this terrorist threat.

Speaking to reporters at UN Headquarters in New York, Gustavo Zlaufvinen, the Director of IAEA's Office here, said efforts were under way to secure funding for the new measures. "We are thinking of different ways to get that money, taking into account that our budget is limited by the 'zero-growth' policy for the last 10 years," he said.