IAEA calls for urgent measures to stop terrorists from obtaining ‘dirty bomb’

IAEA calls for urgent measures to stop terrorists from obtaining ‘dirty bomb’

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The head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called on the international community today to take urgent additional measures to stop terrorists from obtaining a “dirty bomb,” warning that current control of radioactive sources is inadequate, especially in the former Soviet republics.

“Cradle-to-grave control is essential for these radioactive sources,” IAEA Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei said in his opening address to an international conference in Vienna on the potential for nuclear and radiological terrorism. “In the wake of the September 2001 terrorist attacks [against the United States], and the stark awareness of the potential for radioactive sources to be used in malevolent acts, source security has taken on a new urgency.”

Noting that millions of radioactive devices have been distributed worldwide over the past 50 years, ranging from minor items like smoke detectors to major sources such as medical, industrial and thermo-electric equipment, Mr. ElBaradei told the International Conference on Security of Radioactive Sources that the problem of “orphaned” sources was widespread. Such sources are those that have fallen outside official regulatory control due to loss, theft, or abandonment.

“This problem has been especially present in the Newly Independent States, where transitions in governments have in some cases led to a loss of regulatory oversight of radioactive sources,” he said.

“In view of recent reports about terrorist plans to build and deploy radiological dispersion devices – and given the inadequacy of source controls I just mentioned – it is clear that additional security measures are urgently needed,” he said. “This concern has been the focus of the international community in the past 18 months. I trust that this conference will help to identify what has been accomplished and to focus on additional measures that need to be taken to cope with the challenge.”

Organized by the IAEA and co-sponsored by the Russian Federation and the United States in co-operation with the European Commission (EC), the European Police Office (EUROPOL), the International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) and the World Customs Organization (WCO), the four-day conference will divide into panels to discuss issues ranging from the prevention of illicit trafficking to the response to a “dirty bomb” attack.