UN nuclear watchdog meets to enhance safe transport of radioactive materials

7 July 2003

The United Nuclear watchdog agency warned today that while the current system of regulating the transport of radioactive material has an “excellent” safety record, more remains to be done at a time of increasing concern about nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism.

“Despite the strong safety record and general good performance in this area, some concerns remain regarding the transport of radioactive material,” the Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, told the opening session of a week-long international conference on the Safety of Transport of Radioactive Material in Vienna.

Mr. ElBaradei said he hoped the conference would serve as a forum in which to better understand these concerns, and to answer relevant underlying questions such as the comprehensives, uniform application and possible improvements of the present regulatory control system for the transport of such radioactive materials as those used at hospitals, electricity plants, research institutes, and in many other industries.

Noting the need for timely and effective communication between concerned governments, and between these governments and the public at large, on the transport of radioactive material, he said: “With the increasing concern about nuclear security and the prevention of nuclear terrorism, communication decisions are sometimes complex.

“Clear advance notification of shipments is clearly desirable; however, this objective competes with the need, from a safety and security perspective, to withhold such information from all but authorized government personnel. This issue requires further in depth discussion, with a view to reaching an agreed understanding on how to reconcile the need for transparency with the requirements for security,” he added.

“Clearly, more remains to be done to facilitate the transport of radioactive material for the benefit of humankind, while continuing to ensure safety and security for people and the environment. This is a continuing process,” he declared.

Over 490 experts including government officials and regulators from 80 IAEA Member States and 13 international organizations are scheduled to attend the conference, which aims to encourage all countries to work more closely together to enhance the safe and secure transport of nuclear materials.