Warning that cases of covert nuclear proliferation discovered so far are "just the tip of the iceberg," the head of the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency has repeated his call for urgent action to reinforce the global security framework to shut down this black market.
It is clear that the system now in place is not working to prevent underground trafficking and close serious gaps in controls on exports of sensitive nuclear material and equipment, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, told an international expert seminar in Vienna.
Mr. ElBaradei stressed both in his opening address to the two-day meeting ending today and in news briefings that more resources will be needed to follow through on examining a "chain of activity" in the nuclear black market and to make sure such cases are not repeated.
It was the second time in three days that the IAEA has drawn attention to the seriousness of the situation. On Tuesday it issued a news release highlighting recent statements by Mr. ElBaradei calling for a “vital” security upgrade to prevent nuclear technology from falling into the wrong hands through the emerging global network of the sophisticated black market.
He told the seminar it was important to reduce the role that nuclear weapons play in international security. He also urged cutting the number of nuclear weapons from the current 30,000, and said an inclusive, universal system of nuclear non-proliferation and nuclear disarmament is the only way forward.
On the multinationalization of the nuclear fuel cycle, Mr. ElBaradei said it was time to limit the processing of weapon-usable material (separated plutonium and high-enriched uranium) in civilian nuclear programmes, as well as the production of new material through reprocessing and enrichment by restricting such operations exclusively to facilities under multinational control. Consideration should also be given to multinational approaches to the management and disposal of spent fuel and radioactive waste, he added.
Participating in the seminar are leading international researchers, scholars, and representatives of non-governmental think tanks, international organizations, and regional and global political institutes engaged in efforts against weapons of mass destruction and nuclear proliferation.