Stepping up the battle to prevent nuclear weapons from falling into the clutches of terrorists, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency has welcomed a new United States plan to strengthen nuclear security around the world.
The Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI), announced by US Secretary of Energy Spencer Abraham yesterday at a meeting with senior officials of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, aims to minimize as quickly as possible the amount of nuclear material available that could be used for nuclear weapons.
“The proposal is a continuation and extension of initiatives that the IAEA, the USA and others have been working on for many years, and with renewed intensity in the past couple of years, to address nuclear security around the world,” IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei said.
Security issues have become a global priority in the past several years, with nuclear weapons related know-how spreading extensively, Mr. ElBaradei told a news conference. This makes control of nuclear material that could be used for nuclear weapons extremely critical, he added.
GTRI seeks to set up mechanisms ensuring that nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment anywhere in the world are not used for malicious purposes.
Under the initiative, the US will work with the IAEA and other partners to repatriate all Russian-origin, fresh high-enriched uranium fuel (in cooperation with Russia and other countries concerned) by the end of next year, and accelerate and complete the repatriation of all Russian-origin spent fuel by 2010.
They will also take all steps to accelerate and complete the repatriation of all US-origin research reactor spent fuel, work to convert the cores of civilian research reactors that use high-enriched uranium to use low-enriched uranium fuel worldwide.
They will seek to identify other nuclear and radiological materials and related equipment that are not yet covered by existing threat reduction efforts to ensure that there are no gaps that would enable a terrorist to acquire these materials for malevolent purposes.
Mr. Abraham also proposed that the IAEA and international community join in holding a Global Threat Reduction Initiative Partners’ Conference to examine how to address material collection and security in places where a broader international effort is required.