UN atomic watchdog warns anew on nuclear weapons falling into terrorist hands
If terrorists are to be prevented from getting their hands on weapons of mass destruction, the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) must be strengthened, the head of the United Nations atomic watchdog agency has told world leaders, politicians and economists attending this year’s World Economic Forum.
The NPT regime “clearly needs reinforcement,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei told the annual gathering in the Swiss Alpine ski resort of Davos in the latest of several warnings he has given in the past two years on the dangers of the combination of terrorism and the proliferation of nuclear materials.
“In recent years, three phenomena – the emergence of a nuclear black market, the determined efforts by additional countries to acquire the technology to produce the fissile material useable in nuclear weapons, and the clearly expressed desire of terrorists to acquire weapons of mass destruction – have radically altered the security landscape,” he said.
He emphasized that steps can be taken to reinforce the regime, citing proposals he has made toward building a stronger “collective security framework.” He urged States to act on the steps at the upcoming NPT Review Conference, which convenes in May at UN Headquarters in New York.
In a speech last November at Stanford University, California, Mr. ElBaradei called for agreement on benchmarks for non-proliferation and disarmament including adoption by all States of additional safeguards; tightening controls over the export of nuclear materials and technology; and multilateral control over the sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle such as enrichment, reprocessing and disposal of spent fuel.
He also urged that States not be allowed to withdraw from the NPT – as the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) has done – without clear consequences, including prompt review and appropriate action by the Security Council. The international community should also work rapidly to reduce the stockpiles of high enriched uranium and plutonium around the globe, and to strengthen the protection of existing nuclear material and facilities, he said.
An essential benchmark would be that a concrete roadmap for verified, irreversible nuclear disarmament, complete with a timetable, and involving not only the NPT nuclear weapon States but also India, Pakistan and Israel, is at last put in place.