Seeking to close loopholes that could help terrorists get their hands on nuclear material, hundreds of delegates from 90 countries are meeting in Vienna this week to strengthen a United Nations-backed treaty with amendments to avert theft and smuggling of such materials and sabotage of nuclear facilities.
“In short, the amendments now before this conference are vitally important and, if adopted, will take another significant step in reducing the vulnerability of States Parties, and, indeed, the entire world,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General David Waller told the opening session yesterday.
He noted that the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), drawn up in 1980, is not sufficiently comprehensive for today’s world since it protects nuclear material used for peaceful purposes while in international transport, but “most fundamentally” covers neither the physical protection of nuclear material in peaceful domestic use, storage and transport, nor nuclear facilities themselves.
“The proposed amendments would remedy these shortcomings,” Mr. Waller said. “They would also provide for expanded cooperation between and among States regarding rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences.”
The Vienna-based IAEA is the depositary of the CPPNM, which currently has 111 States Parties. It is the only legally binding international treaty providing physical protection of nuclear material and ensuring improved security in the aftermath of the September 2001 terrorist attacks against the United States. Since then a group of experts has been working on strengthening its safeguards.