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UN atomic watchdog helps protect against nuclear terrorism at Beijing Olympics

UN atomic watchdog helps protect against nuclear terrorism at Beijing Olympics

The United Nations atomic watchdog agency is providing expertise to support the security of major public events against the threat of nuclear terrorism, including ongoing preparations for the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing.

“The Agency’s nuclear security work has clearly improved overall nuclear security,” UN International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told the agency’s Board of Governors meeting in Vienna on his latest report on nuclear security and protection against nuclear terrorism.

“But much remains to be done in shaping the nuclear security framework, in building up-to-date security systems and in dealing with the legacy of past lax security. This is not a problem that can be solved overnight; it takes time and resources to achieve a sustainable, internationally acceptable baseline level of nuclear security,” he said.

Expertise for protection at major events is just one of element is the IAEA’s arsenal of measures. The Agency already provided support in the preparations of July’s Pan American Games in Brazil.

Mr. ElBaradei noted that over the past 12 months the IAEA continued to expand Member State participation in the Illicit Trafficking Database and that nuclear security training had been provided to some 1,650 individuals from 90 countries. The Agency assisted in improving physical protection at facilities in nine States.

“More than 900 items of security related equipment were supplied to Member States, including border detection equipment for 29 countries,” he said. “Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans were completed in 38 countries, and the agreed activities have been planned or are being implemented in each of the States concerned.”

The international community has taken on board a variety of international instruments relevant to nuclear security and he welcomed the rapid entry into force of the International Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

“However, progress on ratifying the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material remains slow,” he stressed, noting that only 11 of 128 States Parties had so far accepted the Amendment.

The Agency is foreseen as playing an important role in implementing these instruments.

“To that end, we have started an effort to provide nuclear security guidance that would facilitate implementation,” Mr. ElBaradei said. “This and other programme changes entail transitioning from a situation in which strengthening nuclear security has been addressed as an ad hoc reaction to the prevailing threat of nuclear terrorism to a situation in which nuclear security will be addressed in a normative, sustainable manner.”