Delegates from more than 90 countries began a three-day meeting in Vienna today to assess seven years of global efforts to improve the protection and control of radioactive material, and to discuss ways to strengthen nuclear security.
The International Symposium on Nuclear Security, organized by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), brings together policymakers and experts to also discuss issues such as managing radioactive sources and combating nuclear terrorism.
In March 2002 the IAEA Board of Governors approved a Plan of Activities to Protect Against Nuclear Terrorism, which enhanced and integrated the Agency’s existing nuclear security-related activities.
Then in September 2005, the Board approved a new Nuclear Security Plan covering the period 2006-2009, which seeks to help States strengthen their nuclear security to combat the risk of nuclear terrorism. The plan focuses on the three key areas of prevention, detection of and response to malicious acts; and information coordination and analysis.
“The landscape has changed over these seven years,” says Anita Nilsson, head of the IAEA’s Office of Nuclear Security.
“A considerable investment has been made to strengthen nuclear security – an effort that has provided us with a significant amount of knowledge about nuclear security threats and what can be done to alleviate them.”
Among other topics to be taken up at the meeting are challenges associated with renewed support for civilian nuclear power and the possibility of more nuclear material in circulation stemming from nuclear disarmament, as well as the impact of the global economic downturn on spending levels.
In a related development, the Agency has announced that the United Kingdom is to double its contribution to the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund to £4 million from £2 million given in 2006.
The Fund is a voluntary funding mechanism for Member States established to support the IAEA’s activities in nuclear security aimed at preventing, detecting and responding to nuclear terrorism.