UN nuclear watchdog reviews anti-terrorism action, verification in general report
31 October 2005 – Few activities of the United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have undergone so major an expansion in so short a period as its security programme against nuclear terrorism, but at the same time the array of challenges facing it in the area of non-proliferation is unprecedented, IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei told the General Assembly today.
Stressing the Agency's activities in nuclear security and protection against nuclear terrorism, Mr. ElBaradei noted that in the four years since the 11 September, 2001, attacks against the United States, the Agency has conducted more than 100 nuclear security field missions. Some 1,500 individuals from all regions have received IAEA training in measures related to preventing nuclear and radiological terrorism.
"The results are tangible: strengthened physical protection at nuclear facilities; recovery and enhanced security for hundreds of high intensity radioactive sources; increased security awareness among responsible national officials; better cooperation among international law enforcement organizations; enhanced detection capabilities at border crossings; and improved preparedness for responding to incidents," he said.
On nuclear verification, the termination of inspections in the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK), the investigation of clandestine nuclear programmes in Iran and the discovery of illicit nuclear procurement networks are among issues that "have put the spotlight on an unprecedented array of challenges to the non-proliferation and arms control regime."
Other factors include the failure to reach agreement at the 2005 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May.
Priorities for the coming years cited by Mr. ElBaradei include: universalizing the additional protocol that affords expanded rights of access; normalizing safeguards in Iraq; bringing the DPRK back to the NPT regime; providing the required assurances about Iran's nuclear programme; and continuing to investigate the nature and extent of the illicit procurement network.
In addition to addressing the security threat angle of IAEA's mandate, the Director General's report covered the full panoply of the Agency's activities from health to agriculture to energy production.
He highlighted the Programme of Action for Cancer Therapy (PACT) to help developing countries by mobilizing more resources to address personnel, infrastructure, technology and training needs in radiation therapy. Austria, he noted, had approximately one radiotherapy machine for every 270,000 people, while in most African countries the ratio is about one machine for every 10 million people, and some have no facilities at all.
In food and agriculture the use of isotopes and radiation continues to yield rich results. In Peru, for example, a harsh local environment characterized by depleted saline soils and high altitudes has caused many crops to fail, but radiation mutation to create new varieties of barley and rice has increased productivity and income.
As for energy production, Mr. ElBaradei noted that the past few years have seen a considerable change in attitudes. "Fast growing global energy demands, an increased emphasis on the security of energy supply, and the risk of climate change are driving a renewed consideration of nuclear power," he said.
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