UN atomic watchdog seeks to lessen risks of nuclear terrorism, proliferation

13 July 2005 – In a bid to prevent nuclear materials from falling into the hands of terrorists and to pre-empt weapons proliferation, the United Nations atomic watchdog agency joined major national players today at a three-day meeting in Moscow aimed at strengthening safeguards over the civilian use of nuclear energy.

“The Agency is seeking to promote enhanced controls over sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, in particular uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing technology,” International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Deputy Director General for Nuclear Energy Yuri Sokolov told the opening session of the conference attended by representatives from Russia, the United States, France and other countries.

“The IAEA is addressing the challenges through implementing strengthened safeguards and promoting assurances of supply of nuclear fuel cycle services together with assurances of non-proliferation,” he added, noting that more countries are showing interest in applying the technology safely for electricity production.

The conference, organized by the Russian Federal Atomic Energy Agency (Rosatom) with IAEA cooperation, follows an IAEA-commissioned Expert Group´s report on multilateral nuclear approaches (MNA) to the issue in February.

The study called for multilateral control of the world’s civil nuclear fuel cycle, citing threats arising “from burgeoning and alarmingly well-organized nuclear supply networks, and from the increasing risk of acquisition of nuclear or other radioactive materials by terrorist and other non-State entities.”

“Clear formulation of MNA proposals ... would strengthen confidence between interested participants and could promote the creation of a reliable system of guaranteed nuclear fuel cycle services,” Mr. Sokolov said.

IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei told the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference in May that better control was needed over proliferation-sensitive parts of the nuclear fuel cycle involving uranium enrichment and plutonium separation.

“As experience has shown, effective control of nuclear materials is the ‘choke point’ to preventing nuclear weapons development,” he said. “Without question, improving control over facilities capable of producing weapon-usable material will go a long way towards establishing a better margin of security.

“We should be clear: there is no incompatibility between tightening controls over the nuclear fuel cycle and expanding the use of peaceful nuclear technology. In fact, by reducing the risks of proliferation, we could pave the way for more widespread use of peaceful nuclear applications.”

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