UN atomic watchdog calls for global cooperation on all nuclear issues

28 July 2005 – From countering the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism to preventing nuclear weapons proliferation to slaking a growing thirst for energy, the United Nations nuclear watchdog agency today called for continued global cooperation as it seeks to rise to new challenges and profit from new opportunities.

“In this regard, its programmes in nuclear technology, safety, security and verification constitute the unique tools that help build a better world for all people,” the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says in its Annual Report for 2004, released today. “What is needed is continued global cooperation. For the Agency, this cooperation is the key to harnessing nuclear energy in the service of development and peace.”

The report highlights all aspects of the 138-Member-State agency’s work in the past year, as well as prospects for future developments.

“Global nuclear developments in 2004, such as the changing outlook for nuclear power, the increasing role of nuclear applications in global sustainable development initiatives, greater international cooperation in matters of safety and security, and the increasing recognition of the need to strengthen the nuclear non-proliferation regime, have created new challenges and opportunities for the Agency,” it says.

It notes that security of nuclear and other radioactive material and associated technologies has taken on heightened significance in recent years.

“However, while nuclear security is and should remain a national responsibility, some countries still lack the programmes and the resources to respond properly to the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism. For these countries, international cooperation is essential to help them strengthen their national capacities,” it says.

“International cooperation is also essential for the Agency’s efforts to assist in building regional and global networks for combating transnational threats,” it adds, stressing that its nuclear security plan is founded on measures to guard against thefts of nuclear and other radioactive material and to protect related facilities against sabotage.

In this regard, the Agency has been assisting States in training customs officials, installing better equipment at border crossings, and ensuring that information on trafficking incidents is shared effectively. Since 1993, over 650 confirmed incidents of trafficking in nuclear or other radioactive material have been recorded. In 2004 alone, 121 such incidents were reported, 11 of which involved nuclear material – the highest number of incidents confirmed to the Agency in a single year since 1993.

Other points in the report include:

  • The implementation of comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols remains crucial for preventing clandestine nuclear weapons programmes.
  • There is clearly a sense of rising expectations for nuclear energy. Near term projections released in 2004 based on the most conservative assumptions predict the equivalent of 127 more 1000 megawatt nuclear plants than the 2000 projection.
  • The ageing of the nuclear work force is a serious concern for a number of Member States, particularly those where nuclear expansion has slowed or is being reversed by phase-out policies, and new talent must be recruited to replace retirees. New recruits are also needed in countries that are planning to expand the use of nuclear power.
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