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 You are in: Under Secretary for Arms Control and International Security > Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation (ISN) > Releases > Remarks > 2003

Safety and Security of Peaceful Nuclear Programs

Dr. Linda Gallini, U.S. Representative to the Second Session of the PrepCom
Remarks to the Second Session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2005 NPT Review Conference
Geneva, Switzerland
May 6, 2003

Mr. Chairman, Fellow Delegates,

The horror of September 11 has had many lasting consequences. One is the enduring realization that, more than ever, we need to work together to assure the safety and security of our peaceful nuclear programs. For decades, we have all used nuclear and radioactive materials to improve the quality of life for our people. Peaceful nuclear applications have made many contributions to improving our world, including life-saving medical treatments, improved agricultural yields, and accessible electrical power, to name only a few.

From the beginning, we have understood that we must handle nuclear materials safely. It has always been clear that an accident involving nuclear or radioactive materials, or the facilities housing them, could potentially be devastating to people, property, and the environment.

After September 11th, the need to secure nuclear and radioactive materials and their associated facilities took on even greater importance as we faced realistically the threat of terrorism, including sabotage or theft. Clearly terrorist misuse of these materials could produce mass casualties, widespread economic dislocation, and grave environmental damage anywhere in the world -- making this a very serious concern for us all.

In recent years, we have witnessed terrorist attacks around the globe, from the United States to Indonesia, from Kenya to the Philippines. We have seen the dangers of radioactive materials falling into the hands of innocent people in countries worldwide, including Brazil, Georgia, and Afghanistan. Since terrorists can strike anywhere and nuclear or radioactive materials can be found almost anywhere, each of our countries faces threats of a sobering new order. We must counter these threats by shouldering even more effectively our collective responsibility to keep materials in our possession secure and safe.

Ensuring the security and safety of peaceful nuclear programs requires a comprehensive approach that begins with the overarching framework of the NPT, IAEA safeguards, and nuclear export controls. The importance of these tools and efforts to strengthen them was discussed many times in our meetings. Compliance with these undertakings is essential to combating nuclear terrorism. By enforcing rigorous compliance, governments can reduce opportunities for terrorists to acquire nuclear materials and inflict damage on others.

IAEA -- Improving Material Security

In response to the events of September 11 we turned collectively to the IAEA to promote nuclear material security on a global scale. The Agency responded quickly. In March 2002 its Board of Governors approved a Nuclear Security Action Plan that the Agency began immediately to implement. The Program is a sound and comprehensive response to the growing threat of nuclear terrorism.

The Nuclear Security Program assists IAEA Member States in preventing, detecting, and responding to illicit activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials. It helps states enhance the physical protection of their nuclear material and facilities and assists in detecting and responding to illicit trafficking. It also strengthens states’ ability to respond to emergencies involving nuclear material and encourages information sharing.

The 2002 IAEA General Conference endorsed the Nuclear Security Program. More than twenty states have provided financial and in-kind support valued at twelve million dollars. This Program is a high priority for the United States. To date, the U.S. has provided $8.7 million dollars to the initiative. We urge all IAEA Member States to provide the financial, technical, and political support the program requires.

In March 2003 the IAEA hosted the International Conference on Security of Radioactive Sources. Sponsored by Russia and the U.S., the Conference brought together 752 delegates from 123 IAEA Member States. The strong interest in this Conference reflects growing international concern about the prospect for terrorists to misuse radioactive sources.

Conference participants endorsed nine pages of recommended “findings” for policy makers’ consideration. These "findings" include proposals for two new IAEA initiatives. One would facilitate the worldwide location, recovery, and securing of high-risk radioactive sources not currently under adequate regulatory control. The other would assist governments in establishing effective national infrastructures for safe and secure management of vulnerable sources. This includes promoting adherence to the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources. To jump-start the Conference’s key recommendations, the United States pledged an additional three million dollars to help locate and secure radiological materials in developing IAEA Member States.

The Conference findings are not static. They will reinforce major components of the IAEA’s new Nuclear Security Program and will be incorporated into existing IAEA safety and security action plans. They are also expected to serve as the basis of a future G-8 initiative on radioactive sources.

The IAEA’s expanded work in material security over the past two years does not overshadow its traditional activities in nuclear safety and physical protection. These continue apace.

Regrettably, nuclear accidents can still happen. We all remember the incident in Georgia concerning radioactive strontium sources from abandoned radioisotope thermal generators. Fortunately the IAEA responded swiftly to minimize safety and security risks. Using resources from the United States and other Member States, the IAEA assisted in securing the sources, orchestrated a search for additional orphaned sources over a large part of the country, and arranged for medical help for the victims.

Our shared goal is to prevent such incidents. But if they do occur, the IAEA is uniquely positioned to provide assistance. To help speed this assistance, we need to put renewed emphasis on the Emergency Notification and Assistance Conventions to make them as effective as possible.

We also need to support continuing efforts to develop a well-defined amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material. The goal of the amendment process is to expand the Convention’s scope to cover nuclear materials in peaceful domestic programs. If amended, the Convention will better address the physical protection of this material, including storage and transport, and better protect it from sabotage. The U.S. strongly supports and has been an active participant in this effort.

Strengthening the global safety regime has long been a top priority for the IAEA. In response to continuing concerns about the safety of research reactors, the IAEA recently initiated efforts to establish a comprehensive, internationally accepted safety regime for those reactors. The United States worked closely with the IAEA on developing a Code of Conduct on the Safety of Research Reactors. The Code is on schedule to be formally adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors in September.

U.S. Bilateral Programs on Nuclear Material Security

My government is stepping up its bilateral nuclear material safety and security initiatives across the board. The International Materials Protection and Cooperation Program run by our Department of Energy is working closely with the Russian Ministries of Defense and Atomic Energy to implement security upgrades at facilities across Russia as quickly as possible. The upgrades at these facilities, which contain hundreds of tons of weapons-usable nuclear material and thousands of nuclear warheads, are expected to be completed by 2008. Meeting this schedule will require close coordination and continued high level support on both sides.

We are also redoubling our efforts to improve detection of illicit nuclear material transfers at border crossings. The so-called "Second Line of Defense" program is expanding rapidly to include additional countries with strategic border crossings. It will also focus on major international ports that serve as transit points for the majority of containers shipped to the United States each year. These and other initiatives help to ensure that states have the “layered defenses” necessary to protect their territory from terrorists seeking nuclear or radiological weapons.

In addition, the Office of International Safeguards at our Department of Energy is expanding efforts to reduce the risk of theft, diversion, and sabotage of civil nuclear material in the NIS and Baltic states. We are helping to build strong technical independence at facilities in these states through training programs, improved regulatory systems, and active participation by high-level officials in long-term planning. In response to the increased threats to nuclear materials worldwide, our Department of Energy is reassessing security needs at each of the NIS and Baltic sites. Upgrades to meet current international nuclear physical protection recommendations are going forward and we expect to complete them by the end of next year.

In 2002 U.S. experts visited four countries to ensure that nuclear material we provided under "Atoms for Peace" met IAEA's physical protection recommendations. U.S. physical protection experts also participated in three International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) missions conducted by the IAEA to assess the regulatory framework and physical protection regime in the states requesting this service. In collaboration with the IAEA, we also held the 17th International Training Course on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Facilities, attended by students from 27 countries. Regional training courses were also held in China, Egypt and Brazil.

The U.S. Department of Energy is cooperating with eleven foreign government organizations on international safeguards of nuclear material. Since September 11, collaboration has accelerated in key areas such as information exchange on research and development in nuclear material control, accountancy, verification, advanced containment and surveillance, and physical protection of nuclear material and facilities.

The preceding is by no means an exhaustive list of the progress we have achieved together in the past twelve months to enhance the security and safety of peaceful nuclear programs. While much has been done, many of our greatest challenges lie ahead.

By working together to assure the safety and security of peaceful nuclear programs, we serve the NPT’s commitment to global security and economic well-being for all people. Both goals are as vital today as they were in 1970.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman.

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