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US, EC bodies call for enhanced security of radioactive sources

24 May 2024

Leaders from the US Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) and the European Commission (EC) have highlighted the need to strengthen security of radioactive sources in open civilian facilities such as hospitals, research laboratories, and industrial facilities to prevent the use of these materials in acts of terrorism.

ICONS 2024 is taking place in Vienna (Image: Dean Calma/IAEA)

The two organisations issued a Joint Statement on Enhancing Radioactive Source Security at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS 2024). The statement highlights the importance of the security of radioactive sources and the commitment of the EU and the USA to support states in establishing and maintaining national nuclear security regimes for radioactive materials.

The statement “aligns with principles set forth in the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources and its corresponding Supplementary Guidance on Import and Export of Radioactive Sources and Management of Disused Radioactive Sources, as well as the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism”.

The partnership between the EC and NNSA’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS), under its mission to enhance global security, “goes hand-in-hand with the EU’s counter-terrorism agenda and commitment to radiological security”, the statement says.

ORS and the EC Directorate General for Migration and Home Affairs (DG HOME) will continue their efforts in co-organising regional radiological security response exercises following on from a first event held in Iasi, Romania, last year, the statement says, with the EC’s Joint Research Centre and US experts providing technical support in designing and implementing the exercises.

Open civilian facilities that use radioactive materials can be vulnerable to adversaries seeking to acquire radioactive sources for use in radiological dispersal devices or “dirty bombs”. These facilities depend on local law enforcement agencies to respond in the event of an attempted radiological theft, and the Joint Statement also highlights the need to carefully plan response procedures in close coordination and cooperation with such agencies.

“The impacts of a radiological event can have consequences that transcend borders. This is not a problem that any single country can address alone. Together, with the European Commission, NNSA strives to work collaboratively to strengthen radioactive source security,” NNSA’s Jeffrey Chamberlin said.

ICONS 2024 is the fourth ICONS conference to be held by the IAEA. The conference includes a ministerial segment and a scientific and technical programme of high level policy discussions on the overall themes central to nuclear security, with parallel technical sessions on specialised scientific technical, legal and regulatory issues concerning nuclear security.

The conference is being held in Vienna from 20 to 24 May.

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