Major conference on illicit nuclear trafficking to open next week

Published 15 November 2007

The IAEA next week will hold a major conference on illegal possession and illicit trafficking of nuclear materials; in 1995 the IAEA established the Illicit Trafficking Database; to date, it has received reports on approximately 1,250 incidents

More than 300 representatives from over seventy countries are set to meet in Edinburgh, Scotland, next week to assess future challenges from trafficking in nuclear and other radioactive material and review how effectively this threat is being met. Participants include experts from the nuclear security, intelligence, justice, regulatory, customs, border control, law enforcement communities as well as nongovernmental organizations. The four-days long International Conference on Illicit Nuclear Trafficking: Collective Experience and the Way Forward, which is organized by the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and hosted by the government of the United Kingdom in the Edinburgh Convention Centre, opens on 19 November and closes on the 22nd. Participants in the conference will be asked to identify ways to strengthen the international community’s defense against future threats and pay attention to the IAEA’s nuclear security program, and make recommendations for its ongoing course.

According to Anita Nilsson, Head of the IAEA’s Office of Nuclear Security, the international community is becoming increasingly aware of the threat deriving from illicit nuclear trafficking. “Steps to combat the risk from trafficking in nuclear and radioactive material are now considered a routine part of providing public security,” said Nilsson. She also noted that international concern in this area is demonstrated by the emergence of new or strengthened legal instruments such as the Convention on Nuclear Terrorism, amendments to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and UN Security Council Resolutions which obligate States and the IAEA to take more actions in this area.

In addition to its other activities, the IAEA maintains an information system on incidents of illicit trafficking and other criminal or unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials. To date, the Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) has received reports from participating states on approximately 1,250 incidents ranging from illegal possession, attempted sale and smuggling, to unauthorized disposal of these materials and recoveries of radioactive sources. Currently, ninety-six States participate in the ITDB Programme, which was established in 1995. IAEA says that, in some cases, nonparticipating member states have also provided information to the ITDB.