IAEA for improving security to stop ‘dirty bombs’
VIENNA: The UN nuclear watchdog agency said on Tuesday greater security measures were urgently needed to keep radioactive material out of the hands of terrorists, who could use it to wreak havoc with “dirty bombs.”
Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), said that despite an increased awareness of the need for better security since September 11, 2001, radioactive material continues to be lost or stolen. “In view of recent reports about terrorist plans to build and deploy radiological dispersion devices... it is clear that additional security measures are urgently needed,” he told a conference in Vienna.
Dirty bombs — the popular term for radiological dispersion devices — are made by attaching radioactive material to a conventional explosive to spread it over a wide area. While a dirty bomb might not necessarily kill its victims, ElBaradei said the most severe impact would be “panic and social disruption associated with exposure to radiation, the very purpose of an act of terror.” “While a number of countries are stepping up relevant security measures, many others lack the resources ... to effectively control radioactive sources,” he said.
ElBaradei said the problem of radioactive material disappearing from regulator’s records was especially acute in the countries of the former Soviet Union, where the IAEA has cooperated with Russia and the United States on operations to recover deadly radioactive material. “Two joint missions were carried out in Moldova and Tajikistan last year and more are planned for this year,” he said.
ElBaradei said there have been more than 280 confirmed cases of criminal trafficking of radioactive material, but “the actual number of cases may be significantly larger than the number reported to the agency.” He said September 11 clearly demonstrated that terrorists would not be afraid to handle deadly radioactive material to construct a dirty bomb. —Reuters