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US Announces Plan for Security of Radioactive Material - 2003-03-11


The United States has announced a program to help poor countries keep track of radioactive material that could be used by terrorists to build bombs.

U.S. Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham said Washington would spend $3 million in the next year to help developing countries secure high risk radiation sources.

He was speaking at a conference in Vienna, attended by more than 100 countries organized jointly by the United States, Russia and the International Atomic Energy Agency. Secretary Abraham said the United States will support measures to prevent the loss or theft of radioactive material. "The U.S. is pleased today to announce a new initiative that we call a radiological security partnership. Its our hope through this new partnership to make available more resources and direct those resources to the assistance of both countries who are in need of additional support because of limits on their financial capabilities as well to target some particular challenges that we encounter," he said.

Secretary Abraham said the U.S. Energy Department will, in addition, allocate $15 million to prevent illicit trafficking in radiological sources. He said the idea is to make it more difficult to move illicit nuclear materials across borders.

IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said it is clear that there is a market for radioactive sources.

The Russian Minister for Energy Alexander Rumyantsev said that, since the fall of the Soviet Union, there is what he called "an uncontrolled situation" regarding radioactive sources outside of Russia.

But he said there is no reason to believe that terrorists have a so-called dirty bomb - a device that could contaminate a large area with deadly radiation.

Secretary Spencer and Minister Rumyantsev are to sign an agreement on Wednesday on the production and disposal of plutonium.

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