News / Europe

Governments Warn of Nuclear Terrorism Threat

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano gestures during a conference on nuclear safety at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, July 1, 2013.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano gestures during a conference on nuclear safety at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, July 1, 2013.
Reuters
More action is needed to prevent militants acquiring plutonium or highly-enriched uranium that could be used in bombs, governments agreed at a meeting on nuclear security in Vienna on Monday, without deciding on any concrete steps.
 
A declaration adopted by more than 120 states at the meeting said “substantial progress” had been made in recent years to improve nuclear security globally, but it was not enough.
 
Analysts say radical groups could theoretically build a crude but deadly nuclear bomb if they had the money, technical knowledge and materials needed.
 
Ministers remained “concerned about the threat of nuclear and radiological terrorism ... More needs to be done to further strengthen nuclear security worldwide”, the statement said.
 
The document “encouraged” states to take various measures such as minimizing the use of highly-enriched uranium, but some diplomats said they would have preferred firmer commitments.
 
Many countries regard nuclear security as a sensitive political issue that should be handled primarily by national authorities. This was reflected in the statement's language.
 
Still, Yukiya Amano, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which hosted the conference, said the agreement was “very robust” and represented a major step forward.
 
Radical groups'`nuclear ambitions'
 
Amano earlier warned the IAEA-hosted conference against a “false sense of security” over the danger of nuclear terrorism.
 
Holding up a small lead container that was used to try to traffic highly-enriched uranium in Moldova two years ago, the U.N. nuclear chief said it showed a “worrying level of knowledge on the part of the smugglers”.
 
“This case ended well,” he said, referring to the fact that the material was seized and arrests were made. But he added: “We cannot be sure if such cases are just the tip of the iceberg.”
 
Obtaining weapons-grade fissile material - highly-enriched uranium or plutonium - poses the biggest challenge for militant groups, so it must be kept secure both at civilian and military facilities, experts say.
 
An apple-sized amount of plutonium in a nuclear device and detonated in a highly-populated area could instantly kill or wound hundreds of thousands of people, according to the Nuclear Security Governance Experts Group (NSGEG) lobby group.
 
But experts say a so-called “dirty bomb” is a more likely threat than a nuclear bomb. In a dirty bomb, conventional explosives are used to disperse radiation from a radioactive source, which can be found in hospitals or other places that are generally not very well protected.
 
More than a hundred incidents of thefts and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive material are reported to the IAEA every year, Amano said.
 
“Some material goes missing and is never found,” he said.
 
U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said al-Qaida was still likely to be trying to obtain nuclear material for a weapon.
 
“Despite the strides we have made in dismantling core al-Qaida we should expect its adherents ... to continue trying to achieve their nuclear ambitions,” he said.

You May Like

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs