Nations agree to reinforce nuclear protection

13 July 2005

Nearly 90 nations have agreed to beef up the 1980 UN Convention of the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material during a conference sponsored by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The 89 signatory countries went through over 20 amendments before passing the revamped treaty.

The revisions now stipulate that signatory nations protect nuclear facilities and material in peaceful domestic use, its storage as well as its transport. The amendments require signatories to protect nuclear material by adopting proper legislation, ensuring that a competent regulatory body is chosen and taking any other appropriate measures. They also provide for expanded cooperation in developing rapid measures to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage, and prevent and combat related offences.

The new rules will come into effect once ratified by two-thirds of the 112 parties to the convention, a measure that is expected to take several years.

The convention originally obligated the 112 signatory nations to protect nuclear material only during international transport while the revised version expands such protection to materials at nuclear facilities, in domestic storage and during domestic transport or use.

“This new and stronger treaty is an important step towards greater nuclear security by combating, preventing, and ultimately punishing those who would engage in nuclear theft, sabotage, or even terrorism,” IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei said.

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