Further to the report on p11 of last month’s issue of NEI, a financed global action plan to improve safety in the nuclear energy sector has been approved in principle by the Board of Governors of the IAEA. A number of countries have pledged $4.6 million to fund its programmes, although this falls far short of the $12 million claimed by the IAEA, which also wants a fund of $20 million established to handle security emergencies.

Nonetheless, the board agreed to go ahead with the plan, which recognised “that the first line of defence against nuclear terrorism is the strong physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials.” An IAEA statement said: “National measures for protecting nuclear material and facilities are uneven in their substance and application. There is wide recognition that the international physical protection regime needs to be strengthened.” Addressing the board, director general Dr Mohamed ElBaradei said that the plan would help national governments improve their performance in eight areas: • Improving the physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities.

• Detecting malicious activities, such as illicit trafficking, involving nuclear and other radioactive materials.

• Administering controls of nuclear material stocks and accounts.

• Ensuring the security of radioactive sources.

• Assessing safety and security related vulnerabilities at nuclear facilities.

• Responding to malicious acts or threats.

• Adhering to international agreements and guidelines.

• Enhancing co-ordination among public agencies and information management regarding nuclear security.

Looking at the money pledged so far, this includes commitments from Australia ($100,000), Britain ($350,000), Japan ($500,000), the Netherlands (E250,000), Slovenia (E14,000), USA ($2.2 million) and the Nuclear Threat Initiative ($1.2 million). Promises of support in kind have been received from Finland, France, Germany, India, Romania, and Turkey.

ElBaradei stressed that the programme would not “diminish the primary responsibility of the state on all matters of security; rather they are designed to supplement and reinforce national efforts in areas where international cooperation is indispensable to the strengthening of nuclear security.”