Nuclear terrorism a real threat, says IAEA Chief

By Michaela del Callar

MANILA, Dec. 7 (PNA) -– International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Director General Yukiya Amano on Monday warned of the serious threats of nuclear terrorism and urged all nations, including the Philippines, to prepare for any eventuality.

“Nuclear terrorism is a real threat and we need to get prepared and protect ourselves,” said Amano, who is currently in Manila for the 3rd Philippine Nuclear Congress.

Amano feared that the proliferation of nuclear materials may easily be accessed by terrorist groups.

“Nuclear materials exist everywhere in the world and if nuclear materials fall into the hands of terrorist, that can be used for dirty bombs. Dirty bombs means nuclear material and explosive and they can detonate it,” he told journalists at a press conference at the Department of Foreign Affairs.

“And if that happens in a big city that can cause panic,” he added.

While the IAEA is ready to assist the Philippines in combating the threat, Amano said it is the responsibility of each State to ensure the protection of its people against the global scourge.

The IAEA, for example, can establish guidance on how to address this issue by conducting training of experts, the use of equipment, and handling of materials.

“We need to analyze and understand the threat and establish a response,” he said.

The IAEA through the years has been assisting countries, especially on occasions when they have to host major international gatherings or summits, such as the Olympics, or even in the recently concluded Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting in Manila last November.

“The IAEA is functioning as a global platform to strengthen nuclear security and we assist the countries,” Amano said, but “the final responsibility is on each state.”

Dr. Alumanda Dela Rosa, Director of the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute, said the PNRI, along with the military and police, underwent training by the IAEA and the US Department of Energy on the use of modern equipment to detect nuclear and radiological materials for the APEC summit.

During the APEC week from November 13 to 19, Philippine authorities did rigorous screening of hotels, the venues of the meeting and routes used by delegations and attending leaders, which included US President Barack Obama.

“We are happy to report that no radioactive materials were detected in all those places so we are very pleased with the result,” Dela Rosa said.

The Philippine government, Philippine Ambassador to Vienna Zeneida Angara Collinson said, where the IAEA is headquartered, is also taking measures on the matter of nuclear security.

Part of this commitment is President Benigno S. Aquino III’s signing in June of a crucial amendment to a 2005 United Nations Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials.

“We understand that is now in the Senate for concurrence and that will be the last step,” Collinson said.

The IAEA will need 11 more countries to ratify the accord should the Philippines fully accedes to the UN treaty, she said.

“Hopefully by next year this important amendment will come to force,” Collinson said. (PNA)