By the OGJ Online Staff
HOUSTON, Sept. 17, 2001 – Global security largely depends on the work of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in preventing “proliferation and misuse of nuclear materials,” US Sec. of Energy Spencer Abraham said Monday.
Speaking at the opening of the IAEA general conference in Vienna, Abraham said Tuesday’s attacks on US targets proved terrorists will attack “any” target, sending an unmistakeable message the agency’s job will become “much more important” in the 21st Century.
“We cannot assume that tomorrow’s terrorist acts will mirror those we have just experienced,” Abraham said. “Preventing terrorist acts underlies our continuing and robust support for this agency.”
Governments worldwide tightened security around nuclear power plants and radioactive waste facilities after terrorists commandeered four commercial airliners and used three to demolish New York’s World Trade Center and set fire to a portion of the Pentagon. The fourth crashed in Pennsylvania.
The US Nuclear Regulatory Commission immediately called on US nuclear power plants to implement extra security procedures. Some analysts warned many nuclear plants, built during the 1960s and 1970s, were not designed to withstand a direct hit from a jumbo jet full of fuel.
Abraham said the US is working with Russia and other countries to improve physical protection of hundreds of tons of plutonium and enriched uranium. Earlier this year, the Nuclear Suppliers Group 39 members adopted as basic principle that nuclear exports must be prohibited in cases were there is a significant risk of diversion.
Pointing to “new circumstances” and “new threats,” Abraham called on all states to implement similar controls on nuclear materials, especially those that can be converted to nuclear weapons. In the future, the US will emphasize two principles: cooperation and coordination, he said.
“We will work with others, but we expect others to act responsibly as well,” Abraham said. “We expect the members of this body to prohibit nuclear exports in cases where there is significant risk of diversion.”