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30 November 2006

IAEA Report: Illicit Trafficking of Radioactive Materials

On August 21 2006 the IAEA released a report on, “Illicit Trafficking and Other Unauthorized Activities involving Nuclear and Radioactive Materials”. Established in 1995, the Agency’s Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) covers a broad range of cases from illegal possesion, attempted sale and smugling to unauthorized disposal of materials and discoveries of lost radiological or ” orphaned” sources.

During 1993-2005, they reported 827 confirmed nuclear and radioactive materials incidents. Among these 542 incidents reportedly involved other radioactive materials, of which the vast majority related to portable or mobile radioactive sourses used in gauging, radiography or similar industrial applications.

As noted, in the hands of terrorists or criminals some sources could be used for malicious purposes and cause harm to humans and the environment. At the 2004 international summit on nuclear proliferation in Australia, Nobel peace prizewinner, Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the IAEA, stated that the risk of a terrorist outrage was both “real and current”.

Ongoing international and domestic efforts by countries have intensified to reduce the risks and protect the public from the malicious use of any radioactive sources. Regulatory authorities, in cooperation with industry, continuously analyze the stringent safety and security systems in place and implement changes that result in radioactive sources remaining properly secure.