UN treaty to protect nuclear materials from terrorists takes effect in May | News | DW | 08.04.2016
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UN treaty to protect nuclear materials from terrorists takes effect in May

The UN has hailed robust new rules to strengthen the security of nuclear materials around the globe. An amendment to a convention will help keep nuclear material from terrorists.

More than 100 countries will have to implement more robust standards to safeguard nuclear materials and facilities as of May, the UN's International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) announced Friday.

Nicaragua on Friday ratified a decade-old amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), bringing the number of countries to ratify the bill to 102, meaning the amendment passed the two-thirds threshold to go into effect.

The CPPNM entered into force in 1987 and addressed the physical protection of peaceful-use nuclear material during international transport. The amendment goes further by requiring countries to protect nuclear facilities and material used domestically, including storage and transport.

"This is an important day for efforts to strengthen nuclear security around the world," said IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano in a statement. The amendment "will help reduce the risk of a terrorist attack involving nuclear material, which could have catastrophic consequences."

The updated convention broadens current offenses for the theft of nuclear material and identifies new offenses such as the smuggling of nuclear material and sabotage of nuclear facilities or material. It also obliges countries to cooperate and share intelligence to relocate and retrieve lost or stolen nuclear materials.

The entry into force comes a week after a major nuclear summit in Washington, where world leaders raised concern that terrorists could target nuclear facilities, try to acquire nuclear weapons and get a hold of nuclear material to create a dirty bomb.

Over the past two decades, there have been nearly 3,000 cases of nuclear material disappearing, being illegally trafficked or found in the possession of unauthorized individuals, according to the IAEA.

While in most instances the nuclear material could not be used to create a nuclear bomb, in some cases it could be used for a dirty bomb designed to disperse radioactive material.

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