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Preventing Dirty Bomb Terrorism: New NTI-CENESS Report Highlights Central Asian Republics’ Commitment to Preventing Radiological Risks

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Laura S. H. Holgate Ambassador (ret.)

Vice President, Materials Risk Management

VIENNA – Sustained
regional dialogue between all relevant stakeholders—including regulatory,
customs, border security, and energy authorities, as well as international
partners—is needed to effectively address the challenge of radioactive source
security in Central Asia, according to a new report by the Nuclear Threat
Initiative (NTI) and the Moscow-based Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS).

Sustainable Security of Radioactive Sources in Central Asia, released at the
International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) International Conference on the
Security of Radioactive Material, is the culmination of a two-year joint effort
by NTI and
CENESS to improve regional coordination on the security of
radioactive sources and to prevent illicit trafficking of these sources in
Central Asia.

As in
other regions, Central Asia is home to thousands of radioactive sources, most
of which are used for medical, industrial, and research applications. Often,
the sources are located in busy, open settings, such as hospitals in city
centers, or remote areas with little or no physical protection. If these
sources escape regulatory control, they could be used to build radioactive
dispersion devices, more commonly known as “dirty bombs.”

“Largely
as a result of poor chain-of-custody procedures and insufficient regulatory
controls, thousands of radioactive sources have gone missing around the globe,”
the report says. “Even in countries with effective regulatory controls in
place, high disposal costs and a lack of repositories have led end users to
abandon radioactive sources at the end of their life cycle. These are
challenges that affect every region of the world, including Central Asia.”

Over the
last two years, NTI and CENESS sponsored regional workshops, with support from
the Government of Canada and in cooperation with the IAEA
and the Governments of
Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan
, bringing
together more than 70 experts to discuss opportunities to
strengthen
radioactive source security in Central Asia.
Participants included experts from Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan,
Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, the Russian Federation, the United States, Canada,
the Eurasian Economic Commission, and the IAEA.

“These
challenges are transnational in nature, requiring effective coordination and
information exchange among all stakeholders,” said Laura Holgate, NTI Vice
President for Materials Risk Management, a co-chair of the regional workshops.
“The NTI-CENESS workshops served as an excellent model of the kind of dialogue
we would like to see happen more regularly in this region.”

Anton Khlopkov, CENESS director and workshop
co-chair, said, “The example of joint efforts by CENESS and NTI demonstrates
the great potential of Russian-US cooperation in strengthening radiation
security, including cooperation facilitated by the IAEA.”

The
report is available in English and Russian.


About the Nuclear Threat Initiative

The
Nuclear Threat Initiative works to protect our lives, environment, and quality
of life now and for future generations. We work to prevent catastrophic attacks
with weapons of mass destruction and disruption—nuclear, biological,
radiological, chemical, and cyber.

About the Center for Energy and Security Studies

The Center
for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS) is an independent, non-governmental
think tank established in 2009. Headquartered in Moscow, the main goal of
CENESS is to promote independent, unbiased, systematic, and professional
analyses related to nuclear nonproliferation and atomic energy with a special
emphasis on international cooperation of Russia in these areas.

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NTI Statement on the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review

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NTI Statement on the 2022 Nuclear Posture Review

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