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

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.

December 3, 2018
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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.

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Ambassador Laura S. H. Holgate
Ambassador Laura S. H. Holgate

Vice President, Materials Risk Management