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Friday, 2 November, 2001, 15:28 GMT
UN warns of nuclear terrorist threat
Crystal River Energy Complex Nuclear Power Plant, Florida
The agency says many nuclear sites are poorly guarded
The director of the United Nations' atomic energy watchdog has said governments must do more to prevent radioactive materials from falling into the hands of terrorists.

Speaking at a special meeting in Vienna, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief, Mohamed ElBaradei, said since 11 September the agency had shifted its attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism and sabotage.

The prospect of nuclear terrorism has been catapulted to the forefront

Mohamed ElBaradei,
IAEA director
The IAEA, which sets international standards for nuclear safety, said it is particularly concerned that terrorists could build a so-called "dirty bomb", using stolen radioactive material.

Mr ElBaradei said the attacks on America meant "the prospect of nuclear terrorism has been catapulted to the forefront".

He said while it was unclear whether terrorists had the capability of building a nuclear bomb, it was a "doomsday scenario" which governments "need to take account of.

"We need to act quickly to protect ourselves," he said.

Radioactive threat

The one-day session of the IAEA was called to discuss ways of reducing the risk of nuclear terrorism and what can be done to secure the world's radioactive materials.

Before the attacks on America, the main concern for the agency was governments diverting nuclear materials to weapons programmes.

Ground Zero
The IAEA says the US attacks show how far terrorists will go
Now they are worried about terrorists crashing airliners into nuclear power stations or releasing radioactive material into the environment.

Earlier this week, the US Government banned flights around 86 nuclear facilities, saying it had credible information they could be attacked.

Experts are concerned rogue groups might obtain radioactive material from poorly guarded industrial sites or hospitals, to build crude but deadly dirty bombs.

Mr ElBaradei said while such a device would not kill many people, it would create panic.

The agency has singled out the former Soviet Union as a region where nuclear materials are not adequately regulated.

Mr ElBaradei said all nuclear sites were vulnerable and governments would have to pay for increased security.

He said the attacks on America showed terrorists were willing to commit murder on a massive scale.

"We can't wait until something happens," he said. "We must take preventative measures now."

The BBC's Sue Nelson
"America has already extended no-fly zones around its nuclear installations"
Mohamad ElBaradei, Director General, IAEA
"There is a new dimension to the nuclear threat"
John Gummer MP who covers the UK Sizewell plant
"We are all integrated in this"
See also:

31 Oct 01 | Americas
US steps up nuclear security
31 Oct 01 | Americas
Anthrax: Charting the US cases
29 Oct 01 | Sci/Tech
Mail sterilisation: The options
30 Oct 01 | Americas
Q&A: The anthrax mystery
30 Oct 01 | Americas
Sitting ducks on NY underground?
31 Oct 01 | UK
UK security remains tight
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