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Thursday, August 24, 2006

IAEA reports 103 nuclear smuggling incidents

The International Atomic Energy Agency Reports 103 Incidents of Illicit or Unapproved Activities Involving Nuclear and Radiological Materials in 2005.

The statistics were compiled by the IAEA`s Illicit Trafficking Database, or ITDB.

The IAEA Web site reported Aug. 21 that the ITDB covers a broad range of cases, from illegal possession, attempted sales and smuggling to unauthorized disposal of materials and discoveries of mislaid radiological sources.

Of the 2005 incidents, 18 involved nuclear materials; 76 involved radioactive material, primarily radioactive sources; two involved both nuclear and other radioactive materials; and seven incidents involved radioactively contaminated materials.

The ITDB reported another 57 incidents from previous years. The incidents involved smuggling and other unauthorized activities that had occurred earlier, primarily in 2004.

Two 2005 cases reported by the ITDB involved small quantities of highly-enriched uranium, or HEU, a fissile material. In New Jersey a package containing 3.3 grams of HEU was reported lost. The second incident occurred in Fukui, Japan, when a neutron flux detector containing 0.017 grams of HEU was lost at a nuclear power plant.

The ITDB report noted 'from the terrorism threat standpoint, these cases are of little concern, but they show security vulnerabilities at facilities handling HEU.'

The majority of the 2005 cases showed no evidence of criminal activity.

The ITDB facilitates the exchange of authoritative information on incidents of trafficking in nuclear and radioactive materials. Ninety-one countries report to the IAEA`s ITDB database.
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