Expanding the IAEA’s nuclear security mandate

By Jack Boureston, Tanya Ogilvie-White, September 1, 2010

Expansion of civilian nuclear power means that greater international cooperation
is required to ensure that terrorist groups do not acquire nuclear and
radiological materials. The global nuclear security regime urgently needs to be
strengthened; the authors write that boosting the role of the International
Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the best place to start. The IAEA established a
nuclear security program in 2002. Recently, this program’s
successes, including helping states repatriate highly enriched uranium to Russia
and the United States, have prompted more national interest in the
IAEA’s nuclear security assistance missions and led to more requests
for advisory and evaluation services. If given the authority, the IAEA could
verify the continuous level of nuclear security of member states and assess and
coordinate the implementation of any actions that need to be taken. The authors
write that the problem of the IAEA’s limited authority is tied to
fundamental debates in the international community over how to deal with threats
in a globalized world. Resources need to be pooled; expertise needs to be shared
and centralized; and common standards need to be set, monitored, and enforced in
the interests of a safer world. But not all states are convinced of this, and
some are suspicious that states advocating global governance are using their
power to dominate the global security agenda. The authors explore the expansion
of the IAEA’s mandate and ask the pivotal question confronting the
international community: How can states build consensus on the need to
prioritize nuclear security?

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