Preventing the preventable: Strengthening international controls to thwart radiological terrorism

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The current global approach to securing potentially dangerous radioactive material needs to be strengthened. Highly radioactive sources have multiple uses globally in medicine, industry, and academic research, but terrorist and other violent groups could also use them to make a “dirty bomb,” in which highly radioactive material is dispersed with conventional explosives. While global radiological security arrangements have improved since 2001, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and national regulators still report regular incidents of highly radioactive materials that are stolen, lost, or missing. Currently, global radiological security is largely based on the IAEA’s Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources, which countries are under no obligation to follow or implement. The time has come to make the code of conduct a legally binding agreement that would promote national accountability and help prevent radiological terrorism.

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