Ambassador Jari Luoto works as the implementation and assessment group coordinator of the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism. During the GICNT workshop in Budapest Mr Luoto gave a short interview about some aspects of this interesting topic, mainly in connection with the focus of this workshop.
First of all I would like to thank
you for finding the opportunity and time to be interviewed. As I started
to think about this topic, some questions came to my mind immediately,
most of them with concerns. Is it simply that we are lucky for not having
faced any serious terror attack with radioactive material involved until
now, or is it due to hard and systematic protective work?
Some specialists say that we are indeed
lucky. Of course we should prepare, and that is exactly what the GICNT
is doing with its activities: enhancing partner nations’ capabilities
to prevent, to detect and respond to nuclear security threats.
How many times and what type of radioactive
material is stolen a year? What is the quantity involved?
We know that there are thousands and thousands
of cases each year when radioactive material gets out of regulatory control.
In most cases we are speaking about material which is not categorized as
the most dangerous to human health, but we know that there are cases involving
much more dangerous material. There are thousands of radioactive sources
because these are widely used in hospitals, industry and agriculture. Unfortunately
not all of these sources are well protected. There is a risk of it getting
into the wrong hands.
Do states regularly report on the loss
or theft of radioactive sources?
There is not an internationally legally
binding obligation for states to report on the loss of radioactive sources.
Therefore the databases on incidents are incomplete. The great majority
– nearly 90% - of the cases that are reported to the IAEA come from only
a handful of countries. It is likely that many cases are not reported and
a lot of information remains confidential.
If harm is done, what kind of international
help can the impacted country expect?
GICNT is working with its 88 partner nations
and 5 international observer organisations to enhance partners’ capability
to respond to threats to nuclear security. At the same time we are working
towards better regional and global cooperation. We are not only sharing
best practices and learning from each other but also building links between
partners that will be helpful in combating these threats. Countries are
already helping each other in very practical ways (e.g. sending expert
teams and equipment).
How can a workshop like this one in
Budapest support the fight against nuclear terrorism? From this point of
view, what would you highlight in the Hungarian program?
The workshop in Budapest is an important
addition to this series of GICNT events. We have been dealing with one
of the most likely threats which is the loss or theft of radioactive sources.
We have heard and seen many examples of how individual countries and institutions
are working towards better security of these sources. We have also been
looking at ways of effectively responding to a situation where a radioactive
source has been stolen. The workshop has been well attended, with more
than 90 participants from 25 countries.
There are growing fears about terrorism
worldwide. How did these fears and the increased attention influence GICNT
activities in the last few years?
I think it has made all of us think that
work being done in this network has a high value. Political decision-makers
should be aware of the threats to nuclear security and on how to respond
effectively. GICNT’s work has been focused even more towards exercises
and workshops that have a very “hands-on-approach”. It was extremely
valuable that we had the chance to participate in the demonstration activity
at the MTA EK in connection of this GICNT event in Budapest.
The interview was made by Gábor Körmendi,
communication officer of the HAEA.