Remarks at the Sixth Asian Regional Review Meeting on Radioactive Source Security

Robert Hilton
Deputy Chief of Mission,
U.S. Embassy Colombo, Sri Lanka

March 6, 2018

On behalf of U.S. Ambassador to Sri Lanka and Maldives Atul Keshap and all of us at the U.S. Embassy, welcome to Sri Lanka and thank you for coming.  State Minister for Power and Renewable Energy Perera, Secretary Batagoda, Chairman Hewamana, thank you for your participation in this event.  Thank you to Director General Ranjith and the staff of the Sri Lanka Atomic Energy Regulatory Council for hosting this Sixth Asian Regional Review Meeting on Radioactive Source Security, which I know took a great deal of work.

Welcome to the delegations from the IAEA, INTERPOL, the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) and 20 countries gathered here today.  As you know, this Sixth Regional Review Meeting is being co-hosted by Sri Lanka’s Atomic Energy Regulatory Council and the U.S. Department of Energy’s Office of Radiological Security.  Welcome to my colleagues from Washington, Kristin Hirsch, Deputy Director of the National Nuclear Security Administration and Robert Rudich, Asia Program Manager, who put a great deal of time and energy into assuring us a successful event.

The Department of Energy’s Office of Radiological Security works with international partners in more than 80 countries to enhance the security of high-activity radioactive sources worldwide.  It helps provide a first line of defense to prevent unauthorized access to materials that could be used in a radiological dispersal device (a “dirty bomb”) or in other acts of terrorism.  This being said, radioactive sources are essential to our everyday lives.  Radioactive sources are used daily in medical, industrial, agricultural and research applications around the world.   We need to ensure these technological advances continue and radioactive sources remain a vital part of making our lives better.

You all have this difficult task.  How to ensure radioactivity is used productively but is not lost or stolen or falls into the wrong hands.  The United States is determined that your work – our work – succeed.  Radiological terrorism presents a grave threat to global stability and security.  This threat comes from large, well-funded groups and, increasingly, from individual lone actors, self-radicalized at home, over the internet.   Terrorist organizations continue to leverage emerging technology build a radiological dispersal or exposure device.

The United States is working around the world to help countries in their efforts to better secure and manage their radioactive materials.  You know that, because you’re here with us today. Thanks too to the United Kingdom and Canada, which provide financial support for radiological safety efforts in Sri Lanka and South Asia.  But we do more than that.  The U.S. has broad cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, which is also represented here.

In addition to its excellent work with its Member States, the IAEA is a unique institution in its ability to develop globally acceptable standards and guidance for safety, security, transportation, education and training, and more.  It also acts as a valuable forum for addressing common concerns, and plays a central role in strengthening the international nuclear security framework.  We hope you appreciate the IAEA as well, and encourage you to support its nuclear security work, in both word and deed, whenever possible.

We encourage all countries to subscribe to the goals of Information Circular 910, on the security of high activity radioactive sources; endorsing the Code of Conduct and its two supplementary guidance documents, including the new guidance on disused source management; and by supporting nuclear security during meetings of Member States, especially the policy making organs.  The IAEA also convenes major conferences on its areas of expertise.  As you likely know, this year’s nuclear-security-themed conference is on radioactive source security.  The International Conference on the Security of Radioactive Material: The Way Forward for Prevention and Detection is scheduled for the first week of December, and we think it will be a valuable opportunity for the global community to come together and discuss the future of securing radioactive material.

Such global meetings are useful to understand the breadth of opinion and options, but just as important are more focused regional initiatives – like this regional review meeting.  Our defenses are stronger because of continued efforts by your countries and others around the world to lower vulnerabilities and address the risk of terrorism using these materials.  While we all have roles to play individually, we are all most effective when we work together.  It is important that we come together at events like this to share experiences, develop new ideas and learn from each other’s successes.  I hope this week’s activities serve as a springboard to further enhance your domestic programs and deepen your international security cooperation.  Thank you.