South Africa gets help from UN atomic watchdog in probing nuclear smuggling

Earlier this year the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) called for a “vital” upgrading of security to prevent nuclear technology from falling into the wrong hands through an emerging global network of sophisticated black marketeering in weapons technology. The Chairman of the South African Council for the Non-Proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Abdul Samad Minty, told a media briefing in Vienna, where the IAEA Board of Governors is meeting, that the probe related to the import and export of a controlled flow-forming lathe as well as production and possession of certain components associated with a centrifuge enrichment plant. Arrests have been made and police searches of companies and facilities have uncovered shipping containers associated with a centrifuge uranium enrichment plant, he said yesterday. Enriched uranium can be used to produce nuclear bombs. IAEA safeguards inspectors have placed the containers as well as other uncovered equipment under Agency seal, he added. The IAEA has long been concerned over trafficking in nuclear materials. “What we are seeing is a very sophisticated and complex underground network of black market operators not that much different from organized crime cartels,” IAEA Director-General, Mohamed ElBaradei warned in January. “It’s vital that we keep making progress in combined efforts against illicit trafficking, and to keep upgrading security to effectively prevent sensitive nuclear material and technology from falling into wrong hands,” he added.

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