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Countering Nuclear Terrorism


Chinese customs officers check for signs of radiation at the Yangshan Port in Shanghai December 7, 2011. The United States and China launched a radiation detection system at the Shanghai port.

"We must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately."

The United States is committed to securing and keeping nuclear and radioactive material out of the hands of terrorists who might use them as weapons. This is not a far-fetched scenario, said U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns, as Al-Qaida remains dangerous. Moreover, there have been 399 incidents reported by governments to the International Atomic Energy Agency since 1995, involving unauthorized possession of nuclear and radiological material, and related criminal activities.



The United States is taking several steps to thwart the nuclear ambitions of terrorists. First among them is to develop national Counter Nuclear Smuggling teams. Through efforts like the Preventing Nuclear Smuggling Program, the U.S. is helping to build and strengthen national government investigative capacities that have proven most effective in removing nuclear and radioactive material from the black market.

The United States wants to continue its work with other governments and international organizations to strengthen nuclear security and the Financial Action Task Force to create a basic framework for international cooperation to shut down illicit financing networks that support nuclear smuggling or other proliferation activity.

A third goal is to work with partner countries to secure international land borders, seaports and airports, and enhance global capacity to detect and respond to smuggling activities. This includes initiatives such as the Export Control and Related Border Security program, the Second Line of Defense and the Megaports Initiative.

“Securing materials, countering smuggling and protecting borders,” said Deputy Secretary Burns, “these are challenges that no country can solve on its own, but also challenges that will not be solved without leadership. They remind me of the words of American founding father Benjamin Franklin, who said ‘we must all hang together, or assuredly we will all hang separately.’ The only path to nuclear security is through intensive cooperation, determined efforts, more widespread capacity, a shared sense of ownership and a shared sense of urgency.”

The United States stands ready to work with all nations to translate shared concern into shared responsibility for each country and increased security for all people.
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