Luxembourg, the capital of a small European nation by the same name, played the role of a science fair at the end of last week.
More than 50 leading disarmament experts from 14 countries came to Luxembourg to participate in the International Conference on Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe, the largest scientific and practical event on this topic in the past decade.
The two-day forum was a venue for discussion of today’s most acute problems, including the Iranian nuclear programme, the possibility of terrorists gaining access to nuclear weapons and measures to help ensure observance of the Non-Proliferation Treaty.
“Technological advances and relaxed vigilance are a terrible combination. This combination may allow nuclear weapons to fall into the hands of criminals or maniacs – whether it be Al Qaeda’s leaders or the deranged heads of certain states,” noted Viatcheslav Kantor, the chairman of the Conference Organizing Committee. He added, “I am not talking about Ian Fleming’s Doctor No creating his own nuclear bomb on an island. This danger is quite real.”
As it turned out, Dr. Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the IAEA and keynote speaker at the conference, shares the same view on the possibility of a global catastrophe. All the conference participants looked forward to his address. ElBaradei reported that the nuclear threat has become more urgent and complicated. He believes that “f we want to prevent a nuclear catastrophe, the deadline for action is now.” The IAEA head also stated that with a budget of 130 million USD per year, his agency verifies the nuclear programmes of all non-nuclear weapons States, which amounts to more than 900 declared nuclear facilities in 70 countries. Yet the agency constantly risks lagging behind in the technological race because it is forced to make do on a shoestring budget.
Ten days after the Conference, its organizers will issue a final declaration containing specific recommendations on preventing a nuclear catastrophe.