The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reported 189 incidents involving nuclear and radioactive material falling out of regulatory control in 2019, highlighting the nuclear sector’s need to improve its security measures.

According to data submitted to the IAEA Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB), out of 189 incidents – reported by 36 countries on a voluntary basis – six involved trafficking, following a downward trend since a peak registered in 2006. Of the remaining 183, there was insufficient information to determine a connection with illegal activities.

IAEA nuclear security division director Raja Adnan said: “The ITDB continues to receive reports of incidents involving potentially weapons-usable nuclear material and high activity sources. Some of these incidents also involved attempts to sell the material across borders.

“These cases highlight the international character of the issue of illicit trafficking and the need for cooperative efforts, such as the ITDB, to counter these threats and challenges we face globally.”

Since 1993, a total of 3,686 incidents have been reported to the ITDB, of which 290 involved trafficking and malicious intent; 12 incidents included enriched uranium and two plutonium.

Revealed today during the IAEA ministerial conference, the database is intended to support international cooperation and information sharing between countries, reducing the opportunities for criminal activities.

“As a unique asset in the IAEA’s work to strengthen nuclear security, the ITDB allows us to identify threats and trends so that we can support our member states in improving the implementation of their nuclear security commitments,” added Adnan.

On Monday ministers of 140 countries signed a declaration to enhance global nuclear security and counter the threat of terrorism.

Romanian foreign minister and co-president of the conference Bogdan Aurescu said: “The adoption of a declaration at ministerial level is indicative of the continuous commitment to nuclear security of IAEA member states. It is a concise, politically driven and forward-looking document, adding value to the efforts of strengthening nuclear security worldwide.”