Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz on Monday reiterated the Obama administration's commitment to promoting nuclear energy as an important response to climate change, but said the US and other governments must also make sure nuclear facilities are kept off-limits to terrorists.
"In the past two weeks, President Obama has given major speeches on two of the greatest challenges facing us today: in Berlin on nuclear security and in Washington on climate change," Moniz said in remarks prepared for the International Conference on Nuclear Security in Vienna.
"These topics are linked by more than timing; nuclear energy is a key part of addressing climate change, and ensuring nuclear security is integral to the expansion of carbon-free nuclear generation," he said.
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Moniz said the International Atomic Energy Agency and its member countries, including the US, have made significant progress in the promotion of nuclear safety since Obama became president in 2009.
Among the successful measures, he said, are continued collaboration with Russia to convert 120,000 kilograms of highly enriched uranium from Russian weapons into fuel for US nuclear reactors.
But the secretary said more must be done.
"Al-Qaida has tried for over a decade to acquire nuclear materials for a weapon, and despite the strides we have made in dismantling core al-Qaida, we should expect its adherents -- as well as other violent extremists with a variety of agendas -- to continue trying to achieve their nuclear ambitions," he said.
Among the necessary, ongoing steps are the development by the IAEA of stronger international standards for nuclear and radiological security, he said. Moniz also said he understands that nuclear security starts at home, acknowledging an embarrassing breach at a Department of Energy facility in Tennessee.
"While no sensitive material was in immediate danger, the fact that one year ago three individuals could approach and deface the exterior of a facility at the Y-12 National Security Complex -- where the United States stores highly enriched uranium -- is unacceptable," he said.
Moniz's comments marked the second time in a week that a DOE official drew a link between nuclear power and nuclear nonproliferation.
Last week, at a conference in St. Petersburg, Russia, Deputy Energy Secretary Daniel Poneman, made a similar point.
"To sustain growth in the commercial nuclear industry, the international community must be confident that the expansion of nuclear facilities will not increase the threats of nuclear weapons proliferation or nuclear terrorism," Poneman said.
"The development of a sound national infrastructure, including systems for materials accountancy and control, safety regulation, physical protection, and human capital, is critical to the global success of nuclear power," he said.
--Bill Loveless, firstname.lastname@example.org
--Edited by Keiron Greenhalgh, email@example.com