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April 21, 2010

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Shanghai's big event a nuclear 'challenge'

THE six-month Shanghai World Expo would be a challenge for China's nuclear-security forces, although the country had a record as one of the most nuclear-secure nations, a leading arms-control expert said yesterday.

Security forces maintained the safety of nuclear facilities during the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games and Paralympics but the duration of the Expo made it a greater risk, said Teng Jianqun, director of the research center for arms control with the China Institute of International Studies.

"Many people think that the nuclear threat is far from them. However, nuclear technology is widely used in people's daily lives," he said. "If terrorists used radioactive dirty bombs to attack major events, there would be panic and chaos."

Teng cited disgraced Pakistani nuclear scientist Abdul Qadeer Khan, who confessed in 2004 to selling nuclear secrets, as a warning that some people continued to smuggle, trade and produce nuclear material for profit and other uses in a global black market.

The illegal trade and proliferation of nuclear material would create dangerous possibilities for terrorists to launch attacks, he said.

According to statistics from the International Atomic Energy Agency, more than 1,500 cases of smuggling and theft of nuclear material were reported from 1995 to 2008.

Security cooperation to prevent terrorists from acquiring nuclear material was a responsibility that should be shouldered by all countries, Teng said.

Each of the 31 provinces, autonomous regions and municipalities on China's mainland had a special facility to store nuclear waste from power stations, hospitals and other places, he said.

The government has issued a series of laws on how civilian groups should transport, use and store nuclear material.

It reformed the leadership structure of its departments in charge of nuclear issues, he said. Under the Ministry of Environmental Protection, a nuclear security bureau has been set up.

Under the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, a bureau of national defense science and industry had been established to take over the management of civilian nuclear affairs from the military authority.

President Hu Jintao made a five-point proposal at the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington last week that all nuclear countries should keep their facilities safe and improve the abilities of developing countries to deal with nuclear security threats.

Teng said Hu's attendance at the summit had been a strong signal of China's commitment to participate in multilateral nuclear cooperation.

"China's major shift toa position that supportsnuclear non-proliferation also showcases a positive imagein the international community," Teng said.


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