IAEA conducts radiation training for Beijing Olympics

Officials of the UN nuclear watchdog said they were aware of no specific dirty bomb threats against the Beijing Olympics, but were working with China on part of ongoing efforts to improve security at high-profile events.

The IAEA had no specific intelligence on threats, Anita Nielsson, head of the Office for Nuclear Security of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said. So-called dirty bombs contain radioactive material blown up using conventional explosives, which disperse the often highly poisonous radioactive substances.

Experts believe that the psychological effects of a dirty bomb attack would be far more widespread than the actual deaths and damage caused by such a device, reported dpa.

The international community could however not afford to remain inactive.

"It is better to be proactive and review practices and put them up to standard and implement them," Nielsson said.

After 9/11 awareness increased that an added level of security was necessary, and that security arrangements should also contain provisions for attempts by terrorists to bring in radioactive materials, she said.

"It is adding a dimension to standard security systems," Nielsson said. "Not to leave any stone unturned, to get the best possible Olympic Game or Championships, not to be disturbed by these undue events" Nielsson said.

A team of IAEA experts trained Chinese officials this week for emergencies involving radioactive materials, as part of the effort to introduce a "radiological dimension" into standard security for big public meetings, IAEA officials said.

The exercise included simulations of how to detect radioactive materials and how to deal with the potentially lethal substances, IAEA experts said.

One simulation exercise included testing the detection capabilities as well as organization and communication between the point of detection and the responding forces by smuggling a small radioactive source into a venue, IAEA expert Peter Colgan said.

Other exercises simulated handling a dirty bomb, mainly focusing on showing officials how to communicate in case of a radiological emergency.

"I understand the exercises went very well," Colgan said.

Radiation security for the Olympic Games was unlikely affected by the Sichuan earthquake, as preparation work for the games had been ongoing for more than 18 months,

The IAEA conducted similar programmes at the 2004 Olympics in Greece or at the 2006 Football World Cup in Germany.

In June 2007, the IAEA and the China's Atomic Energy Authority reached a cooperation agreement which included efforts to enhance nuclear security arrangements for the upcoming Olympics.

Beijing was a natural follow-on to previous efforts and part of the general awareness that it was necessary to add the radiological dimension to existing security arrangements, the IAEA said.

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