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World Warned Of Artificial Intelligence Threat To Nuclear Technology :: Uganda Radionetwork
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World Warned Of Artificial Intelligence Threat To Nuclear Technology

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Risk scenarios include theft of nuclear and other radioactive material for use in improvised devices and sabotage at nuclear installations or during transport of nuclear and radioactive material.
20 May 2024 20:01
Rafael Mariano Gross warned that a nuclear disaster can be sparked by click of a computer button

Audio 3

Nuclear-based technology is and will become relevant in many applications but countries must put in place measures to avoid harm to consumers and to world peace and security.   

The concerns came up as the International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS 2024) officially kicked off in the Australian capital Vienna where ministers, environmentalists, security experts, and policy analysts will be meeting for the next couple of days.   

Nuclear technology has become an indispensable piece of science.

It is being applied in medicine developments including radiotherapy and in initiatives such as Rays of Hope: Cancer care for all; Nutec Plastics; Zoonotic Disease Integrated Action (ZODIAC); and Atoms4Food.   

The world is likely to have more energy generated through nuclear reactor plants after it was recommended as one of the available alternative energies to fossil fuels. 

The International Atomic Agency’s (IAEA) Director General, Rafael Mariano Grossi said there have been profound technological advances around. He however cautioned that some of the biggest threats are from Artificial Intelligence and unmanned vehicles.

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The head of the international watchdog body warned that threats from radioactive materials or nuclear weapons do not know borders.

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“At ICONS 2024 we are – as the name of the conference indicates - “shaping the future”, not only of nuclear security but of the world our children will inherit. That is because nuclear security is about more than preventing nuclear terrorism. It is an enabler to providing, through nuclear science and technology, clean energy; cutting-edge medicine; nutritious food and hope for a better tomorrow,” he said.     

He observed that the nuclear field itself, Small Modular Reactors promise new opportunities for applications such as desalination and power brought to remote communities via barge, but also requires us to consider new security elements.

“The use of nuclear science and technology, often facilitated by the IAEA, has come on in leaps and bounds. Climate change and the drive for energy security are fueling a desire for nuclear power"

At the Conference of the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, COP28, world leaders from those whose states use nuclear power and those whose do not - for the first time in nearly 30 years of climate negotiations agreed nuclear power must be part of the transition to net zero.    

More than 20 countries signed a pledge towards tripling nuclear power capacity. At the IAEA’s Nuclear Energy Summit in March heads of state agreed on the urgent need for conducive financial conditions.  From those developments, Grossi said nuclear security is relevant throughout all the steps of the nuclear fuel cycle and is part of the social contract that underpins the existence and growth of nuclear power.

“Nuclear power programmes require national nuclear security threat assessments and “security by design”. Nurturing relevant research and a strong security culture are key, not only in countries with Nuclear Power Plants,” he said.     He said all the opportunities to use nuclear and radioactive material depend on a strong and adaptive global nuclear security regime. 

“For countries new to using nuclear and radioactive material, this means building up legal infrastructure, practices, and culture that bolster nuclear security.  Nationally and across borders, collaboration and laser-focused vigilance are key to preventing groups with malicious intent from using nuclear and radioactive material to cause panic and harm.   

It is observed that the threats to nuclear and other radioactive materials and associated facilities are real and varied and that the international nuclear security threat landscape keeps evolving. 

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“Today, anyone can type a few words into a computer and generative AI can create images of nuclear Armageddon, meaning it is now possible to spread panic about radiation fallout without a nuclear device. Risk scenarios include theft of nuclear and other radioactive material for use in improvised devices and sabotage at nuclear installations or during transport of nuclear and radioactive material,” Grossi warned.

He said the risk of cyber-attacks requires the implementation of computer security programmes by those who use nuclear power and those who do not. In addition, he said risks come from outsiders and from those within the fold who are disgruntled or have been corrupted.   

Tim Watts, Assistant Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia said As the world continues to leverage nuclear science and technology, we must ensure that nuclear security standards are upheld to prevent the exploitation of this technology for harmful purposes. He said the past four years have been have been a time of challenge for nuclear security

. “Global tensions have evolved into new and more complex environments. With newer weapons, and diverse sophisticated actors. In parallel, there has been a remarkable growth in the use of nuclear technology in recognition of its benefits to mankind,” he said. 

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Australia is one of the leading producers of nuclear medicines for the treatment and diagnosis of cancer and other diseases. Tim Watts said Australia recognizes the important role of nuclear security in the peaceful uses of the Atom in building public confidence in the use of nuclear technology and in ensuring the protection of communities.     

The International Conference on Nuclear Security (ICONS), which started in 2013, is the most important high-level international meeting on nuclear security.  It has been the place for ministers, policymakers, senior officials, and experts to gather to assess current priorities, prepare for new challenges, and engage in scenario-based policy discussions.