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Canada revamps nuclear safety protocol

world Updated: Jan 07, 2008 14:38 IST
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Canada's nuclear regulator is changing the way it tracks lost, stolen and missing nuclear devices that may be used in making crude dirty bombs following a pointed warning by the UN atomic watchdog.

Newly disclosed internal e-mails show that the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy Agency contacted officials in Ottawa after a Canadian Press investigation raised serious questions in July about how closely the Canadian Nuclear Safety Commission monitors devices.

Commission spokesman Aurele Gervais said it "undertook discussions with IAEA officials to review the process of reporting stolen items," Canadian Press reported on Monday. The talks are "ongoing and changes to the reporting process are expected shortly," Gervais said in a written response.

"A review of the IAEA's requiremenst and the interpretation on illicit trafficking of radioactive sources, as well as need to communicate clearly to the Canadian public, led to the changes," the spokesman said.

Commission records revealed that dozens of radioactive tools -- from an industrial gauge in Red Deer, Alta., to a device used for molecular separation in Montreal -- had gone missing in the last five years.

Reports of losses or thefts of radioactive tools are supposed to be reported to the commission's nuclear security division, which, in turn, sends case information to the international agency's Illicit Trafficking Database, an inventory compiled with input from dozens of participating countries.