The head of the UN atomic watchdog warned here today that the world's growing appetite for nuclear energy could lead to dangers associated with unsafe technology and weapons proliferation.
International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei said many countries were considering going nuclear amid an energy crunch and global warming concerns.
"(But) in some countries we see a troubling combination of old reactors, operations that are poorly managed or underfunded and weak regulations," ElBaradei said in opening remarks to a nuclear power conference in Beijing.
"This needs to be addressed immediately," he added, calling for a greater international drive to ensure the safety of nuclear plants and security of fissile material.
He said there was also a risk that countries which acquire nuclear energy technology may seek to develop atomic weapons.
"These countries may have no intention of ever making nuclear weapons but that can change quickly if their perceptions of risk to national security change," he said.
"And security perceptions, as we know, can change very rapidly."
Such concerns have been highlighted in recent years by international efforts to stop North Korea and Iran from allegedly trying to turn nuclear energy systems into weapons programmes.