The new accord, called the Convention on the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism, obliges governments to punish or extradite any person who illegally possesses radioactive materials or nuclear devices with the intent to cause death or injury or damage the environment, according to the Associated Press.
The assembly passed the accord by consensus, bypassing a vote.
“By its action today, the General Assembly has shown that it can, when it has the political will, play an important role in the global fight against terrorism,” U.S. deputy ambassador Stuart Holliday said Wednesday.
“The nuclear terrorism convention, when it enters into force, will strengthen the international framework to combat terrorism.”
Russia first introduced the new treaty seven years ago in response to fears that “loose nukes,” unaccounted for nuclear materials, could fall into the wrong hands. At the time, Russia had been unable to account for 100 suitcase-sized nuclear weapons, Reuters reported.
In recent years, the United Nations’ International Atomic Energy Agency has cited an increase in the illicit trafficking of nuclear material. The agency reported 650 confirmed cases since 1993; 100 instances occurring in 2004 alone.
The new treaty must be ratified by 22 countries in order to become international law. The United Nations will open it for signatures Sept. 14 in New York during a high-level summit meeting, according to Reuters.
“We urge member states to sign the convention when it is open for signature in September and to ratify it as soon as possible,” Stuart told the assembly.