Activities under the IAEA's antiterrorism plan are to be integrated into agency programs and implemented when funding is available.
American Nuclear Society/ Nuclear News May 2002 Editionwww.ans.org
THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun implementing its action plan against nuclear terrorism, following the plan's endorsement by the IAEA's board of governors, which met March 18 -- 22. "We started the implementation phase the moment it was approved," a senior agency official told Nuclear News. "A program coordinator was appointed, along with an in-house team," he added, "and the proposed activities are being prioritized in terms of already available funding and views expressed by agency member states."
When introducing the proposed plan to the governors, IAEA Director General Mohamed ElBaradei stressed that it was a program that was neither a substitute for national measures nor that could diminish the primary responsibility of the state. He said the activities "are designed to supplement and reinforce national efforts in areas where international cooperation is indispensable to strengthening nuclear security."
The program focuses on eight areas that need to be fortified and geared up to combat terrorism: physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities; detection of malicious activities; state systems for nuclear material accountancy and control; security of radioactive materials; assessment of vulnerability of nuclear facilities; response to malicious acts; implementing international instruments; and overall security coordination and information management.
ElBaradei assured the governors that the activities would be integrated into relevant agency programs and implemented as soon as financial resources are available. The agency had developed confidentiality measures for information security, he added, "which will enable member countries to participate in the program with confidence. Financing the plan would benefit "all countries regardless of the existence or size" of their nuclear programs, he said.
The governors regarded the proposed plan "as a clear and realistic response," and also called on member states to contribute funding as a matter of urgency, board chairman Max Hughes (the Australian Ambassador) said in his summing up at the end of a lengthy discussion. The plan called for $ 11.5 million a year to strengthen and extend existing agency activities, plus $ 20 million a year for urgent provision of upgrading security of nuclear materials and installations. Emergency security needs would range from provision of fences and construction of buildings to alarm and surveillance systems, identified by the agency as urgent.
A number of countries responded with cash pledges: the United States, $ 1 million earmarked for physical protection of nuclear material and especially for agency-led international physical protection advisory service (IPPAS) missions; Japan, $ 500 000; the Netherlands, $ 305 000 (the largest contributor per capita); the United Kingdom, $ 250 000; Australia, $ 100 000; and Slovenia, $ 12 200. In addition, Finland, France, Germany, Romania, and Turkey had pledged support in kind, while "others expressed the hope to be able to provide financial and/or other support in the near future," Hughes announced.
He said there was "general support" for the secretariat proposal to initially set up an extra-budgetary fund to be financed through voluntary contributions, but added that "some member states would have preferred the introduction of assessed contributions at this stage."
Referring to priority activities within the areas, Hughes said that increasing the number and scope of IPPAS and other advisory missions had been particularly stressed by many governors. "Others stressed the importance of training activities, [countering] illicit trafficking, transfer of knowledge and technology, enhancing emergency preparedness capabilities of member states, and the issue of the transport of nuclear and other radioactive materials," he added.
"Some members expressed support for the proposals regarding the provision of equipment for physical protection upgrades and for detection equipment," Hughes said, although others had viewed such support as "best provided bilaterally from one country to another," with the agency ensuring effective coordination of such assistance. Agency sources told Nuclear News later that no funds would be allocated for this purpose, adding that "it was always envisaged that the $ 20 million a year requested would be to provide urgent needs identified in the course of implementing the action plan."
The IAEA's action plan
The Director General's special adviser for scientific and technical affairs, Graham Andrew, outlined for Nuclear News the eight areas of the IAEA's action plan.
Protecting materials and facilities
"Physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities is the first line of defense against terrorist acts, an essential element that must be adequate," said Andrew. Agency experience was that protection levels varied among member states in both substance and application. "Sometimes having different approaches can be positive," Andrew commented, "but the standards and the ways they are applied can be very different, and that's a worry."
"So the basic objectives here," Andrew added, "are to provide assessment services and advice and to develop guidelines, recommendations, standards, etc., to enhance states' capacity to protect their nuclear facilities and nuclear materials in use, storage and transport. We must then assist in follow-up action."
Andrew said that loose nuclear material in any country was a threat to all countries. Responsibility for protection must remain with each state, but there is room and need for international effort. The agency has the capability to play the coordination role in getting good housekeeping in place in all countries. It could, through its international physical protection advisory service (IPPAS) and other assessment missions, bring in expertise from all over the world to help countries themselves identify their weakness, and then help them implement the recommended improvements.
Detecting illicit activities
Detection of malicious activities involving nuclear and radioactive material focuses on early reaction to theft, illicit possession of, and trafficking in such materials for gain, which could be to meet terrorist needs. The agency would develop specific guidelines to help states improve their detection capabilities. They would, for example, define what is being aimed for at borders and what technologies to use, and keep track of information relating to trafficking, Andrew said.
Enhancement would include defining technically what the state is trying to achieve, ensuring that the instrumentation used is appropriate, and that the proper areas are concentrated on, he said. As in other areas, where a state lacks the wherewithal to implement the measures identified, the agency could facilitate bilateral assistance or help directly in cases of urgency.
Accountancy and control
The plan aims to have countries improve state systems for accountancy and control for nuclear material, as required by the IAEA safeguards system, to ensure that nuclear material declared by a state remains accounted for. "There is another dimension to that, which is to do with good housekeeping of nuclear materials against terrorism," Andrew said.
"States must have a good handle on their whole inventory," he continued. "This is partly as a burglar alarm, so any theft or losses will be known sooner and there is an audit trail back to precisely where the material came from and who had access to it. There is really room for improvements in standards in some states, and part of our work is to develop clearer and more accurate guidelines on what constitutes good housekeeping and good standards, and then to help states themselves improve."
Security of radioactive material
The action plan describes security of radioactive (as distinct from nuclear) materials as an area very much in need of strengthening. "It really does need to be improved in many states. In some states it is nonexistent," Andrew said. "Even in some developed countries security of radioactive sources could be much improved," Andrew said. Worldwide, controls over radioactive sources were more from the viewpoint of safety, not from the perspective of their being misappropriated with the intention of dispersing the material in a malicious way.
"This gives a new dimension to it," said Andrew, "and brings us to a whole range of issues -- the need to maintain good regulatory control, having systems in place to know where these sources are, keep them secure, including when they are at the end of their useful life when they would still be highly radioactive."
A specific focus of the plan was on the very large sources used for military and/or civilian purposes such as powering communications systems or lighthouses in remote areas, that have fallen out of regulatory control, Andrew said. He cited as an example the two 40 000-curie strontium sources recently discovered by chance in a Georgian forest. They had been made safe and secure with the help of the agency, but the three woodcutters who found them were seriously irradiated.
"We understand there are quite a few such sources out there and we need to get information about them and then try to locate and make them secure," Andrew observed. "To underpin all that we will need to develop standards and recommendations. We need to have a well-developed yardstick to guide international teams and also for states to set up security systems."
Assessment of vulnerability
In the area of security and vulnerability of nuclear facilities against terrorism, the plan focuses on external threats. Andrew said the crashing of a jumbo jet onto a facility containing nuclear material was an example. The objective of the plan is to enable states themselves to assess the vulnerability of their systems and installations, and then to decide how to respond - for example, whether to strengthen the structure or defend it militarily, or both.
Countries have different sensitivities, knowledge bases, perceptions, and financial resources, and no two facilities are the same, so the agency would eschew a one-size-fits-all solution. But it would need to be given details about national infrastructures and sometimes even individual facilities if it is to be able to provide tailored assessments and advice. At the same time, the secretariat recognized that countries were cautious about what they tell others of such matters.
"So an important part of our program is to give states the confidence that we can handle the data they wish to keep secure in a confidential way, as we do in safeguards," Andrew said. "Then the question is what we can do [for states]. We can help them make objective and well-considered judgments. Should they then decide they need support in implementation, we should be able to facilitate that," he continued. "One thing we want to do is work out an internationally acceptable methodology, a check list for states and ourselves to evaluate the risk -- which covers power plants, fuel cycle facilities, research reactors, that is, across the board anything where there is a potential risk."
The sixth plan area covers agency capability to foster national preparedness to effectively respond to malicious events, including radiological emergencies, Andrew said. "History has shown that not all states have an equal preparedness, say if there was a dirty bomb exploded in a particular country. So an element of our work looks at getting states to reevaluate and add on this dimension."
Noting that the agency already has had an important role in emergency response and an in-house emergency response center (ERC), Andrew added that the center itself needed to be strengthened. "So another part of our proposal is to improve our own capabilities, looking again at the specific issues which a terrorist attack might bring. These might be different from what we initially had in mind, which was more driven by the nuclear safety consideration."
"The seventh area dealt with adherence to and international agreements, guidelines and recommendations," Andrew said. "Although we are going to generate some updated guidelines, many international legal instruments already exist but many member states tend not to adhere to them for whatever reason." He noted, for example, that only 61 have so far signed and only 24 have ratified the additional protocol to safeguards agreements, which was adopted in 1997.
"We already have an active program, for example, of regional seminars where agency people speak to the merits of instruments, clarifying what their implementation involves. Our perception is that we need to also discuss and consult with government officials. So under the plan, we want to send out well-balanced teams of technical, legal, and international relations experts to promote wider adherence to these instruments, because this is a way to bind us all together and to raise standards all round."
The final area focuses on nuclear security coordination and information management. "To help states effectively," Andrew explained, "we need to have a better understanding of the threat environment in each state, because what suits one may not suit another. We also have to interact with other international organizations, in the context of terrorism, and develop synergies with them. And we've got to make the most of limited money. So we must have good oversight to ensure proper coordination and information management. We already have information review systems for safeguards, but this proposal specifically relates to protection against terrorism."
Asked what areas mattered most to the agency, Andrew said the secretariat had five priorities. He listed them, "in no particular order," as: increasing the number and scope of IPPAS missions and other assessment services; locating and securing highly radioactive orphan sources; helping states implement recommended improvements to regulatory systems and security of nuclear materials and installations; promoting adherence to international legal instruments; and increasing training in security of nuclear and radioactive materials. "Training is a major role we have, to help to help states help themselves."
-- Gamini Seneviratne