Equipment Used in Safeguards

Published Date: 21 November 2010

There are many tools available to the IAEA Safeguards inspector. Some of these tools are unique to the IAEA - made specially to ensure that inspectors receive accurate and timely information about states' nuclear activities. The tools also enable inspectors to determine whether the data collected has been falsified or tampered with. This collection of photos looks at some of those tools both in the field and at the IAEA's headquarters in Vienna, Austria. The IAEA has 1 250 surveillance cameras installed in 250 facilities in 33 countries. Approximately 420 of these cameras are connected remotely to IAEA headquarters. The Next Generation Surveillance System incorporates the latest, improved technology, and will, in about a year, replace the currently installed cameras. The new cameras have a number of advantages over the previous generation, not least of which is their ability to provide a 180 degree view of an area, despite remaining stationary, i.e. one camera potentially doing the job of four.  An inspector fixes a surveillance camera that has been mounted high in a nuclear reactor hall in order to record the activities taking place below. The cameras' cases/housing indicate when they have been tampered with and record details of the event. This ensures that the IAEA and Member States can trust the data that have been recorded. The laser scanner takes three-dimensional (3D) images of rooms in nuclear facilities and compares them with previous images to see if any changes have been made. The 3D laser is used to ensure that the layout of a nuclear facility conforms to the building plans that were submitted to the IAEA. Some of the tools used in safeguards inspections are installed at nuclear facilities, some are stored in the countries where they will be used, and others, which are handheld, flexible, and adaptable to a variety of uses, are packed in kits and lugged from one destination to the next. Different kits are provided depending on the type of facility, and the type of information the inspectors are required to collect. Even the more mundane things are important: like a digital camera, voice recorder, a distance metre, and batteries to power it all. The HM-5 Hematology Analyzer is a handheld radiation detection, measurement, and analysis tool. It can be used to search for nuclear materials, identify the isotopes present, and in the case of uranium, determine the level of uranium enrichment. The HM-5 is one of the pieces of equipment most frequently used by the IAEA's inspectors. Here, un-irradiated fuel assemblies are scanned and measured using the HM-5 to detect the presence of enriched uranium. The gamma ray measurement system includes a germanium detector (InSpector 2000 MultiChannel Analyzer), associated electronics, and a laptop computer. The  laptop records readings from the germanium detector. A handheld gamma ray detector system is used to measure the enrichment of uranium in a metal cylinder. Most nuclear materials of concern to the IAEA, like enriched uranium in un-irradiated reactor fuel and plutonium in irradiated reactor fuel, emit gamma rays and neutrons. Here, an inspector uses a handheld gamma ray measurement system which includes a detector, electronics, and palmtop computer to detect the uranium present in un-irradiated reactor fuel. This handheld gamma ray measurement system detects what the naked eye can't - the gamma rays given off by the uranium present in the un-irradiated reactor fuel. At the Safeguards Clean Laboratory, environmental sampling kits are prepared. This kit contains swipes, gloves, and other materials, which will be used to obtain environmental swipe samples at nuclear facilities.  These samples are then distributed to the IAEA's network of analytical laboratories to obtain multiple, independent analysis of the samples collected in the field. When assembled, each environmental sampling kit is given a unique identification number for quality control purposes. And a particle counter is used to ensure the cleanliness of the sampling kits.  The samples' origin is not communicated to the laboratories which analyze them to ensure an objective evaluation. Metallic seals are used to prevent unauthorised access to safeguarded materials. The inside of each seal has its own unique markings (like a fingerprint). Before a seal is used in the field, these markings are recorded. If the seal is tampered with, these markings will change. When returned to the IAEA, the seal is carefully analysed to ensure that it is the tamper-free original. An IAEA metallic seal, such as the one on this bolt, allows inspectors to be certain that whatever this bolt is holding in place, perhaps equipment, a door, a crane, etc. has not been moved during their absence. The IAEA uses about 20 000 of these seals every year. Each seal is only used once. Inspectors also use fibre optic seals called COBRA seals. These seals can be verified in the field and do not have to be returned to IAEA to be analyzed. There are approximately 1 000 COBRA seals deployed in the field. Cameras are used to record the unique signature of each COBRA seal after it is installed. On each successive visit, inspectors compare the new image with the one that was taken during a prior inspection to ensure the seal's continued integrity. This portable camera is used for short-term temporary surveillance. It can run for months without needing new batteries. With lenses on both ends, this camera can be used underwater, such as in the spent fuel storage pond at a nuclear reactor or other hard-to-reach places. An inspector uses a Cerenkov Viewing Device to detect the Cerenkov radiation emanating from irradiated fuel assemblies (shown in insert on the right). Inspectors work to verify that safeguarded nuclear material and activities are not used for non-peaceful purposes. The Agency has about 245 inspectors who go on approximately 2 000 missions each year to inspect nuclear power plants, research reactors, conversion, fuel fabrication, reprocessing, enrichment and storage facilities.