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Safeguards Computer System in Need of Urgent Upgrade

Information gathered by IAEA nuclear inspectors

Information gathered by IAEA nuclear inspectors is processed in a confidential IT system to monitor countries nuclear activities.

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The computer system that IAEA inspectors use to track, analyse and verify a country´s nuclear activities badly needs an overhaul. Built in the late 1970s, the aging system is hampering inspectors from efficiently doing their jobs.

Calling on its Member States for extra budgetary contributions to upgrade the system, the Agency said, "Failure to replace the hardware and software, and to integrate fully all the information system components will carry large risks".

The current database systems stores confidential and exceptionally detailed information about past inspections conducted in over 900 facilities around the world. This includes countries´ declarations of nuclear material, reports and analyses from inspections, and an expanse of other data. It is a powerful system that IAEA inspectors use to build a clearer picture of whether a country is using safeguarded nuclear material for military purposes.

But the outdated system is making work increasingly cumbersome for inspectors in the field and back at the Agency’s Vienna headquarters. A senior IAEA inspector described the current system as inflexible, with data spread across a "patchwork" of systems.

"Extracting information can take hours and days, making timely analysis of relevant safeguards data difficult and expensive," says the manager of the Project in the Safeguard´s Information Technology (IT) Division, Mr. Livio Costantini. "We need to prepare for new data to be included when drawing safeguards conclusions, such as open source, imagery and import and export information." Additionally, growing IT requirements and demands by the new strengthened safeguards systems is further stretching aging resources.

"A major overhaul of the system is needed to allow inspectors immediate, secure online access to safeguards information," Mr. Costantini said. To date the US and UK have contributed over $12 million, respectively, to finance the IT overhaul but a $10 million shortfall remains.

In a related development, the Czech Republic has expressed support for the project with a financial contribution of US $20,000 in 2005, and additional financial contributions in 2006 and 2007.

"Our work load is increasing faster than available resources," Mr. Costantini said. "We need to integrate our IT systems to enhance our analytic capabilities so we can better help our inspectors do their job," he said.