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25 Years of Strengthening Nuclear Security with Physical Protection Peer Advice

Nuclear medicine facility, cuba, experts

IAEA experts regularly visit nuclear medicine facilities around the world and provide advice on the security of radioactive sources. Here in Cuba, an expert reviews physical protection system in place for the security of radioactive sources. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

Radioactive sources and nuclear material need to be protected against malicious acts, and for 25 years, the IAEA has been providing peer advice to countries, upon request, around the world on how to build, upgrade and maintain physical protection of facilities.

This year, the IAEA’s International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) marks 96 reviews, including 22 follow-up reviews, in 57 countries. IPPAS, is a peer review service, in which international experts and IAEA specialists review nuclear security in a country or at a facility. Over the last 25, years more than 240 experts from 40 countries have contributed to IPPAS missions.

Under IPPAS missions, an international team of experts reviews a country’s nuclear security regime and compares it with international guidelines and best practices, in particular the 2005 Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (A/CPPNM) and the IAEA Nuclear Security Series (NSS). IPPAS expert teams review the whole spectrum of security systems and measures a country has in place, from the regulatory framework to transport and information and computer security arrangements.

Based on its review, an IPPAS team identifies good practices and provides recommendations for improvement. Another essential feature of IPPAS is the follow-up assistance, such as training, technical support and more targeted assessments of various elements of a country’s national nuclear security regime.

“For a quarter of a century now, these advisory missions have brought tangible results to strengthen nuclear security, by offering advice on implementing international instruments and guidance for the physical protection of nuclear and radioactive material and facilities,” said Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department for Nuclear Safety and Security. “This assistance has helped many countries to enhance and maintain physical protection in all types of facilities and uses of nuclear material, keeping them secure – as well as safe.”

Improving nuclear security throughout the years

In 2021 alone, the IAEA conducted six IPPAS review missions in Belarus, Burkina Faso, the Czech Republic, Niger, Senegal and Turkey.

This month the IAEA held the 3rd International Seminar to Share Experiences and Best Practices from Conducting IPPAS Missions, in which experts from all over the world discussed the benefits of the service and gained feedback from countries who have requested this advisory service.

“In Hungary, the three IPPAS missions we’ve conducted have helped build confidence between the international community and our institutions. They’ve also increased the recognition of and respect for security within our organisation,” said Zsofia Galyas-Szepes, Section Head of Nuclear Security at the Hungarian Atomic Energy Agency.

IPPAS reviews involve both countries with and without nuclear power programmes. For instance, Burkina Faso has strengthened the protection of its radioactive sources and associated facilities as a result of a recent IPPAS review.

“We need to make stakeholders and policy makers aware of the national security measures needed to keep radioactive material safe and secure. The IPPAS mission has been a good platform and opportunity for us to gain peer reviews and input so we can upgrade our security measures,” said Delwende Nabayaogo, Nuclear Security Officer at the National Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority in Burkina Faso.

Reflecting on how the IPPAS review missions can be further promoted and improved, the experts discussed how a better geographical distribution of these missions could be achieved, given that they are conducted upon a country’s request.

The database on IPPAS good practices was updated in 2021. New tools and features developed by the IAEA, such as a self-assessment methodology to help national experts assess their capabilities, as well as the nuclear material accounting and control measures module, have been introduced on a pilot basis, and are now being operationally tested in missions before becoming part of the IPPAS tools and scope.

“This year’s 25th anniversary of the first IPPAS mission reminds us that this advisory service mission is still young, evolves and grows,” said Arvydas Stadalnikas, Head of the Nuclear Security Approaches Unit at the IAEA. And the future ahead seems promising. “As a large amount of nuclear and other radioactive material is used globally for peaceful purposes, the need for physical protection and IPPAS continues to remain important.”

Last update: 23 Dec 2021

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