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Coordination and Resources are Key to Nuclear Security at Major Public Events, IAEA Seminar Concludes

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Participants in a seminar on IAEA support to nuclear security at major public events held in October 2019 in Chengdu, China. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

Sufficient human and technical resources and greater cooperation between technical specialists and law enforcement officers are key to nuclear security at major public events, representatives of 33 countries concluded at a recent IAEA seminar.

Participants at the International Seminar on Nuclear Security Systems and Measures for Major Public Events, held October 28-31 2019 in Chengdu, China, analyzed lessons from 15 years of IAEA support to countries as they incorporate nuclear security into security arrangements for major public events.

The IAEA has supported Member States in securing more than 50 events, including the Olympic Games in Greece (2004), China (2008), Brazil (2016) and  Japan (2020), a G20 meeting in Argentina (2018), APEC summits in the Philippines (2015) and Chile (2019),World Youth Days in Poland (2016) and in Panama (2019), African Cups of Nations in Gabon (2012 and 2017) and in Egypt 2019 and the EXPO in  Kazakhstan (2017).

“The threat to States from nuclear or other radioactive material that is lost or stolen remains real, especially where States are hosting a high-profile event,” said Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Director of the IAEA’s Nuclear Security Division. “We must remain vigilant to ensure that the public enjoy such events safely and securely.”

Seminar participants shared their experiences of securing events with the support of the IAEA and guided by the Nuclear Security Series publication, Nuclear Security Systems and Measures for Major Public Events (IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 18).

Through country presentations, panel discussions and interactive group exercises, they identified insufficient awareness among national stakeholders of nuclear security concerns as a key challenge. This, they argued, leads to difficulties in securing adequate budgetary and human resources as well as the political clout needed to ensure effective coordination among the many actors involved.

“Ensuring that a venue that has just been swept for radioactive material remains secure requires close cooperation with law enforcement officers that control access to the venues,” said Elder Magalhaes De Souza, Senior Technologist at the Brazilian Nuclear Energy Commission. “Making sure that we have sufficient resources, including radiation detection equipment and assistance of our international partners, require prioritization of nuclear security concerns at the highest levels of the political structures.”

Participants recommended that permanent inter-departmental structures and regular communication channels be established to improve awareness and coordination. They also highlighted tabletop exercises, field exercises at event venues and other strategic locations, and expert missions as good tools to build relationships among all stakeholders. In addition, they noted that short term training in advance of a major public event should be a part of a national human resource development programme and a larger effort to sustain their national nuclear security regime.

China, which received IAEA nuclear security assistance in relation to the Olympic Games in Beijing in 2008, has since secured 20 major public events of varying profiles and complexity, said Yongde Liu, Director General of the China’s State Nuclear Security Support Center.

“Now, as a part of our collaboration with IAEA, we have donated radiation detection equipment and are looking forward to assist the IAEA in its efforts to build human resource capacity for implementing nuclear security systems and measures during major public events,” he said.

The seminar was co-hosted by the China Atomic Energy Authority and the IAEA as part of work under a recent partnership agreement. Its conclusions will contribute to an update of the Nuclear Security Systems and Measures for Major Public Events (IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 18).

Nuclear Security Series No. 18 publication.

IAEA nuclear security major public event assistance to Member States is delivered on official request and can include components such as coordination meetings, expert missions, equipment loans, training, tabletop and field exercises as well as technical visits.

Participants in a seminar on IAEA support to nuclear security at major public events observe a demonstration of radiation detection devices. October 2019, Chengdu, China. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

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