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Enhancing Effective Nuclear Verification: Upgrading IAEA Safeguards Capabilities

Inspectors conduct verification activities on the fresh nuclear fuel. Dukovany Nuclear Power Plant, 6 November 2012. (Photo credit: P. Pavlicek/IAEA)

The number of nuclear facilities and materials subject to verification under IAEA safeguards continues to increase and, with a static budget, improvements in productivity and efficiency are key to maintaining the quality and credibility of verification efforts. Making better use of modern technology is one of the important ways to achieve this goal.

Significant progress has been made in modernizing the IAEA’s safeguards technical capabilities, said IAEA experts today at an event held on the margins of the Agency’s 59th General Conference. Along with presenting current progress on the modernization undertaken, experts highlighted how the three-part effort involving analytical services, information technology and surveillance systems will help the IAEA to continue to ensure efficient and effective nuclear verification.

Upgrading the IT system

Information technology (IT) is central to the data and information processing necessary for implementing IAEA safeguards. Through the Modernization of the Safeguards Information Technology (MOSAIC) project, the current safeguards IT system will be replaced with a modern and more secure environment. Florin Abazi, Programme Coordinator of the MOSAIC Project explained how the project enhances existing, and helps to develop new, safeguards capabilities, while strengthening the protection of safeguards information.

“MOSAIC will bring long-ranging and tangible benefits throughout the IAEA Department of Safeguards, and will help to process data and manage information in ways that are not possible on the old system,” Abazi said. With a modern and secure IT platform, this will, among other things, lead to improved efficiency and effectiveness of safeguards implementation, better communication methods, as well as a reduced vulnerability to cyberattacks, he explained. 

“On 15 May 2015, the first phase of the project was completed on time and within budget, without disrupting safeguards ongoing internal processes,” said Abazi. During this process, over 60 million records were migrated from the old system to the new, much more physically compact, Integrated Safeguards Environment. The second and final phase of the MOSAIC project, the IT modernization phase, is expected to be completed by mid-2018.

Enhancing laboratories, enhancing analytics

The analysis of nuclear material samples and environmental swipe samples taken by IAEA inspectors is an essential component of IAEA safeguards. Through the Enhancing Capabilities of the Safeguards Analytical Services (ECAS) project, the IAEA’s Safeguards Analytical Laboratories will also be modernized.

“These laboratories provide reliable and timely analytical services with quality-controlled and independent results,” said Paul Martin, Head of Coordination and Support in the Division of Safeguards Analytical Services. “This modernization will enhance the IAEA’s independent verification capabilities. It will provide the IAEA with increased sample capacity for nuclear material and environmental analyses, an improved sensitivity in analytical methods for environmental analysis and a wider variety of analytical services overall.”

In addition to modernizing the laboratory environments, the project will also provide infrastructure for training of safeguards inspectors and Member State laboratory staff. In 2011, a Clean Laboratory Extension for the Environmental Sample Laboratory was completed, and in 2013, the new Nuclear Materials Laboratory was completed and will be fully operational before the end of 2015.

Advancing surveillance

Video surveillance systems are core technical components for the implementation of IAEA safeguards. They are used to maintain continuity of knowledge over inventories of nuclear material and to support verification activities. The Next Generation Surveillance System (NGSS) project will substantially increase the IAEA’s safeguards surveillance capability and effectiveness, said Martin Moeslinger, Head of the Unattended Systems Section at the Division of Technical and Scientific Services, overseeing the project.

“NGSS is ready for the security challenges of the next decade. It is based on a fully modular and scalable concept using modern high resolution technology to reduce the total cost of ownership and to increase surveillance effectiveness,” Moeslinger said. “With an optical surveillance system, NGSS will have advanced data authentication and encryption, coupled with electronically sealed optical sensors.”

NGSS is expected to fully replace all old surveillance systems and the large number of currently installed digital surveillance cameras by 2019.

This modernization will enhance the IAEA’s independent verification capabilities.
Paul Martin, Head, Coordination and Support, Division of Safeguards Analytical Services, IAEA