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Essay Contest Finalists Propose Ways to Strengthen Nuclear Security through Technology, Tools and Cooperation

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A panel of experts from the IAEA and the International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN) has selected three finalists in an essay contest on nuclear security for students and young professionals. The winning essays include ideas to strengthen nuclear security through blockchain technology, closer international cooperation and nuclear forensics tools.

“These essays demonstrate a good understanding of current challenges in nuclear security,” said Raja Adnan, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “They look to the future.”

The goal of nuclear security is to prevent threats of nuclear terrorism and to respond to such acts, should they occur.

In preparation for the IAEA’s International Conference on Nuclear Security in February 2020, the IAEA invited students and young professionals to submit original and innovative essays on challenges in nuclear security in May 2019. The contest attracted over 320 submissions from 70 countries.

Finalists Jasmine Auda from Jordan, Yevhen Kalinichenko from Ukraine and John Lubianetsky from the United States will present their papers at the February conference, and the IAEA will sponsor their attendance. They will also each receive a 2000 euro cash prize along with a certificate signed by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

Presenting the finalists

Jasmine Auda from the Middle East Scientific Institute for Security (MESIS) in Jordan was selected as a finalist for her essay “The Trust Machine: Blockchain Technology in Nuclear Security and Prospects for Application in the Middle East.” In her paper, she highlights the importance of technical innovations to secure the data of any central authority and suggests the implementation of a blockchain-based monitoring system to help secure nuclear material.

“The discourse on the impact of emerging technologies on arms control and nuclear security often points to the challenges associated with the dual-use nature of these technologies, and less so to their potential advantages for enhancing security,” Auda said. “Blockchain — while unequivocally still unchartered territory for this field — is one such technology warranting further exploration into its ability to strengthen nuclear security.”

Yevhen Kalinichenko from "ENERGOATOM" Zaporozhye Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP), Ukraine, was selected for his essay entitled “Emergence of Technological Threats and Opportunities for Nuclear Security in the Digital Age.” It focuses on threats for nuclear security like drones and cyberattacks and proposed new means of detecting and counteracting those dangers.

“Vulnerabilities in digital systems appear with alarming frequency, therefore strengthening the international community’s efforts is important to withstand emerging theats,” Kalinichenko said.

American student John Lubianetsky, from the Barstow School, authored a submission on nuclear forensics as an effective tool in determining the origin of detected nuclear and other radioactive materials. His essay is titled “The Application, Development, and Possiblities of Nuclear Forensics in International Cooperation on Nuclear Security.”

“Nuclear forensics tools can be applied to international nuclear security, but reforms and improvements should and must be made through the development of capacity building and multilateral and bilateral cooperation in nuclear forensics,” Lubianetsky said.

A winner from the three finalists will be selected at a special event held in the framework of the conference.

The essays are available here.

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