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IAEA and the National Nuclear Security Administration Mark a Milestone in Nuclear Security Training

25th ITC Group Photo

Participants at the 25th International Training Course on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities. 

Almost four decades ago, the IAEA and the United States began a joint effort to train global experts on protecting nuclear facilities from terrorists seeking materials for a nuclear weapon. Today, participants from around the world celebrated their completion of the 25th International Training Course (ITC) on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials and Nuclear Facilities since its start in 1978 at the Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

Over the last three weeks, 43 students from 36 countries took part in the flagship course, which has evolved over the years to reflect the nuclear industry's best practices as well as up-to-date technology for the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities. This course is co-sponsored every 18 months by the IAEA and the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) of the United States.

"Threats to nuclear materials and facilities often seem very abstract, but in this course we provide practical training that equips participants to implement the highest standards of nuclear security," said Anne Harrington, NNSA Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation. "It is our privilege to co-host one of the world's preeminent courses on physical protection, and to celebrate over 35 years of cooperation with the IAEA to advance our shared nuclear security objectives."

Focused training to enhance the security of nuclear materials

ITC participants use classroom training, hands-on experiments and exercises to learn about international legal instruments as well as the IAEA's guidance on the latest physical protection concepts and technology. Back home, they're able to launch and run effective security programs in line with the requirements of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment.

Nuclear security as an issue seized global attention in the wake of 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks in the United States, recalled Denis Flory, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security. "9/11 and the development of terrorism led to the realization that the threat was evolving, was getting more global, and that the dispersal of radioactive material or the sabotage of nuclear facilities were becoming serious threats," Flory said in a keynote address to participants.

Flory noted that he had been keen to attend this programme for over two decades, but was never able to. However, he did encourage and authorize many of his staff to take part. "I've waited for this moment for the last 21 years," he said.

Working with international partners

The ITC assists international partners in developing and implementing their own systems by using a performance-based approach for the design and evaluation of physical protection schemes. States also learn to self-evaluate and measure the effectiveness of their security systems for both nuclear material and facilities against their country-specific threats.

Over the past 37 years, some 800 experts from 70 countries have taken part in the ITC, producing a network of alumni that's contributed to the spread of a "common nuclear security culture" around the world, Flory said. "I'm glad to have had the opportunity to mark this anniversary." 

When all 164 Member States have finally trained their experts to the level offered by the ITC, the IAEA's task will be greatly "facilitated through the existence of a common basis for the further strengthening of nuclear security.
Denis Flory, Deputy Director General, Head of Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, IAEA
Last update: 26 Jul 2017

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