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IAEA and Regulators from Sahel Region Cooperate to Strengthen Nuclear Security


Juan Carlos Lentijo, Deputy Director General of the IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, signs Practical Arrangement with G5 and Senegal on behalf of the IAEA during a virtual ceremony. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

IAEA and the Forum of Nuclear Safety and Security Authorities in G5 Sahel and Senegal (FASSN) signed a cooperation agreement to address transboundary threats and strengthen nuclear security in the Sahel region, during a virtual ceremony held on 18 February 2021.

The Practical Arrangement established a framework for a regional approach to strengthening nuclear security that will be tailored to common nuclear security priorities and facilitate cooperation between the countries’ national competent authorities. Under the agreement, the IAEA and the nuclear regulatory bodies of Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, and Senegal will place a high priority on counterterrorism and addressing the security of nuclear and other radioactive materials out of regulatory control.

“Although nuclear security is a State’s sovereign responsibility, robust cooperation is of utmost importance,” said Deputy Director General Juan Carlos Lentijo, IAEA Department of Nuclear Safety and Security, as he signed the agreement on behalf of the IAEA.  “This arrangement touches upon multiple technical areas of nuclear security, supports capacity building, and fosters stronger regional cooperation.”

The country-specific Integrated Nuclear Security Support Plans (INSSPs), established with each country separately, highlight that the six countries have many nuclear security priorities in common. One of these priorities in particular addresses the common threat of transboundary movement of radioactive material and sources.

“Considering the worrying security situation in the Sahel region and the upsurge in terrorist attacks, particularly against populations, the FASSN members [are prioritizing] nuclear threat, which could become a reality, if the necessary prevention, detection and response mechanisms and tools are not put in place to avoid criminal or terrorist acts involving nuclear or other radioactive material,” said Ndèye Arame Boye Faye, Director General of the Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Authority in Senegal.

Under the terms of the agreement, the IAEA and the FASSN will carry out joint capacity building activities, including train-the-trainer activities, and facilitate information exchange and cooperation. The aim of the arrangement is to strengthen nuclear security training capacity and increase sustainability of nuclear security within the countries of the region.

The particular methods and tools identified by this group to address regional threats range from enhanced detection capabilities and improved transport security regimes, to the implementation of the Convention of the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its 2005 Amendment.

“[This] solid framework to further conduct targeted nuclear security activities, responding to the identified common needs, will strengthen national nuclear security regimes of your countries and the sustainability of nuclear security in the region,” said Elena Buglova, Director of IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security. “The transboundary movement of nuclear and other radioactive material is certainly best addressed through a regional approach.”

Strengthening the nuclear security regime in one country, helps other countries, in the region and around the globe. For instance, effective nuclear security detection capabilities at border crossings — technical and administrative — help law enforcement and front-line officers prevent illicit trafficking of radioactive material from one State to another. Similarly, a common approach to the criminalization of offenses related to theft, illegal possession or other activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material, denies malicious actors a safe haven.

Ishagh Mohamed Moussa, FASSN’s President and head of Mauritania’s National Authority of Radiation Protection, Safety and Nuclear Security (ARSN), signed the agreement on behalf of the FASSN. He welcomed the arrangement as the key to achieving FASSN’s “objective of establishing a regional coordination and monitoring mechanism that will make it possible to take effective collective measures to prevent and avert threats to peace.”

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