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IAEA Helps Countries to Prevent, Detect and Respond to Acts Involving Nuclear or Other Radioactive Material Out of Regulatory Control


The teams of international experts supporting INSServ missions assess a country’s nuclear security regime with regard to materials out of regulatory control. (Photo: IAEA)

Last month 70 delegates from more than 40 countries gathered at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna to share their experiences and further explore the benefits of the International Nuclear Security Advisory Service (INSServ). INSServ is one of the main services that the IAEA has been offering countries with the aim of helping them prevent and better detect and respond to criminal and intentional unauthorized acts involving nuclear or other radioactive material that is lost, missing, stolen, improperly disposed of, or not adequately stored or handled.

Material out of regulatory control or MORC, as it is widely known among nuclear security experts, poses a serious threat to national and international security because of its potential use in criminal and intentional unauthorized acts.

"INSServ is an effective and well-established component of the IAEA's nuclear security programme designed to assist countries, upon their request, to establish, maintain and further enhance their national nuclear security infrastructure related to MORC," said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security, in her opening remarks. “Building on two decades of experience in conducting over 80 INSServ missions worldwide, we continue to contribute to the sustainability of nuclear security systems and measures.”

Established in 2006, INSServ provides peer review recommendations, suggestions, and good practices for improving a country’s nuclear security regime in relation to MORC. Utilizing a modular approach, INSServ covers a range of topics from nuclear security legislation and regulations to detection and response capabilities. INSServ missions are based on relevant international legal instruments as well as on IAEA guidance documents, published under the Nuclear Security Series.

The recent meeting discussions centered around lessons learned through past INSServ advisory missions. Representatives from Georgia, Jordan, Malaysia, Sudan and Viet Nam – all countries that hosted INSServ missions in 2022 and 2023 – shared their experiences with the meeting participants. The discussions allowed the IAEA to identify a number of lessons learned and potential areas of improvement in the INSServ process. 

For countries like Viet Nam with numerous international land and sea borders, detecting nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control is crucial for nuclear security. "The INSServ mission provided us an opportunity to exchange experience with international experts and learn about best practices for nuclear security,” said Nguyen Tuan Khai, Director General of the Viet Nam Agency for Radiation and Nuclear Safety. "It also helped us improve coordination among competent authorities and raise public awareness about nuclear security."

Based on the INSServ mission findings, Viet Nam is now developing a plan to address identified gaps in their existing nuclear security regime. "Viet Nam will consider developing a national response framework, seeking additional support from the IAEA and international partners to implement nuclear security activities," added Director General Nguyen Tuan Khai.

Facundo Ciampagna Molina, Senior Nuclear Expert in Argentina’s National Ministry of Security, has been invited to support past INSServ missions as one of the international experts. "By conducting interviews with country representatives and site visits in national facilities, the team of experts can help the host countries to identify gaps and needs in the technical areas covered by the INSServ mission," he said.

Following the publication of the INSServ guidelines in 2019, the IAEA records an increased interest from countries in hosting INSServ missions. Countries interested in inviting an INSServ mission are encouraged to opt for a full scope mission, currently including three modules: the basis for nuclear security systems and measures for nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control; detection systems and measures; and response systems and measures.

Cambodia, Costa Rica and Thailand are currently working closely with the IAEA for future INSServ missions.

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