IAEA Hosts First Ever ‘Safeguards Implementation Practices Workshop’ for Practitioners

Participants at the Safeguards Implementation Practices Workshop at IAEA headquarters from 16 to 18 February 2016. (Photo: A. Green/IAEA)

No country has to go through the challenge of implementing its safeguards obligations alone. Learning good practices and hearing advice from more experienced peers can be helpful, especially for those just starting out – according to participants at a Safeguards Implementation Practices Workshop, held at IAEA headquarters last month. The 26 participants were safeguards practitioners from countries where IAEA verification is expected to pick up in the near future, as more nuclear facilities and material come under IAEA safeguards.

“Nuclear is an up and coming area in my country, and we have a lot to do in terms of safeguards,” said Chariette Nandi-Esom, a workshop participant from Nigeria’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority. Nigeria is embarking on a nuclear power programme, with plans to introduce nuclear power into its energy mix by 2025. “This workshop has been an eye opening experience. I know we have to learn how to improve our additional protocol declarations and introduce quality control reviews.”

The implementation of IAEA safeguards is an important confidence building measure through which States can demonstrate — and other States can be assured — that nuclear facilities and nuclear material are used only for peaceful purposes. For some States, like Nigeria, which are planning to introduce a nuclear power programme, safeguards work will increase as more facilities and materials come under safeguards. For others, safeguards work will increase because the State has signed a new legal agreement, such as an additional protocol with the IAEA, increasing transparency on its nuclear activities and widening the IAEA’s access to information and locations.

The workshop, based on the IAEA’s Safeguards Implementation Practices Guide on Establishing and Maintaining State Safeguards Infrastructure, focused on the activities undertaken by States to establish and maintain the infrastructure needed to implement IAEA safeguards effectively, including a sound legal and regulatory framework and an independent and sufficiently resourced State safeguards authority.

“This infrastructure is crucial: it is how Member States deliver their commitments and obligations to effectively control nuclear material and related activities,” said Gary Dyck, a Director in the IAEA Department of Safeguards.

Safeguards practitioners in respective States play a key role in this infrastructure, Dyck explained. They work internally to ensure their State maintains effective regulatory control of nuclear material and activities, and cooperate externally with the IAEA to facilitate safeguards implementation. “It is through the work of safeguards practitioners that safeguards become universal, making the world a safer place,” he said.

Bringing home what they learned

The three-day workshop of lectures and exercises was designed to help practitioners exchange information and strengthen their knowledge of safeguards implementation.

“The comprehensive workshop has been a useful reminder and refresher, and it also introduced us to a new application for additional protocol reporting to the IAEA. I need to go back and teach my people and make sure that it is implemented,” said Halimah Al Mansoori of the Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation in the United Arab Emirates where the first nuclear power reactor is expected to start commercial operations next year.

The workshop prompted some participants to reconsider how they approach key aspects of safeguards implementation. “The nuclear fuel import/export licensing responsibilities were recently transferred from our Ministry of Energy to our nuclear regulatory authority, so this workshop will help us as we revise the license conditions, which we are doing just now,” said Ruben Aydinyan of Armenia’s Nuclear Regulatory Authority. “I am going to use this information immediately when I return home.”

Participants act out a complementary access scenario at the Safeguards Implementation Practices Workshop at the IAEA from 16 to 18 February 2016. (Photo: A. Green/IAEA)

Expertise put to use

Experienced safeguards practitioners from Australia, the Czech Republic, Finland, Sweden and the United States were invited to facilitate the sessions, delivering lectures and conducting practical exercises together with IAEA staff, including safeguards inspectors and legal experts.

“We have experience that we can share, but the participants also have experience that they can share between each other,” said Goran Dahlin, a retired nuclear regulator from Sweden and a facilitator, who also worked on the development of the guidance document that served as the framework for the workshop. “This workshop is a really good source of information and collaboration that participants and facilitators can use throughout their careers.”

The workshop is just one of the many activities planned by the IAEA to strengthen cooperation with States, at a time of increasing safeguards workload. The IAEA will host a second safeguards implementation practices workshop in April focused on the ways in which States facilitate IAEA verification activities and will draw on the Safeguards Implementation Practices Guide for Facilitating IAEA Verification Activities.

Benefitting from the experience gained during these two workshops, the IAEA plans to organize similar events in coming years, Dyck said. “Getting national counterparts together creates momentum internationally, and as State authorities become more effective in carrying out their safeguards functions, the IAEA’s monitoring and verification work also becomes more efficient and effective.”