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International School on Nuclear Security Helps Participants Strengthen Skills


Participants in the International School on Nuclear Security identify the detected radioactive material using a Radionuclide Identification Device. (Photo: I. Pletukhina/IAEA)

Fifty-two nuclear operators, regulators, customs and border officers, academics and researchers from 47 countries strengthened their skills in detecting and tracing smuggled radioactive material at a recent International School on Nuclear Security, jointly organized by the IAEA and the Abdus Salam International Centre for Theoretical Physics (ICTP) in Trieste, Italy.

The annual International School on Nuclear Security was held March 25-April 5, 2019 for the ninth time. During the two-week School, young professionals learned about a wide range of nuclear security topics, including legal and regulatory frameworks, threat assessment, physical protection, insider threat and nuclear security culture.

“The strength of nuclear security measures at a border, a hospital or a nuclear power plant depends on the knowledge and skills of the personnel,” said Raja Abdul Aziz Raja Adnan, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security. “In cooperation with ICTP, the IAEA helps Member States’ efforts in sustaining their national nuclear security regimes by educating the next generation of nuclear security professionals.”

The School included lectures, technical visits and practical exercises designed to help students learn skills they can use to strengthen nuclear security in their countries.

In one of the exercises, participants used radiation detection equipment to search for radioactive sources hidden in the ICTP laboratory. Course instructors Vittorio Forcina and Paolo Peerani from the European Commission Joint Research Centre challenged the participants to find the hidden radioactive material, identify it, assess the danger, and determine an appropriate response.

“Practicing the drills of detection and response in a controlled environment is essential for efficient and successful handling of a real-life situation,” said Mr Peerani.

Detecting the radioactive material is just the start. On the last day of the School, participants worked through a mock scenario involving a uranium sample out of regulatory control detected at a border point. Combining traditional forensics and nuclear forensic techniques, participants worked in teams to determine where the material came from and prepare their findings for use in legal proceedings.

Such practical exercises and a visit to observe nuclear security measures at the Port of Koper in Slovenia were key to learning, said Dalia El Shafei, a lecturer at the Zagazig University Faculty of Medicine in Egypt. “When I return, I will include the nuclear security concepts and exercises into curriculum for my students in nuclear medicine and harmonize them with nuclear safety,” she said.

The International School on Nuclear Security is a joint IAEA-ICTP initiative supported by the Italian government. The school, held annually, has so far trained more than 360 professionals. In addition, the IAEA has trained 200 professionals through its regional schools conducted in French, Spanish and Arabic. In the coming year, the IAEA plans to hold such regional nuclear security schools in Morocco, South Africa and Cuba.

Participants in the International School on Nuclear Security analyze the effect of distance from the source on detection of radioactive material using a Radionuclide Identification Device. (Photo: I. Pletukhina/IAEA)

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