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Learning to Account for and Control Nuclear Material: IAEA Safeguards Training Moves Online

Recording the online IAEA State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material (SSAC) training course

Recording an online IAEA regional training course. (Photo: IAEA)

From 9 - 20 November, the IAEA conducted its first online State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material (SSAC) training course. Sixteen experts from seven Asian countries joined interactive lessons covering the best practices in nuclear accounting and control systems for State and Regional Authorities (SRAs).

An SSAC is a set of arrangements to account for and control nuclear material in the State. The establishment and upkeep of SSACs, set up by SRAs, form the basis of a State’s reporting to the IAEA on its nuclear material. It can, for example, establish the measurement system for determining the quantities of nuclear material received, produced, shipped, lost or removed from an inventory. This, in turn, provides the basis for applying IAEA safeguards.

Co-organized with the Integrated Support Centre for Nuclear Nonproliferation and Nuclear Security (ISCN) at the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA), the November training course was adapted to the online medium.

“The training allows participants, both from the State and operators of nuclear facilities, to acquire the knowledge to establish and maintain their SSACs”, said Yoko Kawakubo, Chief at ISCN, and Japan’s point of contact for the regional SSAC training course. “Despite the pandemic, we were delighted to deliver the course with the same content, objectives, and outcomes in an online format. This allowed us to continue to reach out and support SSACs in the region."

As the world adapts to the challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, this is just the latest IAEA training to move online. (Read this and this article for examples of other activities now online.)

“Fulfilment of safeguards obligations is an important part of nuclear non-proliferation, which cannot stop during a pandemic or other emergency,” said Susan Pickett, Head of the Safeguards Training Section at the IAEA. “We continue our activities to help countries perform this important activity.”

Nuclear safeguarding activities rely on State cooperation with the IAEA, especially through SSACs. To foster effectiveness and find greater efficiencies, both Member States and IAEA safeguards inspectors rely on safeguards training to stay informed on verification practices and requirements.

The IAEA has been providing safeguards training for 40 years. In 1980, the IAEA safeguards training programme offered four nuclear safeguards inspector training courses. The following year, the first two SSAC courses for IAEA Member States were held – one in the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) and another in the United States of America (USA). At the time, the training team comprised six staff and used television teaching aids to complement training activities and engage participants.

“At the time, the use of television aids in and of itself was quite innovative”, said Audrey Teufner a retired IAEA Safeguards Training Assistant. “The growth of external training and our capabilities has been substantial when you look back. It’s something I couldn’t imagine in those early days.”

Forty years later, 20 IAEA safeguards training experts offer more than 60 different trainings to over 800 staff. By constantly adapting to both technological change, safeguards challenges, and Member State needs, the training team engages with new tools and technologies, and integrates new interactive techniques.  For example, a basic safeguards implementation course for practitioners is available online with an IAEA Nucleus account.

Further to SSAC-specific training and advisory missions, a new IAEA initiative partners with States to help them strengthen the effectiveness of their SRA and their respective SSAC. The IAEA Comprehensive Capacity-Building Initiative for SSACs and SRAs (COMPASS) initiative, launched at the IAEA General Conference in September 2020, offers State-specific support in the areas of outreach; national training; software and equipment; legal and regulatory; and human resources.

IAEA Archival photo of television training aids from 1980. (Photo: IAEA)

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