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New Publication: Interfaces and Synergies Between Nuclear Security and Safety


A new joint report by AdSec/INSAG reflects last decade’s developments on the safety and security interface, and identifies challenges for the years to come.

The nexus between nuclear safety and nuclear security is an aspect that underpins the IAEA’s work and assistance offered to countries around the world. Now international experts, members of the Advisory Group on Nuclear Security (AdSec) and the International Nuclear Safety Advisory Group (INSAG) have issued their first joint report addressing the question of interfaces and synergies between nuclear safety and nuclear security, taking into account the developments of the last decade. The AdSec and INSAG members advise the IAEA Director General in the areas of nuclear security and nuclear and radiation safety respectively (See AdSec and INSAG: the expert groups.)

Safety focuses on ensuring proper operating conditions, preventing – or mitigating the consequences of – accidents and, hence, protecting workers, patients, the public and the environment from undue radiation hazards. In the case of nuclear security, the focus is on the prevention and detection of, and response to, criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving or directed at nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities or associated activities.

However, as Lydie Evrard, IAEA Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Nuclear Safety and Security explains, they share the same objective. “The IAEA Fundamental Safety Principles and the Nuclear Security Fundamentals identify the overarching objective to protect people, society and the environment from harmful effects of ionizing radiation.”

The recently published AdSec/INSAG report, A systems view of nuclear security and nuclear safety: identifying interfaces and building synergies, aims to provide an updated framework on the interface between nuclear safety and security. The publication examines both the commonalities of and differences relating to nuclear security and nuclear safety, with a view to stimulating new thinking on how to further enhance their robustness and create greater synergy in the management of nuclear and other related activities.

Key areas of this interface cover areas such as the allocation of various responsibilities and their coordination; institutional strength in depth; the management and leadership with focus on safety and security culture; human risk factors; computer security; information and communication; and emergency preparedness and response.

“The interface between nuclear safety and nuclear security measures must be designed and implemented in a compatible manner so that security measures do not compromise safety and safety measures do not compromise security,” said Evrard, adding that “their relationship is an ever-evolving one and the  IAEA’s mechanisms of assistance to countries are built to serve the effective and synergistic implementation of nuclear and radiation safety and nuclear security at national and international level.”

Efforts to strengthen the synergy between nuclear security and safety

The first publication covering this topic was The Interface Between Safety and Security at Nuclear Power Plants, known as INSAG‑24. This was published in 2010 and explored the important relationship between nuclear safety and nuclear security with a focus on nuclear power plants. Since then, significant developments have occurred across a whole range of facilities and activities involving nuclear and other radioactive material.

The new publication aims to reach national policy makers and the senior management of regulatory and other competent authorities, operators/industry, international organizations and other relevant stakeholders. It is applicable to facilities, locations and activities where nuclear and other radioactive material are used or involved, including transport of nuclear or radioactive material, unauthorised acts with nuclear security implications, or facilities and activities that could necessitate emergency response actions. In addition, it covers all stages of the life cycle of facilities and related activities – from siting, design, construction and commissioning to operation and decommissioning.

Responsibilities, leadership and management, and risk management strategies are acknowledged by the AdSec and INSAG experts as the common foundations for effective nuclear safety and security. A “change of attitude” is deemed necessary for addressing current and future challenges, especially when policies, laws, regulations and relevant institutions are at the development stage.

Other areas of importance highlighted in the report include the strengthening of the national legislative system to enable effective management of nuclear safety and security, and the establishment of an integrated culture among national institutions respectively responsible for nuclear safety and security.

Experts also underscore the importance of a broad understanding of nuclear safety and security through communications that balance openness and confidentiality.  

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