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Security Culture: One for All, and All for One


Ever since the term security culture was coined, the IAEA has offered assistance and support to its Member States in this area. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

Preventing the theft of nuclear material and attacks and sabotage against nuclear installations is a challenge that governments, nuclear regulators and operators around the world are increasingly facing.

“Terrorism is a real threat that exists around the world and also in Indonesia. And it can affect nuclear security,” said Khairul Khairul, a senior nuclear security officer at Indonesia’s National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), which operates three research reactors. “We need to strengthen the notion of nuclear security in our entire workforce by developing a strong nuclear security culture.”

Nuclear security culture refers to the characteristics, attitudes and behaviour of individuals, organizations and institutions that enhance and support nuclear security. It is about the importance of the human factor in nuclear security.

“Historically, there has been a focus on nuclear safety and safety culture around the world, particularly after the Chernobyl accident in 1986. We now need to develop the same focus for security,” Khairul said.

The coherent and rigorous implementation of a security culture implies that staff remain vigilant of the need to maintain a high level of security, said Kazuko Hamada, Nuclear Security Culture Officer at the IAEA. “Ultimately, the entire nuclear security regime depends on the people involved. It is the human factor — including management and leadership — that must be addressed in any effort to enhance nuclear security culture.”

Organizations need to have a nuclear security policy, a sound management system and regular training and sensitization techniques for employees to understand nuclear security risks. Culture evolves slowly, and people are often resistant to change, Hamada added. “Maintaining a strong nuclear security culture requires persistent effort and continuous monitoring.”

The IAEA has offered assistance and support to its Member States in the area of security culture ever since the term was coined a decade ago. It is currently developing guidance for security culture self-assessment and enhancement for countries and for organizations responsible for nuclear security.

In Indonesia, many of BATAN’s 2 800 employees have gone through security awareness training and have participated in drills and exercises over the last few years, Khairul explained. Around 1 000 employees periodically attend training events on nuclear security culture. They learn about the importance of information protection and of compliance with facility procedures. They are also better informed about the need to avoid divulging information that has the potential to undermine security, including by being on the alert for insider threats (see Hidden but real: Insider threat). “An enhanced security culture is particularly important for a country that is considering the introduction of nuclear power, like Indonesia,” he said.

An enhanced security culture is particularly important for a country that is considering the introduction of nuclear power, like Indonesia.
Khairul Khairul, Senior Nuclear Security Officer, National Nuclear Energy Agency (BATAN), Indonesia

Self-assessment in Bulgaria

Bulgaria has operated nuclear power plants for decades and has used IAEA guidance and services to enhance its security culture.

In 2013, the Kozloduy nuclear power plant’s management team conducted a nuclear security self-assessment to evaluate the extent of nuclear security culture at the plant. The self-assessment, based on IAEA methodology, identified areas for improvement as well as areas where good practices had to be maintained, said Vladimir Yankov, Head of Analysis and Control of Physical Protection at the plant’s Security Division. This led to the development of an action plan for ongoing enhancement of security culture at the plant.

Since culture is often difficult to change, the plant’s management decided to undertake self-assessments every two years to check progress made and update the action plan.

“The key message we transmit to our staff is that security is a shared responsibility,” Yankov said. “It cannot be done by security professionals alone.”

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