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Trends and Achievements in Nuclear Safety and Security

Highly enriched uranium metal being investigated as part of a recent IAEA nuclear forensics training. (Photo: D. Smith/IAEA)

Following the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi nuclear accident in Japan, global attention focussed on nuclear safety. A year later, the Seoul Nuclear Security Summit heightened global interest in nuclear security. Given this attention, the IAEA's Department of Nuclear Safety and Security organized a side event to highlight trends and the IAEA's activities in both areas. The event was held in conjunction with the Preparatory Committee Meeting for the 2015 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference held from 30 April to 10 May 2012 at the IAEA.

On 2 May 2012, James Lyons, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Installation Safety, and Khammar Mrabit, Director of the IAEA's Office of Nuclear Security, presented an overview of current trends and achievements in nuclear safety and security.

Making Nuclear Power Safer

Lyons underlined that one of the most significant developments in nuclear safety is the approval of the Action Plan on Nuclear Safety in September 2011. The 12-point plan aims to make nuclear power safer worldwide by encouraging Member States to assess their nuclear safety programmes and by strengthening IAEA support. Because the quick and effective dissemination of information is essential during a nuclear emergency, the plan also aims to strengthen the emergency notification system.

Through international conferences organized by the IAEA under the Action Plan, experts have the opportunity to share and exchange ideas on how to improve the international nuclear safety environment. The recent International Experts Meeting on Reactor and Spent Fuel Safety gathered 230 experts from 44 Member States and 4 international organizations. The conclusions of the meeting provided important insights into the lessons learned from the Fukushima nuclear accident.

The IAEA also publishes fundamental requirements for the protection against the exposure to ionizing radiation called International Safety Standards. Developed in conjunction with Member States and international radiation safety experts, the standards build on widely accepted radiation protection and safety principles. Currently, the IAEA is expanding the coverage of these standards and plans to review them in light of the Fukushima nuclear accident.

Worldwide, Effective Nuclear Security

In the field of nuclear security, Mrabit noted that the IAEA helps States in the prevention and detection of (and response to) theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal transfer or other malicious acts involving nuclear and other radioactive material and their associated facilities. Because the threat from such acts is global, it demands a global response. The IAEA's support for this global response is made through the IAEA Nuclear Security Plan 2010-2013. The plan contributes to global efforts to achieve worldwide, effective security wherever nuclear or other radioactive material is in use, storage or transport. The plan aims, inter alia, to help States strengthen their nuclear security to combat the risk of nuclear terrorism.

He also emphasized that under this Plan, the IAEA Office of Nuclear Security helps States obtain the necessary tools to establish comprehensive and sustainable national nuclear security regimes. As an example of this assistance, Mrabit said that since 2002, over 10 700 participants from 120 States have attended nuclear security training events, as part of the IAEA's effort to enhance States' capabilities in the field.

Mrabit also highlighted a new partnership between the IAEA and universities: the International Nuclear Security Education Network. 26 universities and 2 international organizations are collaborating in this partnership aiming to promote excellence in nuclear security education.

The side event concluded with a question and answer session from the participants.


Nuclear safety and security are a national responsibility. The IAEA supports its Member States in their efforts to enhance the safety and security of their facilities, installations and nuclear or radiological material. When states ask for assistance, the IAEA determines together with them what their needs are in these fields and assists them through training courses, international standards, peer review missions and advisory missions.

Last update: 27 Jul 2017

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