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IAEA Supports Costa Rica in Nuclear Security Efforts for Women’s U-20 Football World Cup

San José, Costa Rica

Costa Rica front-line officers attend a briefing on the use of radiation detection equipment as part of IAEA support to protect the women’s U-20 football World Cup from any criminal or terrorist activities involving radioactive material. (Photo: D.Calma/IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is supporting Costa Rica in its efforts to protect this month’s football World Cup for women under the age of 20 against any criminal or terrorist activities involving nuclear or other radioactive material. The assistance aims at strengthening national capabilities by providing training and the first ever deployment of the IAEA’s most advanced nuclear security protection software yet, the Mobile-Integrated Nuclear Security Network (M-INSN). M-INSN is a software tool used by front-line officers to quickly obtain, and act on, the radiation data they need to protect the public in case of an incident involving nuclear material.

This is also the first time the IAEA is providing major public event assistance to Costa Rica, and for this particular FIFA event. The Agency provided training to national authorities on nuclear security measures and lent around 100 radiation detection instruments for the tournament, which runs from 10 to 28 August. Thirty-two matches between 16 countries will take place in the capital San José and Alajuela, Costa Rica’s second-largest city, 20 km northwest of the capital.

“The IAEA’s nuclear security support programme is now even more effective to address country needs.  The addition of the new M-INSN facilitates nuclear security field operations,” said Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA Division of Nuclear Security. “Our assistance goes beyond the events as it helps countries to further enhance their national nuclear security capabilities.”

The M-INSN, intended to support radiation detection operations during major public events as well as at airports and border crossings, enables the secure communication and analysis of information between front line officers and command centres. Through the M‑INSN, radiation detection operations and assets can be quickly assessed and coordinated in the event of a radiation alarm.

The M-INSN comprises a central server and mobile application that displays in real time the location and measurements from connected radiation detection equipment. This communication system is maintained and provided by the IAEA free of charge to Member States.

The IAEA has lent 30 mobile phones to Costa Rica with the M-INSN application installed. Phones were also equipped with the IAEA Tool for Radiation Alarm and Commodity Evaluation (TRACE) application, which provides detailed information to help assess radiation instrument alarms caused by trucks and other cargo carrying vehicles. 

The IAEA’s training was held over the past ten weeks in Costa Rica and at IAEA Headquarters in Vienna. The training covered nuclear security measures, equipment operation, and response to criminal and unauthorized acts, including with the Ministry of the Presidency’s Special Intervention Unit and National Intelligence and Security Directorate, and the Ministry of Public Security’s National Coast Guard Service and Aerial Surveillance Service, among other entities. The IAEA has also lent radionuclide identification devices and portable radiation scanners to support the event.

“Costa Rica is committed to disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, one of the fundamental pillars of our state and foreign policy. From governing and technical to operational aspects, through our cooperation with the IAEA we have furthered our contribution to the global nuclear security regime,” said Jeffrey Cerdas Lobo, Director of the Special Intervention Unit of the Ministry of the Presidency, Costa Rica.

Major public events such as this draw great public interest and receive intense media attention. A terrorist attack involving nuclear or other radioactive material could result in severe consequences, depending upon the specific material involved, the mode of dispersal, the location and the population impacted.

The IAEA is also providing assistance for the 2022 FIFA Men’s World Cup held in Qatar from 21 November to 18 December. It will be the fourth time the IAEA supports this football championship, one of the most popular international sports events, having previously assisted with the 2014 event in Brazil, 2010 in South Africa and 2006 in Germany.

Over the past two decades the IAEA has supported other international sports competitions such as the 2020 UEFA Championship in Romania; football tournaments for the African Cup of Nations in Cameroon, Egypt and Gabon; and the Olympic Games hosted by Brazil, China, Greece and Japan. In total, it has provided nuclear security training and equipment for 68 major public events in 43 countries since 2004 to assist in the readiness to counteract a potential threat.

The IAEA has helped policymakers and experts worldwide to improve nuclear security, manage radioactive sources and combat nuclear terrorism since the early 1970s. Requests for support in the area of nuclear security has increased in recent years. This is due, in particular, to the 2016 entry into force of the Amendment of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) — the most significant international legal instrument in the fight against nuclear terrorism — but also as more countries embark on nuclear power programmes or start construction of research reactors.

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