The UN’s global nuclear watchdog has revealed in its 21-page annual Nuclear Security Report – released in Vienna this week - that 235 new incidents of significant nuclear materials losses were reported in the year to end of June 2018. (https://www-legacy.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC62/GC62Documents/English/gc62-10_en.pdf)
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) published the report as a suite of documents issued as part of the annual IAEA General Conference (https://www-legacy.iaea.org/About/Policy/GC/GC62/Documents/).
In another important development, the report reveals that the nuclear security plans used by all nations, the so-called Design Basis Threat (DBT), is under IAEA review, stating: “In 2016, the Agency agreed to review and revise IAEA Nuclear Security Series No. 10, Development, Use and Maintenance of the Design Basis Threat. The Agency held a Technical Meeting in Vienna, Austria in February 2018 to review the draft of the revised publication, and to discuss an updated methodology for development, use and maintenance of the nuclear security threat assessment, representative threat statement and design basis threats (DBTs). Following this meeting, the draft publication was approved by the NSGC to be sent to Member States for a 120-day review period”.
IAEA expenditure on nuclear security in the period from 1 July 2017 to 30 June 2018 comprised disbursements of approximately € 28.3 million., which is a really miniscule amount considering the near existential threat being confronted.
The relevant section on Incident and Trafficking Database reads as follows:
“9. In the period between the inception of the ITDB and 30 June 2018, States had reported — or otherwise confirmed to the ITDB — a total of 3374 incidents. Reports of 235 incidents were added to the database in the reporting period. Of these incidents, 127 occurred between 1 July 2017 and 30 June 2018. While the Agency does not verify States’ reports, the number of incidents voluntarily reported by participating States to the ITDB demonstrates that illicit trafficking, thefts, losses and other unauthorized activities and events involving nuclear and other radioactive material continue to occur.
10. Of the 235 newly reported incidents, 3 were related to trafficking and 4 were scams. All of the material involved in these incidents was seized by the relevant competent authorities within the reporting State. No incident involved high enriched uranium, plutonium or category 1 sources.
11. There were 33 reported incidents in which the intent to conduct trafficking or malicious use could not be determined. These included 17 thefts, 4 unauthorized possessions and 12 incidents of missing materials. In 25 incidents the materials were not recovered including 1 incident involving category 3 radioactive sources, while the remainder involved lower-risk sources below category 3.
12. There were also 125 reported incidents in which the material was out of regulatory control but not related to trafficking, malicious use or scams. Most of these incidents involved unauthorized disposal, unauthorized shipments and unexpected discoveries of material such as previously lost radioactive sources.”
For an industry that proclaims it wants to expand worldwide into new countries, and extend reactor fleets in several existing nuclear power countries, these figures should really have sent alarm bells ringing that there are many unclosed holes in the global nuclear security apparatus.
But complacency seems to be the prevailing demeanor, as no calls have come from the nuclear sector, nor from government ministries or sponsoring agencies for nuclear projects, that urgent action is needed to stop such highly dangerous leakages from security control of nuclear materials that – in some cases - could be used to make deadly fission nuclear bombs or certainly radiological ‘dirty’ bombs. Instead, the report lists dozens of meetings held all over the planet, aimed at tutoring member states to deal with nuclear materials in the most up-to-date and secure fashion.
The IAEA report weakly records “The triennial Technical Meeting of States’ Points of Contact for the ITDB was held in Vienna, Austria, in May 2018. During this meeting, an effort to update the ITDB terms of reference was initiated to bring them in line with previously agreed ITDB conceptual framework trafficking definitions.”
More helpfully, the report adds: “The Agency continued to maintain and improve the Nuclear Security Information Portal (NUSEC) to provide a comprehensive information tool to meet the needs of Member States and to exchange information across the nuclear security community. The web-based NUSEC has more than 4800 registered users from 165 Member States and 17 organizations. An approximately 18 per cent increase in registered users in the past year improves the Agency’s capability to reach the wider international security community with information on developments in nuclear security. Improvements made to NUSEC in the reporting period include continued support for the International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) Good Practice Database, further enhancements to the International Network for Nuclear Security Training and Support Centres (NSSC Network) database, and enhancements to the common calendar that provides information on all training courses and other events hosted by NSSC Network members. In addition, a new User Group focused on Science and Technology for Nuclear Security facilitates communication among Member States on this topic.” [GOV/2018/36-GC(62)/10 Page s 4-5]
The report also revealed that the IAEA also convened a technical meeting on reducing cyber risks in the nuclear industry supply chain in Vienna, Austria, in June 2018, with more than 100 participants from 35 Member States attending.
Russia seemed to be the state at the forefront of training for secure storage of sensitive nuclear materials, with report recording: “The Agency, in cooperation with the Russian Federation, conducted four additional training courses, namely, an international training course on the Practical Operation of Physical Protection Systems at Nuclear Facilities in Obninsk, Russian Federation, in November 2017; an international training course for Newcomer Countries on Nuclear Security Systems and Measures for the Implementation of a National Nuclear Power Programme in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, in September 2017; a regional training course on Nuclear Security in Practice: Field Training for University Students in Obninsk, Russian Federation in October 2017; and an international training course on the Establishment of a Nuclear Security Regime for Nuclear Power Programmes in St. Petersburg, Russian Federation, in May 2018.”
The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Series Implementing Guide Preventive Measures for Material out of Regulatory Control and the Technical Guidance Planning for and Organization of Nuclear Security Measures for Material out of Regulatory Control received final approval for publication during the period covered by the report.
By 30 June 2018, there were 30 current publications in the Nuclear Security Series, a further 8 approved for publication, and 17 others (including 3 revisions of existing Nuclear Security Series publications) at various stages of development, in accordance with the roadmap agreed, the IAEA reports.
The IAEA hosted two Information Exchange Meetings in Vienna, Austria, in November 2017 and in April 2018 “to coordinate activities in nuclear security and to avoid duplication in the activities undertaken by various relevant organizations.” Participants from 11 organizations and initiatives such as the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Global Partnership against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Mass Destruction exchanged information, discussed various themes within nuclear security, and reached a better understanding of activities being undertaken by each organization, it reports.
The International Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN) continues to assist its member institutions and States in establishing and enhancing educational programmes on nuclear security based on international guidance and recommendations, with the Network now having 170 institutions from 62 IAEA member States.
Additionally, in February 2018 the IAEA signed a Practical Arrangement with Japan, as part of its preliminary arrangements to provide nuclear security support to the 2020 Olympics, to be held in Tokyo.
IAEA Nuclear Security Report 2018
Board of Governors General Conference
6 August 2018
“The IAEA General Conference requested that the Director General submit an annual report on activities undertaken by the Agency in the area of nuclear security, and on external users of the Incident and Trafficking Database (ITDB) and on past and planned activities of educational, training and collaborative networks, as well as highlighting significant accomplishments of the previous year within the framework of the Nuclear Security Plan and indicating programmatic goals and priorities …”