Global Governance of Nuclear Security:
- There were noteworthy stories on international governance during September, including Angola’s accession to the Convention on Nuclear Safety and the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, together with its Amendment, while Côte d’Ivoire joined the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency.
- Despite the challenges posed by COVID-19, the IAEA continues its work. The 64th IAEA General Conference took place September 21st-25th, during which nuclear security was a central focus on the panels, such as the Delivering Nuclear Security During Times of Crisis event and the Nuclear Security Talks. The Conference concluded with the adoption of a series of resolutions, including the launch of a new initiative to support countries in the accounting and control of nuclear material for the purpose of safeguards. Read the IAEA’s nuclear security resolution here, summary of the Conference here, and the comprehensive 2020 Nuclear Security Report here. Read conclusions from the IAEA’s Scientific Forum here.
- At the close of the month, the IAEA Board of Governors elected by acclamation Ambassador Heidi Alberta Hulan as the Chairperson of the IAEA’s Board of Governors for 2020-2021. Hulan is Canada’s Permanent Representative to the international organizations in Vienna and Ambassador to Austria and Slovakia.
- The IAEA and member states also expressed urgency in addressing the looming threat of nuclear terrorism. IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi called for full adherence and implementation of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its 2005 Amendment during the 64th IAEA General Conference. Then, Saudi Arabia contributed $10 million to the IAEA for setting up of a specialized center to combat nuclear terrorism.
- Nuclear security cooperation was strengthened as Russia signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation with the African Commission on Nuclear Energy (AFCONE), as “a practical step” towards implementation of agreements reached with African countries at the Russia-Africa Summit in October of 2019.
Reducing Material and Number of Sites:
- Bilateral cooperation in support of consolidating and reducing civilian weapons-useable nuclear material continues. Demonstrating that cooperation can happen even in during the pandemic, South Korea and the United States held a video-linked session of their Nuclear Security Working Group on Wednesday to discuss cooperation on the minimization of the use of highly-enriched uranium and other issues. Most notably, a project to remove the last remaining batch of unirradiated highly enriched uranium (HEU) fuel from Kazakhstan has been completed in a joint effort by Kazakhstan and the U.S. government.
- At the same time, ongoing challenges of consolidation remain in many locations. In the most recent update in South Carolina’s $600 million federal settlement, a lawsuit has been filed on behalf of the seven counties near the Savannah River Site, claiming the federal government did not follow through on removing nuclear waste from the area. Lawyers argue that only specific counties, instead of all South Carolinians, should be prime beneficiaries of the settlement.
- Additionally, a Japanese court has found the government and TEPCO, the operator of the Fukushima nuclear plant, negligent, and ordered them to pay 1bn yen ($9.5m) in damages to thousands of residents for their lost livelihoods. The case carries implications for questions of liability in nuclear security incidents.
Security for Nuclear Power Plants and Facilities:
- International organizations are looking beyond the COVID-19 pandemic for what can be learned and for strategic direction. The IAEA published a lessons-learned article on nuclear safety and security regulation during the COVID-19 pandemic. Furthermore, in anticipation of future challenges, the IAEA’s Regulatory Cooperation Forum discussed their new 2020-2024 strategic plan, which they hope will “strengthen the global nuclear safety and security framework.”
- The United Arab Emirates becomes the first Arab country to operate a nuclear power plant. In a review of security at Unit 1 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant, the U.A.E Federal Authority for Nuclear Regulation (FANR) details the current security system in place.
- The Swedish Radiation Safety Authority (SSM) proposed new regulations, which have been under development since 2013, that cover nuclear facility design, analysis, and operation. This includes accounting for radiological emergencies or other adverse external disasters that may lead to security failure. The estimated date for the regulations to take effect is January 1st, 2022.