NNSA officials visit country of Georgia in support of nuclear safeguards

July 19, 2023, 12:00PMNuclear News
NNSA administrator Jill Hruby surveys the Administrative Boundary Line at South Ossetia. Russia occupies Georgian territory on the other side of the line. (Photo: NNSA)

National Nuclear Security Administration administrator Jill Hruby and deputy administrator for defense nuclear nonproliferation Corey Hinderstein visited the country of Georgia in southeastern Europe last month to discuss the NNSA’s bilateral partnerships, seek areas of cooperation, and get a closer look at how nuclear security is implemented at active border crossings in the region.

The agency has worked in the country for more than 20 years on nuclear security topics and nonproliferation, including protection and removal of radioactive sources, radiation and nuclear detection, nuclear forensics, and the use of a decommissioned research reactor and hot cell facility to train International Atomic Energy Agency inspectors and analysts.

A staffer from the Georgian Institute of Physics talks with Hruby about the decommissioned research reactor and hot cell facility, which are used for IAEA training. (Photo: NNSA)

Tours: Hruby and Hinderstein visited boundary and border crossings during the trip. First, they went to the Administrative Boundary Line at South Ossetia, which is a part of Georgian territory occupied by Russia since 2008. The visit demonstrated the challenges faced by Georgian frontline officers; the NNSA provides the country with radiation detection technology to secure the boundary line against radiological and nuclear smuggling threats. The NNSA officials also visited the Sadakhlo crossing at the Georgia-Armenia border, which handles over one million travelers per year. NNSA has trained front line officers of the Georgian Ministry of Internal Affairs and provided detection systems to enhance security on this border.

“Being at the crossroads of the Caucasus requires constant vigilance,” Hinderstein said. “It’s impressive how our partners manage a mind-boggling amount of traffic while they look for a needle in a haystack. I’m glad they’re on the job.”

Hruby and Hinderstein also visited the decommissioned research reactor at the Georgian Institute of Physics, where they discussed legacy radiological issues and viewed a secure orphan source storage location.

Officials meet: To express gratitude for the continued collaboration, the NNSA officials met with Georgia’s Ministry of Internal Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and the Georgia Agency of Nuclear and Radiological Safety. Each is a key player on the overall nuclear security team, according to the NNSA.

“Seeing is believing,” Hruby said when the trip was completed. “From border patrol officers on the ground to government ministers at the top, it was clear to us that Georgia continues to be a strong U.S. partner in nuclear security and nonproliferation.”

Conferences in Austria: Hruby and Hinderstein’s trip to Georgia followed a visit to the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization’s Science and Technology Conference (SnT23) and the IAEA International Conference on Computer Security in the Nuclear World, both held in Vienna in late June. Hruby gave the keynote address at SnT23, which drew nearly 1,000 attendees. The trip served to highlight the NNSA’s commitment to reducing global nuclear threats.

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