Cambodia makes progress in nuclear security, IAEA finds

January 2, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear News
Members of the IAEA’s INSServ team visit the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port in Cambodia. (Photo: IAEA)

The International Atomic Energy Agency completed an advisory service mission to Cambodia on December 11–22 that focused on assessing the country's security regime for nuclear and other radioactive material out of regulatory control (MORC).

The purpose: The mission, carried out by the IAEA International Nuclear Security Advisory Service (INSServ) at the request of the Cambodian government, involved a team of nine international experts from Finland, Hungary, Japan, Morocco, Pakistan, the United States, Vietnam, and the IAEA.

INSServ missions aim to help member states to better prevent, detect, and respond to criminal and intentional unauthorized acts involving MORC, whether lost, missing, stolen, improperly disposed of, or not adequately stored or handled.

This was the second mission of its kind in Cambodia, aimed to review the nation’s current state of nuclear security in relation to MORC and provide recommendations on how to strengthen it to be in line with international guidance and best practices, according to the IAEA.

In-country reviews: The INSServ team visited the Phnom Penh Autonomous Port, the Sihanoukville Autonomous Port, and the Phnom Penh International Airport to assess detection and response measures in place, among the destinations.

The team also conducted a series of meetings with officials from the nation’s Ministry of Mines and Energy, the General Department of Customs and Excise, the Secretariat of the National Counter Terrorism Committee, and the National Authority for the Prohibition of Chemical, Nuclear, Biological and Radiological Weapons.

Findings: Cambodia has implemented measures to detect and respond to criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving such material, according to the IAEA, which has encouraged the nation to further improve its legal and regulatory framework.

The INSServ team noted that Cambodia had implemented many elements of a legal and regulatory framework related to MORC. Still, it recommended that the country establish a national nuclear law and ratify the Amendment of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism.

Further recommendations included the establishment of national infrastructure to support sustainable training to enhance Cambodia's existing detection and response capabilities.

Several good practices were identified, including the categorization of offenses in the country’s legal framework, the radiation detection scan of all import and export cargo containers at the Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville Autonomous Ports, and the use of the IAEA’s mobile app TRACE (Tool for Radiation Alarm and Commodity Evaluation), as well as the establishment of knowledge management and professional development measures for the staff with nuclear security detection responsibilities.

They said it: “Cambodia established a solid basis for a comprehensive nuclear security regime,” said team leader Khammar Mrabit, former director general of the Moroccan Agency for Nuclear and Radiological Safety and Security and a member of the Moroccan Parliament. “We welcome Cambodia's cooperation in this mission and hope our recommendations and suggestions will be helpful for further improvements.”

“This second INSServ mission will assist us in the upgrade of Cambodia's nuclear security regime by taking into account the international practice and expertise,” said Keo Rottanak, the country’s minister of mines and energy. "We firmly believe that no single nation can address the complex challenges of nuclear security in isolation. A secure world starts by cooperation of all countries, relevant agencies, and individuals.”

The draft findings and recommendations were presented to the Cambodian government, and the final report will be presented in about three months.

Background: INSServ missions, based on IAEA guidelines published in 2019, are part of the agency’s efforts to assist member states in strengthening their nuclear security in relation to MORC. Services provided include expert advice, training, and equipment support.

The Cambodian mission was the 86th INSServ effort conducted by the IAEA since the program began in 2006.

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