Security


Securing the advanced reactor fleet

May 17, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear NewsBen Cipiti, Katya Le Blanc, and Cory Hatch

Physical protection accounts for a significant portion of a nuclear power plant’s operational costs. As the U.S. moves toward smaller and safer advanced reactors, similar protection strategies could prove cost prohibitive. For tomorrow’s small modular reactors and microreactors, security costs must remain appropriate to the size of the reactor for economical operation.

Reducing global radiological risk, moving alternative technologies forward

May 15, 2024, 9:28AMNuclear NewsKristin Hirsch

Kristin Hirsch

Radioactive materials are used in medical, research, and commercial facilities to treat cancer, irradiate blood, sterilize food and equipment, and build economies worldwide. In the wrong hands, however, even a small amount of radioactive material can do a great deal of harm. A radiological dispersal device (RDD), otherwise known as a “dirty bomb,” is believed to be an attractive weapon for terrorist groups due to its scale of impact—panic, physical contamination, costly remediation, and denial of access to facilities and locations.

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration Office of Radiological Security (ORS) enhances global security by preventing high-activity radioactive materials from being used in acts of terrorism. ORS implements its mission through three strategies: protecting radioactive sources used for vital medical, research, and commercial purposes by securing facilities that utilize radioactive isotopes; removing and disposing of disused sources; and encouraging the adoption and development of nonradioisotopic alternative technologies such as X-ray and electron beam irradiators.

Bowman & Smith on NRC security programs

May 13, 2024, 9:38AMNuclear News
The NRC's Greg Bowman (left) and George Smith (right)

Greg Bowman and George Smith work for the Nuclear Regulatory Commission in implementing programs that deal with risk, whether to nuclear power plants or from nuclear materials, such as radiological sabotage and theft or diversion of materials. Bowman is the director of the NRC’s Division of Physical and Cybersecurity Policy in the Office of Nuclear Security and Incident Response. Smith is the senior project manager for security in the Source Management & Protection Branch of the Division of Materials Safety, Security, State, and Tribal Programs in the Office of Nuclear Material Safety and Safeguards.

The three initiatives Bowman and Smith discussed with Nuclear News editor-in-chief Rick Michal are the Insider Threat Program, the Cybersecurity Program, and the Domestic Safeguards Program.

Nuclear security workforce development

May 13, 2024, 9:38AMNuclear NewsSara A. Pozzi

Ensuring that nuclear technology is used exclusively for peaceful purposes remains a critical challenge for our society today. The global community faces several grave nuclear security threats: nations that attempt to create (such as Iran) or augment (such as Russia, China, and North Korea) their nuclear arsenals, acts of aggression that target civilian nuclear reactors (as seen with Russia in Ukraine), and the looming menace of nuclear weapons deployment (emanating from Russia). Furthermore, addressing climate change necessitates an expansion of nuclear energy for electricity generation, which brings with it the need for safeguarding and regulating the deployment of advanced reactors.

IAEA calls for action following drone attacks at Ukraine nuclear plant

April 17, 2024, 12:00PMNuclear News

A recent drone attack at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant prompted an emergency meeting by the International Atomic Energy Agency Board of Governors, during which the agency again called for the immediate removal of Russian military and personnel from the site.

Why should safeguards by design be a global effort?

March 27, 2024, 3:01PMNuclear NewsJeremy Whitlock

Jeremy Whitlock

I can’t think of a more exciting time to be working in nuclear, with the diversity of advanced reactor development and increasing global support for nuclear in sustainable energy planning. But we can’t lose sight of the need to plan for efficient international safeguards at the same time.

Global nuclear deployment has been underpinned since 1970 by the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), making it a key customer requirement for governments to demonstrate unequivocally that the technology is not being misused for weapons development.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has helped verify this commitment for more than 50 years, but it has never safeguarded many of the advanced reactors (and related fuel cycle processes) being developed today.

NNSA awards counter–nuclear smuggling contracts

March 14, 2024, 1:13PMNuclear News

Contracts valued up to a combined $1 billion have been awarded by the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Nuclear Smuggling Detection and Deterrence to SeaTech Global Security Solutions of Richland, Wash., and Parsons Government Services International Inc. of Pasadena, Calif.

Grossi, Putin meet to discuss Ukraine nuclear plant concerns

March 6, 2024, 3:03PMNuclear News
Vladimir Putin (left), Rafael Mariano Grossi (right), with Alexey Likhachev (Image: Kremlin.ru)

International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Russia this week to discuss the “future operational status” of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant with Russian president Vladimir Putin.

Japanese gangster charged with trafficking nuclear materials

February 26, 2024, 12:12PMNuclear News

U.S. officials have brought charges of nuclear materials trafficking against a Japanese gangster who has been in federal custody since 2022.

In a case filled with international espionage, along with alleged weapons and drug trafficking, Takeshi Ebisawa has been charged with attempting to sell uranium and weapons-grade plutonium. The 60-year-old Japanese national—who is believed to be a leading figure in the Yakuza, the Japanese organized crime syndicate—faces a long list of federal charges that carry sentence of life in prison.

Officials: Sole power source to Ukraine plant damaged in shelling

February 22, 2024, 12:01PMNuclear News
Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in Ukraine. (Photo: DOE)

Russian shelling is being blamed for damage to the single remaining power source to Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, located on the front lines of the ongoing military conflict.

“After another attack by the Russians, the line that provided the energy supply to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear station was damaged,” Ukraine's power grid operator Ukrenergo said in a February 21 statement.

IAEA chief: Situation at Ukraine plant remains “fragile”

February 6, 2024, 3:00PMNuclear News
The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant. (Photo: Energoatom)

Recent staff cuts at Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant (ZNPP) are raising concerns among international nuclear watchdogs.

Ahead of his visit to the plant on February 7, International Atomic Energy Agency director general Rafael Mariano Grossi told the Associated Press that he will focus on the impact of personnel reductions, especially while Russia has denied access to employees of Ukraine’s nuclear operator, Energoatom.

IAEA director general: “Cause for concern” over North Korea’s nuclear program

January 3, 2024, 9:31AMNuclear News

Grossi

Recent observations have indicated that warm water has been discharged near the light water reactor at the Yongbyon Nuclear Scientific Research Center in North Korea, which is consistent with the purported commissioning of the LWR—a process that takes time for any new reactor—and suggests that the reactor has now reached criticality.

“The LWR, like any nuclear reactor, can produce plutonium in its irradiated fuel, which can be separated during reprocessing, so this is cause for concern,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. “It remains the case that without access to the facility, the agency cannot confirm its operational status.”

Safety concern: Grossi went on to say that the agency does not have sufficient information to make an assessment about the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea site, but that nuclear safety remains the paramount issue when starting a new reactor. Agency inspectors have had no access to North Korea since they were expelled in 2009.

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).

NNSA partners with Jordan to remove irradiators

November 1, 2023, 9:30AMANS Nuclear Cafe

The National Nuclear Security Administration’s Office of Radiological Security (ORS), part of the Department of Energy, announced this week that it partnered with Jordan's Energy and Minerals Regulatory Commission (EMRC) to replace all of Jordan’s high-activity cesium-137 irradiators with X-ray technology.

IAEA unveils training center for nuclear security

October 9, 2023, 7:00AMNuclear News
The IAEA’s new nuclear security training center. (Photo: Katy Laffan/IAEA)

Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, officially opened the IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre during an October 3 ceremony at the agency’s Seibersdorf laboratories in Austria. Representatives of 45 countries and territories were in attendance.

NNSA welcomes opening of Kazakhstan storage facility

September 26, 2023, 8:49AMNuclear News

The Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration recently marked the completion of a new long-term radioactive waste storage facility in Kazakhstan.

The facility, at Kazakhstan’s Institute of Nuclear Physics (INP), has been operational since 2022 and has an expected lifespan of 50 years. According to the NNSA, the facility conforms with all Kazakhstan and International Atomic Energy Agency guidelines and replaces a much older facility located at an INP property in Turaz.