Next Generation Safeguards Initiative Inaugural Conference, September 11-12, 2008
Chairman's Summary Statement
On September 11-12, 2008, experts from eleven countries and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) took part in an international meeting on the Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration's Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI). The participants addressed IAEA safeguards challenges and opportunities in the coming decades, including growing safeguards responsibilities, expanding interest in nuclear power, high-profile investigations, and limitations on available safeguards technology and expertise. The meeting highlighted the critical importance of promoting international cooperation to anticipate challenges and revitalize national capabilities to support the IAEA in its mission to verify peaceful uses of nuclear energy on a continuing and reliable basis.
Discussions focused on four main topics: future directions for IAEA safeguards, technology, infrastructure development, and human capital. The latter three topics were addressed in breakout sessions to define issues and options for international cooperation.
Future Challenges: Participants noted that IAEA safeguards remain a foundational component of the international nonproliferation regime, but are under increasing stress. The most urgent concern involves safeguards compliance in relation to North Korea, Iran, and Syria. A more general concern involves the IAEA's ability to detect undeclared nuclear activities and sound the alarm early enough to respond promptly and avert major international crises over questions of compliance. This will require ensuring that the IAEA can exercise its proper safeguards authorities and has the resources to do so. It was noted that this will also require greater effort to speed the IAEA's transition from a safeguards system focused almost exclusively on material accounting to one that evaluates all relevant nuclear activities within a state. Whether to break with the traditional balance between safeguards and technical cooperation was also noted. Success, in this regard, could be defined by renewed support for the robust exercise of the Agency's safeguards authorities, by the introduction of new measurement and analytical technologies, by bringing along a new generation of safeguards experts, and by instilling a global safeguards "culture," as addressed below.
Technology: Discussions revealed general agreement that changes in the international environment, whether in the context of proliferation dynamics, the evolution of safeguards to a state-level approach, and renewed interest in nuclear power, make updates to safeguards technology imperative. The discussions identified two key challenges: applying safeguards at declared locations, especially at complex, bulk-handling facilities and for new nuclear reactor and fuel cycle technologies; and developing tools to verify the absence of undeclared activities and to investigate suspicious activities. Technologies identified to help meet these challenges include information collection, analysis, and integration, environmental monitoring, and sample analysis capabilities, including upgrades for the IAEA Safeguards Analytical Laboratory. Participants agreed that better understanding was needed of proliferation resistance and material attractiveness, including through risk analysis, and supported the adoption of a "Safeguards By Design" requirement, especially for new or proposed nuclear energy systems. The ability to collaborate with industry and among partner governments, including use of available facilities as a safeguards test-bed, was seen as critical.
Infrastructure: Discussions focused on international cooperation to promote a global safeguards "culture." Participants noted that assistance in safeguards implementation, including through the IAEA milestones process, can help advance this culture, particularly in states that are new to nuclear power or other peaceful uses. Promoting safeguards in combination with safety and security, as set forth in the "3Ss" concept introduced by Japan and agreed by the G8, would link the international security benefits of safeguards to the protection of the state's citizenry. Participants emphasized the need for coordination among states that provide assistance and with the IAEA in order to ensure consistent messages and goals and avoid duplication of effort. Suggested actions included conducting a resource survey in coordination with the IAEA to help determine needs; developing standardized guidance, e.g., for national legislation and state systems of accounting and control; designing common training materials training to improve the effectiveness and consistency of assistance; and organizing assistance on a regional basis, using local facilities and resources.
Human Capital: The discussions explored how to link IAEA safeguards as they are evolving with the expertise needed to maintain the system. Participants agreed that the varying levels of technical sophistication across states poses challenges in developing a common approach. Although the IAEA is international in scope, a relatively limited number of countries currently have the core of safeguards expertise. Training can therefore play a critical role in building safeguards expertise worldwide. Regional and international training programs, as well as exchanges of experts, practitioners, or students, can also play an important role in transferring knowledge. Regional "leaders" could serve as clearinghouses for information, training materials, and cooperation. Participants agreed that expertise needs to be developed at many levels, from a basic understanding of the structure of international safeguards to specialized expertise of the sort required by IAEA inspectors.
Possible Next Steps: Participants generally agreed that further consultation and cooperation are essential to support strong and effective IAEA safeguards, and welcomed NGSI for the important role it can play in this regard. While the focus of NGSI is domestic, to improve U.S. capabilities to support international safeguards development, its objectives are international but and require support from many states and the IAEA. While definitive plans have not yet been developed, the Chairman suggested a list of illustrative future steps. These include: an annual meeting next year to gauge progress on NGSI; topical or specialized meetings or workshops, with outcomes reported to next year's NGSI meeting; a session with the IAEA among "donor" states to exchange information on programs of safeguards assistance; joint studies or papers that address IAEA safeguards authorities and practices; meetings of technology holders on advanced concepts and approaches for centrifuge enrichment safeguards; and a survey of opportunities for safeguards technology collaborations.