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Inspector Gadgets: Gaming the Future of Nuclear Verification

by
Shirley Ann Jackson, Ph.D.
President, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute

Safeguards Tools of the Future
Workshop/Seminar of the International Atomic Energy Agency
Brookhaven National Laboratories
Upton, New York

Monday, October 10, 2005


I begin by congratulating the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and Director General Mohamed ElBaradei upon the award of the Nobel Peace Prize.

Nevertheless, the awarding of the Nobel to the IAEA and the Director General underscores that the use of nuclear energy as a tool for human progress, because of its perils, demands of humankind the highest and best qualities we possess in negotiation and diplomacy, technological innovation, and international cooperation.

Which is what this gathering is here, today, to discuss.

The future, unfortunately, is known only to prophets. For the rest of us, it all comes down to what-if scenarios, risk analysis, and smart planning. And yet, we all must deal in the currency of prediction. Whether in the role of a university president, a government executive, a scientific researcher, or a nuclear weapons inspector, being good at what we do means that we must study the past, monitor current trends, and anticipate change before it happens. Sometimes, remarkably, we succeed.

To set the stage for the topic today — to understand the task of forecasting future challenges for safeguarding nuclear materials and facilities against weapons proliferation — requires only a brief look at recent history.

Humankind, beginning with the scientists of this country, has had nuclear weapons in its grasp for roughly 60 years. In that short span, what we have witnessed? Five recognized nuclear weapons States. The enactment of, and near-universal subscription to, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The development of nuclear weapons by India, Pakistan, Israel, and (presumably) North Korea. The Cuban missile crisis. The renunciation of nuclear weapons programs by South Africa, Brazil, Argentina, Canada and other countries. Countless changes of government on multiple continents. The break-up of the USSR. Multiple regional conflicts, some festering for decades. The early 1990s discovery of a clandestine nuclear weapons program in Iraq — a full-fledged member of the NPT.

Turn the clock forward. Consider events of just the past five years. A leap forward in the sophistication of terrorist networks — evidenced most dramatically in the attacks of September 11, 2001 in New York City; the war in Iraq, following an impasse at the UN Security Council over suspicions of Iraq's renewed development of weapons of mass destruction; North Korea's withdrawal from the NPT, and announcement of its possession of nuclear weapons. Multiple attempts to assassinate President Musharraf of Pakistan — quite possibly with a coup in mind that could have had the keys to that country's nuclear arsenal change hands overnight. Libya's voluntary relinquishment of a nuclear weapons program. The emergence of A. Q. Khan's illicit network for procuring and passing on nuclear equipment and material. And a 2 1/2 year investigation of Iranís clandestine nuclear program, still ongoing.

Ladies and gentlemen, if that is a five-year window, what are the scenarios we should be visualizing for the next five years, or ten, or twenty? I have not asked to see the scenarios you will be gaming over the next few days, but I have a few questions of my own to postulate:

  • What prevents an armed theft of highly enriched uranium (HEU) at one of the 99 research reactors around the world, with HEU enriched to 90% or greater uranium-235 (i.e., weapons-grade)?
  • Given that Libya obtained nuclear weapons blueprints on a compact disc, and given the enthusiasm of black-market merchants, why should we be confident that those plans were not copied and shared with other countries and sub-national groups?
  • Why should we have any assurance that the political upheavals of the next two, three, or four decades will not result in acquisition and use of a nuclear weapon by an extremist group.
  • With the rapid pace of technology morphing from discipline to discipline, what is the likelihood that, based on one of several next generation wireless technologies, a nuclear weapons control system could be hacked, leaked, or even sabotaged by a disgruntled "insider"; or an outsider, for that matter?

But, with recent history as a backdrop, and with these and other scenarios as potential future challenges, the critical question is this: how do we assure ourselves that the IAEA, as the pre-eminent international nuclear verification organization, will be staying ahead of the game, looking in all the right places, catching up with catastrophes before they happen, and distributing its limited resources according to areas of greatest risk?

For the title of my talk today, I have chosen: "Inspector Gadgets: Gaming the Future of Nuclear Verification." For those of you unfamiliar with the mid-1980s U.S. cartoon television show or the more recent movie, perhaps an explanation is in order.

"Inspector Gadget" was sort of a superhero for nerds — a crime fighter whose strength resided not in supernatural powers or preternatural intelligence, but in his robotic assemblage of tools that always proved adaptable to the challenge of the moment — a telescoping arm, a hat that transformed into a helicopter, or a necktie that doubled as a camera and telephone. Interestingly, the Inspector's perennial nemesis was referred to as MAD — the Malevolent Agency of Destruction.

I have alluded to Inspector Gadget to make a simple point: namely, that successful nuclear verification will continue to require a fluid interface between the physical tools or technologies, the professionals who put those tools to use, and the institutions they represent.

Given my own background as an educator, a research scientist, and a government official, I am more than a little familiar with "gaming the future" in each of these areas. Nevertheless, I am not here to tell you which types of inspector expertise, or which advanced gadgetry, or which institutional arrangements, are right for the IAEA. In fact, you should not expect to leave this workshop with all those questions answered. Rather, it is my hope with this discussion to stimulate a way of thinking strategically about the future, a way of identifying the proper questions to be asked, of prioritizing the risks to be addressed, and of assembling the people, the technologies, and the institutional policies and relationships that will bring success to the IAEA enterprise.

I. People Do Not Grow on Trees!

In my youth, a favorite phrase of many parents was to tell their overly greedy children, "Money does not grow on trees!" The same might be said of another vital resource: "People do not grow on trees, either!" In fact, for any complex scientific enterprise to endure, it must give careful consideration to the cultivation and recruitment of the human talent needed to fuel its success. In our times, that exercise is not getting any easier.

For some time, I have been speaking to a broad range of audiences about what I call "The Quiet Crisis" in U.S. Let me explain:

Scientists and engineers comprise a mere 5 percent of our 132 million person U.S. workforce. Yet this small group, for decades, has driven the powerful engine of American innovation. This innovation has fueled our global leadership, our economy, and our security. It has been the wellspring of our prosperity.

The problem is that, for the past couple of decades, conditions have been shifting. Fewer U.S.-born students are entering university programs in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) fields. A large portion of our skilled science and engineering professionals are nearing retirement. Opportunities are increasing exponentially abroad, due to greater investment in basic science by the governments of China, India, and other high-growth countries — which in turn lead to greater academic and career choices for foreign students and workers, and fewer countries who find it necessary or attractive to export their talents to the United States. Visa restrictions, due to enhanced security measures, are making it more difficult for those who want to study and work here. And last, but far from least, U.S. Government investment in basic research has declined by half since 1970 as a percentage of the gross domestic product.

This convergence of trends — what I have sometimes likened to a convergence of meteorological factors with potential to produce "the perfect storm" — puts in jeopardy the American innovation enterprise. It threatens to impact, in the near future, the strength of our research and development efforts, the resultant volume and freshness of our intellectual and technological assets, and our capacity for innovation. In short, it requires prompt action.

But, what is its relevance of all of this to the IAEA and the future of safeguards verification?

The simple fact is that the U.S. is not the only country or entity facing this "quiet crisis." The same educational and workforce trends are emerging, to varying degrees, in a high percentage of Western and other advanced industrialized countries, particularly those with heavy economic reliance on science- and engineering-based enterprises. And, at the IAEA, which traditionally has drawn heavily on such countries to replenish its expert workforce, the effects are beginning to show.

For a decade or more, the IAEA safeguards workforce has been aging. While the number of inspectors and other professionals has increased, the percentage of those between age 55 and the mandatory retirement age of 62 has increased disproportionately. Over the same period, the percentage of IAEA inspectors holding science and engineering doctorates has decreased — from 32 percent in 1985 to 18.6 percent in 2000. And recruitment is getting harder; having a smaller pool of candidates with the necessary expertise means that the IAEA must compete with private enterprise and national governments in hiring individuals with the proper skills, despite offering inferior compensation packages, long hours, and hectic travel schedules.

If true, these trends come at a time when the scrutiny of the work of the Agency has increased, and where technological advances, new policies (most notably the Additional Protocol to comprehensive safeguards agreements), and even globalization have added additional burdens of specialization and scope. The inspector of yesterday headed to the field with a calculator, a notepad, a few seals, a few rolls of film, and an Improved Cerenkov Viewing Device (ICVD). The inspector of today carries a GPS device, a digital camera, a laser tool for precision measurements, and a universal radiation detector. But more importantly, the nature of the inspection and the sheer volume of information to be digested have changed.

Safeguards inspections were traditionally limited to a list of sites and facilities, and a precise quantity of nuclear material that had been declared to the IAEA under the safeguards agreement of the country in question. But, for the increasing number of countries that have concluded an Additional Protocol, the inspector is given greater rights of access to undeclared sites and facilities. The Safeguards Department must identify and follow up on questions of how a country's other scientific and engineering activities comport with what has been declared to the IAEA. And, the Agency must work towards delivering a much broader conclusion, offering assurance to the international community that no undeclared (or clandestine) nuclear activities or facilities or material exist in the country under inspection.

As a result, during field work, the inspector may encounter and need to be familiar with a much broader range of safeguards-related systems, components, and monitoring equipment. And, on returning to the office, the task is no longer simply to compile an inspection report; it also entails reviewing the longer, more complex list of what has been declared under the Additional Protocol, preparing a country-wide evaluation report, and reviewing the relevant stacks of information compiled from open sources — collected by search engines and safeguards specialists, drawing on the ever-expanding volume of information available through the Internet and other media.

The bottom line is that, at the same time that the safeguards workforce is aging, and recruitment is getting harder, the set of skills required for IAEA verification is broadening significantly. What does all this tell us? As we look to the future of IAEA verification, it demonstrates why "gaming this future" — using current trends to predict possible scenarios and to prioritize needs — will be essential to developing a clear approach to succession planning for the people who will make up the IAEA safeguards workforce.

I would suggest four specific areas in which strategic planning will be vital.

First, a clear profile of the skills needed must be developed, with an understanding of how they fit together. It may not be feasible for each safeguards inspector to possess the "complete package." Even from this short overview, one might conclude that the ideal candidate should be a socio-economic analyst, a skilled communicator, and a seasoned engineer certified in multiple fields. Division of labor will be an important consideration, as will the definition of how these different specialists interact with one another (i.e. interdisciplinary teams will become increasingly important).

Second, there must be proactive strategies for recruitment and development. Remember, "People do not grow on trees." It may no longer be sufficient, as it once was, to draw up a job description and to advertise it broadly. Once the skill set and inspector profile is clear, it will be important to identify the organizations, industries, and educational institutions capable of producing such individuals, and to keep tabs on fluctuations in these "resource" pools. I might add, an example of such a resource pool is the steady presence of RPI interns at the IAEA, working in the Department of Safeguards, through the US Support Program, primarily in the area of "surveillance and instrumentation." Such programs — with RPI, and other institutions — could well be expanded. Given that it takes many years to "grow" or "build" a highly skilled inspector, these strategies need to be in place well before the point of crisis is reached.

Third, the specialized IAEA safeguards inspector training will need to evolve to match emerging needs. That may not be as simple as it sounds. The skills of the most seasoned IAEA inspectors — for example, those who conducted the extensive mid-1990s inspections to seek out and destroy all aspects of Iraq's nuclear weapons program, or those who have had heavy involvement in recent investigations in Iran and Libya, reflect a level of experience and judgment that are not easily conveyed through traditional training methods. As these individuals retire, their on-the-job mentoring skills will no longer be available for junior inspectors.

Fourth, the Agency should make full use of the diversity that comes with its international base. Here, too, there is a parallel with the U.S. experience. The American demographic has altered over the past few decades, based on the increased population of ethnic and racial minorities which, when combined with women, have created a "new majority." These groups traditionally have been underrepresented in science and engineering fields in the U.S., and an increasing number of educators, and industry and government leaders are realizing the importance of tapping this talent pool to create the next generation of scientists and engineers.

The same consideration, obviously, applies to the IAEA. Given the international reach of Agency safeguards (and other) activities, a geographically diverse workforce is an immense and enviable strength. For the safeguards inspector pool, it should be a strategic asset, a means of enhancing cultural sensitivity, bridging language barriers, supplying critical regional and cultural insights, and in some cases perhaps improving ease of access. At the very least, it should prompt active recruitment strategies in every region and country with the relevant organizations and academic institutions.

II: Technology On the Cutting Edge: Staying Ahead of the Game

Which is more important to the future of effective IAEA safeguards verification — having the right people, or acquiring the latest and best suited technology? The truth is that the two are interlinked.

The key aspect of modern technology is the pace of change. No matter what cell phone you are carrying in your pocket, it is not the latest version. In multiple fields, the newest inventions of just a few decades ago are already obsolete. At no point in the history of civilization has the body of applied knowledge advanced so rapidly on so many fronts. The reason? An increasingly global passion for scientific and technological innovation, fueled by the human conviction that nothing we can imagine is impossible to achieve, turbocharged by the synergy of multidisciplinary interaction, the free flow of capital, and near-ubiquitous "world-flattening" communications technologies.

In such a world, how can we expect the IAEA to stay ahead of the game — anticipating future scenarios, acquiring and adapting the latest technology, and training inspectors on its use? The answer, in my view, is complex.

Tools for the Inspector

Consider the role that advanced technology has played in recent years, in exposing clandestine nuclear programs. Satellite monitoring has played an important role in detecting changes in nuclear and other facilities; and advanced analysis techniques, including 3-D visualization technology, have enhanced the capability for interpreting those changes. Laboratory analysis of swipe samples, and other environmental samples, has played a key role in uncovering previously denied nuclear activity — for example, in determining the nature and origin of HEU contamination found on centrifuge equipment.

The network of analytical laboratories (NWAL) on which the IAEA relies uses an array of advanced nuclear forensic techniques. Fission track particle analysis involves using ashing or ultrasoneration for removing particles from an environmental sample, then spreading the particles onto a plastic track etch film, and subjecting them to thermal neutron irradiation. The particles with fissile isotopes leave "damage tracks" in the film, which can be etched to make them visible under a light microscope for comparative selection and further analysis. Another technique, known as secondary ion mass spectrometry — which involves bombarding the sample surface with a primary ion beam and conducting mass spectrometry on the secondary ions emitted — also is useful for measuring the isotopic composition of micrometer sized particles from environmental samples. These and other techniques have played a seminal role in re-constructing the history and nature of past and present nuclear programs — in particular, in understanding the chronology and types of activity, and the origin of the nuclear material involved.

Part of the success of IAEA efforts to date has been its ability to use these technologies to retrieve far more information than anticipated by the countries in question — perhaps because so few laboratories worldwide are capable of certain types of analysis.

The most sophisticated forensic analysis of environmental samples available takes place in laboratories in other countries. This apparently means that the turnaround time for sample results getting back to the IAEA is two to eight months. This dependence on third party analysis limits the ability of the IAEA to derive its results in "real time," i.e. in a time frame which allows action quickly enough to be completely effective.

Clearly, the IAEA safeguards program of the future will continue to be in need of innovative technologies to uncover undeclared nuclear facilities and activities. For all the sensitivity of laboratory analysis, the extended delay in receiving sample results is a disadvantage of the environmental sampling process. Whether future techniques involve noble gas sampling, neutrino detection, or some technology as yet undeveloped, the goal in this area will be to stay ahead of the game through the creation and use of quicker turnaround times.

The IAEA uses remote monitoring cameras — from facilities all over the world — that transmit directly to IAEA Vienna pictures of key monitoring points (at the rate of something like 1 frame per 5 minutes), not to monitor every person's every movement, but to prevent the removal of material or equipment that would be significant.

In my understanding, inspectors, currently, do not go into the field with video equipment, much less use live-feed equipment that would let them transmit in real time, if they saw something suspicious which they wanted to discuss with an expert at Vienna Headquarters, or on which they wanted or needed more analysis done.

Innovative technologies will be needed for more sophisticated tracking of nuclear material, for conducting data analysis in the field, and for real-time consultation with experts in other locations. Innovative nanostructured enhancements to IAEA seals — whether of the metallic, adhesive, fiber optic, electronic or ultrasonic type — could improve their versatility and tamper resistance. And, many aspects of new optical and communications technology can be applied to IAEA cameras and transmission devices to improve their capacity for remote surveillance and monitoring of sensitive nuclear facilities and operations.

Materials embedded with nanostructured sensors, enabled by information technology and distributed intelligence offer opportunities for more real-time monitoring and detection of the diversion of nuclear materials.

The National Intelligence Council's 2020 Project noted the monitoring and control of the export of sensitive technological components (including nuclear technology) will become more difficult because dual-use technologies such as sensors, computing, and communications technologies, and advanced materials, are simultaneously being developed for applications in everyday commercial settings and in military applications. In addition, joint ventures and globalized markets (such as the market in nuclear technology) may challenge nation-state efforts to keep track of sensitive technologies.

What, also, is not clear is how much "learning" has taken place among those who might hope to foil future investigations. In other words, what have these experiences taught them about possible ways to foil IAEA detection of future nuclear secrets?

The Effect of a Nuclear "Expansion"

A remarkable trend of recent years has been the change in attitudes toward nuclear power. In many countries, including the United States, the advisability of investing in nuclear power is being viewed more positively, due to a combination of factors, including: the rapid worldwide growth in energy demand, concerns about the security of energy supply, and increasing fears of climate change. Moreover, the sustained improvements in operational safety performance and availability (capacity factors) of nuclear power plants have made operating costs low and stable. The result is an emerging expectation for a global expansion of nuclear power in the coming decades that would have been unimaginable even five years ago.

Russia plans to double its nuclear capacity, from 22 gigawatts today to 40-45 gigawatts by 2020. China plans a six-fold increase in nuclear capacity by the same date. And India, currently with eight plants under construction, intends to increase its nuclear capacity by a factor of 10 by 2022, and plans a 100-fold increase by mid-century!

While plans elsewhere are somewhat more modest, nuclear power is clearly regaining stature as a 21st century source of energy. Other countries that have begun new construction, or have signaled a clear intent to expand their nuclear capacity include Argentina, Bulgaria, Finland, Iran, Japan, Mexico, Pakistan, South Africa, South Korea, and the United States. Additional developing countries, new to the nuclear option, such as Indonesia and Vietnam, also are moving forward with plans for nuclear power investment.

Two aspects of this anticipated nuclear "expansion" are relevant to our discussion. First, it is easy to foresee a sizeable increase in the number of facilities that will come under IAEA safeguards. While the timing of this transition could be influenced by many factors — including, for example, decisions India will be making in terms of making its civilian nuclear facilities subject to IAEA verification — the potential is clear for a marked increase in the volume of regulatory oversight required, at a time when additional resources (particularly human resources) are not easy to come by.

The second relevant aspect relates to what I would call "preventive" safeguards technology — that is, advanced nuclear energy designs that incorporate features to enhance proliferation resistance, or designed with effective safeguards in mind. For example, some of the innovative reactor designs still in development would employ modular cores that would only need refueling every 30 years. New fuel configurations could also be used to enhance the control of sensitive nuclear material.

Innovative technological approaches could be used to reduce the proliferation concerns associated with other parts of the nuclear fuel cycle, or other nuclear applications. For example, techniques being considered for making plutonium less readily useable for weapons, perhaps by blending it with minor actinides, could lessen the proliferation vulnerability associated with plutonium stockpiles. And efforts are underway to convert the vast majority of research reactors around the world to the use of low enriched rather than high enriched uranium. However, more than 20 research reactors remain that cannot be converted because of the lack of equivalent LEU fuels. A higher density fuel, based on uranium-molybdenum alloys, will be required in order to achieve this anti-proliferation objective.

The bottom line is that opportunities are many and varied for applying technological innovation to combat nuclear weapons proliferation. Whether those innovations involve "preventive" safeguards technology incorporated into the design of nuclear energy systems, or "detection" technology to be used in the field and the laboratory to verify the peaceful use of nuclear technology and material, the objective is the same. In either case, the use of advanced "prediction" methodologies to "game out" future scenarios will give a more efficient focus to planning and needed R&D.

III. Institutional and Policy Innovation

Having considered the "human" and "machine" aspects of IAEA safeguards, what remains? The third pillar of strategic planning involves what is sometimes referred to as the "soft" features: the institutional arrangements — that is, the legal instruments, policies, intra- and inter-organizational relationships, and even the mindset and culture that play a vital role in the effectiveness of the enterprise.

As with any organization, the IAEA works within a set of restrictions that sometimes may seem awkward. The response of come organizations and individuals to last Friday's award of the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize to the Agency made clear that some organizations still find the dual IAEA statutory mandate contradictory — that it is tasked, on the one hand, with promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and on the other hand, with preventing the proliferation of non-peaceful uses. Other analysts point to the limitations inherent in the IAEA verification role: the Agency is tasked with combating the proliferation of nuclear weapons, but, its authority extends only to following up on activities directly related to the known use of nuclear material.

I would point to a third aspect of possible awkwardness. The IAEA mandate clearly makes it a key end-user of cutting edge safeguards technology, yet it has no independent capacity (or financial resources) for inventing such tools. As a result, the Agency must rely on its member countries — those subject to a greater or lesser extent, to IAEA regulation — to provide it with the advanced technologies needed.

Traditionally, there has been a reluctance on the part of the "technology holders" — including the United States — to offer the latest national technology to an international organization, as the "first user." That is a natural perspective, which, depending on the technology in question, can be related to national security, commercial, or other concerns. However, in a case where an organization like the IAEA is serving interests that directly support international security — and, IAEA inspectors have far more on-the-ground access to suspect facilities and locations in a given country than that of other countries' national intelligence efforts — some innovative re-thinking of this perspective may be warranted. And, in areas where strategic forward thinking helps to clarify specific IAEA safeguards technology needs, it would seem sensible to channel the efforts of research laboratories and institutes toward meeting those needs.

Innovation also has been useful in developing new policies and legal frameworks to augment the existing NPT regime. The Additional Protocol to safeguards agreements, which provides the IAEA greater access to locations and facilities, grew out of the early 1990s discovery of Iraq's clandestine nuclear weapons program, and the realization that relying on a country to report its nuclear material and activities was insufficient grounds for assurance that its programs remained peaceful. The Model Additional Protocol was approved in 1997, and eight years later has still not been universally accepted by all NPT member countries. On the other hand, it has proven its value repeatedly — including in the 2004 revelations of past nuclear experiments in South Korea that had gone unreported, but came to light when South Korea's Additional Protocol was put in place.

Given such successes, other new frameworks and policy tools also should be considered that could strengthen the non-proliferation regime and make it more suited to 21st century challenges. In addition to calling for universal application of the Additional Protocol, Dr. ElBaradei, President Bush, and others have proposed arrangements that would seek to eliminate the need for additional countries to construct proliferation-sensitive fuel cycle facilities — to conduct uranium enrichment or plutonium separation, for example.

A first step would be to establish measures for "assurance of supply" — that is, a fuel bank, for which the IAEA could serve as guarantor, so that all countries that choose to use nuclear energy could rely on the provision of reactor fuel at reasonable prices. The U.S. recently announced that it would donate 17 tons of HEU, to be down-blended for use in such a fuel bank. And, the Nuclear Threat Initiative, an organization founded by former U.S. Senator Sam Nunn and CNN Founder Ted Turner, recently made clear that it was ready to assist the IAEA in establishing such a fuel bank in a neutral country. According to Dr. ElBaradei, once such a mechanism for assurance of supply was established, it would pave the way for the next step: establishing a framework for multinational control over any new uranium enrichment and plutonium separation facilities, and gradually working to bring existing facilities under such an arrangement.

Such an approach is fraught with questions of national sovereignty — especially for those countries (including the U.S.), being asked to give up control over key nuclear capabilities. Initiatives such as this clearly would require new international conventions and protocols, with a heightened capability to monitor activities.

Another aspect of strategic policy innovation — with direct relevance to regulatory oversight — involves prioritization according to risks. Let me share an example from my own experience as a nuclear safety regulator.

In 1995, when President Clinton appointed me to be the Chairman of the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), the safety performance and production efficiency of the U.S. nuclear industry were showing slight improvement compared with the previous two decades. But, relatively high operating costs, mediocre performance, and the unpredictability of regulatory oversight and attendant costs were continuing to cause nuclear power plants to be retired well before the end of their intended 40-year lifetimes.

My approach, over time, was to shift the NRC and the U.S. nuclear industry to "risk-informed, performance-based" regulation. This meant directing oversight toward issues presenting the greatest safety hazard. Rather than devoting equal oversight resources to all plants, the NRC concentrated on plants (and activities within plants) with less than optimal performance. While all plants were subjected to a baseline inspection program, based on risk assessment, those with a demonstrated strong commitment to meeting objective safety criteria were able to continue to improve their performance with less regulatory interference. Quantitatively, probabilistic risk assessment of nuclear designs and operations was applied much more widely to facilitate a risk-informed, performance-based approach to both regulation and operation. Probabalistic risk assessment (PRA) had been developed in the 1970s as a quantitative methodology for assessing risk in nuclear power plant design and operation. It is not an exact predictor of risk, but helps in assessing relative risk. PRA is structured in a way such that its predictive capability is enhanced through the use of data from operational experience — both, for individual plants themselves and, where appropriate, across nuclear power plants nationally and globally.

This approach created clear incentives, and began to pay immediate dividends — both in terms of regulatory resource distribution and in terms of the safety and performance benefits for plant operators.

The risk-informed approach now is being adapted at the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) to materials regulation. The key issue always rests with what untoward outcome one wishes to avoid, and what logic sequence can be developed quantitatively to perform an integrated safety assessment.

My point in giving this illustration is not to suggest a direct adaptation of the NRC safety regulation model to an IAEA safeguards regulation model. Rather, I believe it illustrates the benefits that can accrue through a logical, systematic application of risk analysis as a tool for prioritization. While some IAEA member countries, from time to time, call for the selective application of less thorough IAEA oversight, it is clear that the IAEA reputation for fairness and impartiality depends heavily on the evenhandedness of its safeguards verification activities. In this context, any prioritization of IAEA regulatory activity would have to be fairly and objectively applied to all member countries. But as the IAEA resources for safeguards oversight are stretched ever more thinly, as more and more facilities come under safeguards, and inspector recruitment becomes more difficult, some type of "risk-informed" prioritization may be of great benefit.

In a case such as the work of the IAEA, a risk-informed verification might work if it assesses where safeguards vulnerabilities are, where oversight can break down, the role of technology in that breakdown or the detection of that breakdown, and if it considers the human interface with technology, policy, and administrative controls. This combined with the kind of gaming scenario-building you are planning here, could greatly strengthen IAEA safeguards oversight, work prioritization, and resource distribution.

It is important to understand that an effective safeguards regime cannot depend upon the IAEA alone. It is dependent upon a shared multi-lateral approach, with a central "honest broker." Its authority and capabilities must derive from that multilateral approach, rooted in accepted and implementable international conventions, a coherent "risk-informed" regulatory approach, the latest and most effective tools, and the people to apply them.

Finally, I believe it is worth thinking innovatively about policies to ensure that the information the IAEA needs to conduct effective safeguards is being provided from member countries. This could include, for example, promptly reporting to the IAEA information on the export of "dual-use" equipment, instances in which criminal activity involving nuclear and radioactive material has been detected, and any other information relevant to the illicit procurement or sale of sensitive nuclear equipment. This information, combined with advanced analysis techniques, should be helpful in detecting patterns of activity and continuing to "stay ahead of the game."

Conclusion

I hope that this brief overview will provide a "big-picture" context for your activities over the next few days. As has been evident throughout my discussion, and certainly as you will learn in the remainder of the workshop, "gaming" the future of IAEA verification is no game. It is compelling work, and deadly serious, as you move forward in trying to anticipate and prevent one of the greatest threats to civilization — nuclear weapons proliferation and nuclear terrorism.

Your success will lie in analyzing your own history, together with current trends, to plan strategically for the people, the technology, and the institutional arrangements best suited to the future of IAEA safeguards. As I said at the outset, this workshop may not give you answers, but you should leave here confident that you have a better handle on the questions! I congratulate you on choosing such a mission, and I wish you every success.

I, again, congratulate the IAEA for the recognition it has received for its work so far.


Source citations are available from the division of Strategic Communications and External Relations, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. Statistical data contained herein were factually accurate at the time it was delivered. Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute assumes no duty to change it to reflect new developments.

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