IAEA says field verification is back above pre-pandemic levels: Regulatory and safety

June 15, 2022

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it has conducted more than 3,000 field verification activities at more than 1,300 nuclear facilities and sites, with more than 14,600 days in the field in 2021 – plus an additional 2,135 days on the land quarantined.

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi visited Finland’s Olkiluoto nuclear power plant, a nuclear facility under IAEA safeguards (Image: Dean Calma/IAEA)

Details of the organization’s activities are contained in its recently released safeguards statement for 2021. IAEA safeguards are technical measures included in safeguards agreements to verify that nuclear material is intended for peaceful use. In his report, he also indicates that the quantity of nuclear material under safeguards has increased by 2.1%.

“The IAEA has successfully adapted to the restrictions related to COVID-19 and was also able to carry out the field verification activities carried over from 2020,” said Massimo Aparo, Deputy Director General of the IAEA and Chief of the Department of Guarantees. “While travel restrictions, including quarantine requirements, are still enforced in some states, the agency has stepped up its verification efforts to draw independent and robustly safeguards-based conclusions.”

The full reportincludes details showing how 2021 activity levels compare to previous years:

IAEA_safeguards_2021_IAEA_730.jpg(Image: IAEA Safeguards Statement for 2021)

The IAEA said it was able to “draw safeguards conclusions for 185 of the 186 states with safeguards agreements in force. The only state without a safeguards conclusion is the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, also known as under the name of North Korea, where the IAEA did not implement safeguards and, therefore, could not draw any conclusions”.

Of the 185 States where safeguards were implemented during the year, 177 had concluded a comprehensive safeguards agreement. Of these, 132 also had an additional protocol in force which “significantly increases the IAEA’s ability to verify the peaceful use of all nuclear material”.

The IAEA claims that in 2021 it was able to say for 72 states having a comprehensive safeguards agreement and an additional protocol “all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities”. For the other 105 states with comprehensive safeguards agreements, the IAEA said “declared nuclear material remained in peaceful activities”.

For the five countries with active voluntary offer agreements (USA, China, France, Russia and UK), the IAEA concluded that “nuclear material in selected facilities to which safeguards had been applied remained for peaceful activities or had been withdrawn from the safeguards as provided for in the agreements”.

For Eritrea and the Federated States of Micronesia, new comprehensive safeguards agreements with a small quantities protocol – for states with little or no nuclear material and no plans to build facilities – entered into force during the year, with an additional protocol for Eritrea as well as for Zimbabwe.

The agency also reported that the year saw a member state support program established with Switzerland – the first new support program since 2013 – joining a group of 20 other support programs provided by individual EU member states. IAEA and the European Commission. Member State Support Programs support IAEA safeguards through financial contributions, training, technology transfer and expert collaboration.

“In 2021, we have strengthened our safeguards implementation support to our member states, while building new partnerships in support of our mission,” Aparo said. “Implementing effective global nuclear verification requires cooperation between the IAEA, its counterparts and our partners – cooperation that is essential for the future success of our mission.”

Research and writing by World Nuclear News

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