Safeguards symposium opens

Today, the IAEA safeguards symposium opened in Vienna. The meeting heard several presentations. One of the most notable was delivered by Jill Cooley, Director of Concepts and Planning at the IAEA Department of Safeguards.

Ms Cooley presented the long-term strategic plan for the IAEA’s safeguards department. The plan, which runs from 2012 to 2023, includes those steps deemed necessary to advance the department’s three overall strategic goals: deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons; contributing to nuclear arms control and disarmament; and optimising departmental operations and capabilities.

More specifically, Ms Cooley outlined five strategic issues that the safeguards department would need to engage with (or continue to) over the next ten years.

First, an ongoing need to support the global nuclear non-proliferation regime by providing credible assurance of the peaceful nature of states’ nuclear programmes – or, if a state’s intentions are less benign, to detect the misuse of nuclear material under its control.

Second, a need to continue to work to build support among IAEA member states for the Agency’s safeguards and verification (including efforts to ensure that these activities are adequately funded).

Third, a need to be ready to take on any other nuclear verification roles that the safeguards department may be called upon to engage with in the future.

Fourth, a need to be able to cope with the growing number of nuclear facilities appearing around the world as the so-called nuclear renaissance takes hold.

And fifth, a need to develop and implement safeguards approaches – and the required tools – for new types of advanced nuclear facilities.

Ms Cooley also addressed the importance of the state-level, information-driven approach to safeguards developed by the Agency to improve the effectiveness and efficiency of its nuclear verification activities.

In terms of information, the strategic plan includes a need to enhance the diversification of resources, a need to make the maximum use of information acquired and a need to improve the evaluative process to which that information is submitted. In her presentation, Ms Cooley also addressed the need for the Agency to keep all stakeholders informed of the nature of global proliferation challenges and their impact on the safeguards system – and to explain, in doing so, why the system continually needs to be refined and improved upon.

Over the course of this plan’s duration, it will further be useful to improve departmental communication and collaboration at the Agency itself, Ms Cooley noted. And that, she said, involves not just structural matters, but the various technical and cultural aspects of life working at the IAEA as well. Working to identify and exploit the ‘synergies’ between offices and departments at the Agency – including the office of the director-general – would lead to a stronger system all round.

Ms Cooley ended her presentation by outlining the expected benefits of the plan. Among them was the expectation that its implementation would enable the safeguards department to provide better information to member states, as well as allowing for more unified planning and long-term thinking within the department itself. The document is to be reviewed and revised over the course of its duration, noted Ms Cooley, adding that strategic planning should become a regular feature of the Department’s working model.

David Cliff, Vienna