Safeguards Symposium held in Vienna

The 11th IAEA Safeguards Symposium was held during the first week of November at the Agency’s headquarters in Vienna. Herman Nackaerts, head of the Agency’s Department of Safeguards, said the aim of the event was ‘to provide an opportunity…to explore possible solutions to the various current and future challenges that confront us and thereby to support the Agency’s verification mission’.

The technical plenary opened with the presentation of the Department of Safeguard’s strategic plan by Jill Cooley, director of the Concepts and Planning division within the Department. Introduced as the ‘first ever long-term’ plan, and running from 2012 to 2023, it sets out steps to advance the department’s three strategic objectives, namely: deterring the proliferation of nuclear weapons; contributing to nuclear arms control and disarmament; and improving and optimizing departmental operations and capabilities. The plan’s conceptual framework highlighted how the efficiency and effectiveness of the safeguards system could be improved by making it more information-driven and through the wider implementation of ‘state-level’ and ‘integrated safeguards’ approaches. The symposium sessions then moved on to exploring the plan’s strategies and objectives in more detail.

One session, referred to by Chile as ‘the most important of the Symposium’, was dedicated to exploring the possible uptake of new verification missions by the Agency, specifically in the disarmament field. Summing up the arguments made by Andreas Persbo, Ole Reistad, Jan Lodding and Tom Shea on this topic, John Carlson said that the IAEA was ‘well equipped’ on both the legal and technical fronts to take on greater responsibilities in the realm of disarmament verification. Indeed, in this respect, discussions are being held on how the Agency should assume its responsibilities under the 2000 US-Russia Plutonium Management and Disposition Agreement (see T&V 130, p8).

Besides discussions on new verification missions, several sessions focused on the need to enhance the Agency’s existing capabilities for its current work on safeguards. The need for universalization of the Additional Protocol was stressed many times as a matter of great importance. The symposium also underscored the need to address funding issues at the Agency. In John Carlson’s view ‘it is clear that there is a fundamental problem that resources are not keeping track with increasing workload’. If the Agency is ever to take on new verification roles, having an appropriate budget will be vital.

Sonia Drobysz, Paris