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Opening Remarks At The Third International Meeting On Next Generation Safeguards

December 14, 2010

Good morning and welcome to the Third International Meeting on Next Generation Safeguards.

Let me start by thanking you for your attendance and participation.  I am delighted to see our colleagues from the International Atomic Energy Agency and other international safeguards organizations, delegations from so many countries, and representatives from the nuclear industry here at this meeting. 

The objective of this meeting is to promote the practical application of Safeguards-by-Design, an endeavor that will require close cooperation between all of our organizations. 

In his landmark nuclear security speech in Prague last year, President Obama made clear that we must work together to strengthen the international safeguards system.  We must modernize the technology we use, improve the training, and increase the resources we devote to ensuring that nations are not diverting nuclear materials, technology and know-how from peaceful programs to weapons programs.

That is what the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative is all about. Our mutual goal is to work with our partners in industry and the international community to develop the tools and technologies to strengthen international safeguards. 

Throughout the next two days, you will share your unique perspectives, experiences, and the lessons learned in order to develop appropriate recommendations for practical application of safeguards-by-design in new nuclear facilities that may be built in the coming years and decades. 

As Secretary Chu has made it clear, nuclear power is very likely to play a role in the clean energy revolution of tomorrow. Many of the countries represented here today have already taken steps down this path. As we work to see nuclear power develop as a source of clean, carbon free energy, we must also work together to ensure that greater reliance on nuclear energy does not worsen the threat posed by the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials. 

That is why my organization, the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA), has worked so hard to strengthen the international safeguards system.

International safeguards promote confidence in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, deter and provide possible early warning of nuclear weapon programs, and provide a robust basis for conclusions about a state’s compliance with its nuclear nonproliferation obligations.  President Obama has linked the goal of seeking the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons to a strong international safeguards system. 

NNSA launched the Next Generation Safeguards Initiative in 2008 to develop a set of policies, concepts, technologies, expertise, and international partnerships necessary to strengthen and sustain the international safeguards system as it evolves to meet current and long-term challenges. 

This past year, NGSI focused on projects that address a number of the most pressing long-term priorities for international safeguards, including:

1.    Revitalizing the safeguards human capital resource base;
2.    Strengthening State Systems of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Materials (SSACs);
3.    Developing improved concepts, approaches, and technologies for facility and state level safeguards implementation;
4.    Transitioning to new information-driven safeguards; and
5.    Promoting the widespread implementation of safeguards-by-design.

Our principle goal is to develop the technical base – the technologies, human capital, infrastructure and expertise – needed to sustain the international safeguards system.

Even as the international safeguards system confronts a growing and evolving workload, the system is already becoming strained by an aging human capital resource base.  A recent survey of the United States safeguards community conducted by NGSI projects that over 80% of its current international safeguards experts will retire or leave safeguards related work within fifteen years.  Studies conducted by the IAEA project similar human capital shortfalls.

This is why we have made revitalization of our human capital base in the NNSA a top priority.  We are facing a similar problem across all of our science, technology, and engineering efforts.  In order to attract the best and brightest professionals to the nonproliferation and safeguards fields, NNSA is working with 9 universities to develop new coursework on international safeguards and nonproliferation.  We are sponsoring internships at our National Laboratories for 136 students from 64 universities, and are launching a new graduate fellowship program to strengthen National Laboratory and university partnerships.

We hope that these and other efforts to attract the next generation of safeguards professionals will encourage other countries and organizations to promote the kind of international cooperation we will need to keep pace with emerging safeguards challenges.  I would particularly like to thank our colleagues from the Republic of Korea, Japan, and EURATOM for working with us to develop the next generation of safeguards professionals.

As we recruit, train and hopefully retain the next generation of nuclear safeguards experts, we must also ensure that we are strengthening the state institutions responsible for fulfilling IAEA safeguards obligations.  In 2010, our NGSI sponsored training courses to strengthen the accounting and control of nuclear materials in over twenty countries with expanding nuclear programs, and we partnered with ten advanced nuclear countries and regional inspectorates in technical collaborations to improve nuclear material accounting and control capabilities.

Take, for example, nuclear material accounting and control.  We are working to enable the use of process monitoring, which can complement traditional material accounting by using instruments and methodologies that increase the probability of detecting diversion, even in large throughput nuclear facilities. 

And that brings me to the specific subject of this meeting: safeguards-by-design.  NNSA is working with the IAEA to advance and institutionalize safeguards-by-design so that international safeguards measures are more fully integrated into new nuclear facilities, along with safety and security measures from the outset of the design process.  This will help operators avoid costly and time-consuming redesign efforts, save the IAEA time, money and effort, and ultimately enhance the effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation.

At the Second International Meeting on Next Generation Safeguards last year, co-sponsored by NNSA and Japan’s Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science and Technology, participants noted the need for increased information exchange on the incorporation of safeguards requirements into new types of fuel cycle facilities through the safeguards-by-design approach. 

Today’s meeting is an opportunity for us to continue moving forward with the recent progress that the IAEA, NNSA, and others have made.  We hope that the findings and recommendations produced by these efforts will be considered in detail during our working group discussions tomorrow and that our collaboration at this meeting will contribute positively to the IAEA’s development of facility-specific safeguards-by-design guidance documents.

No one country can lay the foundation for next generation safeguards on its own.  Rather, as evidenced by the broad array of countries represented here today, we must each bring our strengths to the table and work together.

This type of cooperation is essential if we are to position the international safeguards system to respond to present and future challenges.

Thank you, and please accept my best wishes for a successful and productive meeting.  I look forward to hearing of the positive outcomes from today’s meeting.