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NNSA conducts nuclear safeguards workshop for North African countries

A technical expert leads exercise attendees through a radioisotope production building on Morocco’s research reactor site.

Experts from NNSA and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted a workshop to promote the adoption of the Additional Protocol and provide training on Complementary Access for 15 nuclear safeguards practitioners from Algeria, Morocco, and Tunisia earlier this month in Rabat, Morocco. The course was co-hosted by Morocco’s National Center for Nuclear Energy, Sciences, and Techniques.

International nuclear safeguards are technical measures used to verify a country is in compliance with its legal agreements with the IAEA and not diverting nuclear material to weapons programs or pursuing undeclared nuclear activities. The proliferation challenges of the early 1990s demonstrated that IAEA inspectors required more information and greater access in order to provide credible assurances to the international community that each member-state’s nuclear material was fully declared and not being diverted for illicit uses. The approval of the Additional Protocol by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1997 serves as a testament to the international community’s enduring belief in a strong and robust safeguards system.

“The highlight of the course was a mock Complementary Access exercise on the site of Morocco’s research reactor,” said NNSA’s Principal Assistant Deputy Administrator for the Office of Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Dave Huizenga. “This allowed participants to divide into smaller teams and practice roles similar to those required for a quick response.”

An NNSA training expert plays the role of an IAEA inspector with equipment that uses nuclear signatures to detect and identify nuclear material during a safeguards exercise in Morocco.

The teams accompanied training experts playing the role of IAEA inspectors through the reactor building and practiced facilitating a Complementary Access visit, with inspectors asking questions and using IAEA equipment to take measurements, photographs, environmental samples, and other means to confirm the absence of undeclared activities and material. Under an Additional Protocol, the IAEA has a right to conduct Complementary Access visits, which provide the IAEA with a tool to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material or activities, or to resolve an inconsistency with respect to a State’s declaration.

The short-notice Complementary Access permitted under the Additional Protocol serve as important tools in preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

The workshop aimed to strengthen the implementation of international nuclear safeguards and familiarize participants on how the IAEA works to verify reporting under the Additional Protocol.

NNSA and IAEA experts conduct a practical safeguards training exercise for North African countries at Morocco’s research reactor site.