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ISTC Cooperates with the European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA)

On 14-16 May 2019, ISTC participated in a ESARDA Symposium on Safeguards and Nuclear Material Management convened in Stresa, Italy. This year ESARDA, the association of European organisations formed to foster, advance and harmonize research and development (R&D) in the area of nuclear safeguards, celebrates its 50-th anniversary. At the symposium, the association surveyed the remarkable record of its achievements in R&D in the field of nuclear safeguards and in the application of such R&D to the safeguarding of source and special fissile materials under the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The key element of ESARDA's activities is the frequent interaction between researchers, plant operators and safeguards authorities. More than 250 experts from these categories attended the symposium, coming from Europe and other parts of the world.

In his opening statement, Stefan Lechner, Director of EURATOM Safeguards and coordinator for cyber security policy in the Directorate General for Energy of the European Commission, acknowledged ESARDA’s contribution to the present day smart information management of safeguards data. In his turn, Massimo Aparo, Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency compared ESARDA to “a kind of lighthouse” for international inspectors, increasing their ability to detect undeclared nuclear materials and activities. The joint and shared application of sophisticated detection equipment was the main massage of Dr. Brent Park, Deputy Administrator for Defense Nuclear Nonproliferation, Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Security Administration, USA. Ambassador Jānis Zlamets, the Nuclear Suppliers Group Chair, noted the important role of ESARDA to ensure effective export control. In a key-note address Dr. Ronald Schenkel, former Director General of the EC Joint Research Center, recalled the timeline of the emergence of the European platform, supporting nuclear nonproliferation, while a group of pupils from a European Primary School illustrated through their posters and exhibits how the coming generations perceive the nuclear topics and the nuclear agenda for the next 50 years.

ESARDA has recently concluded its Reflection Group 2019 report in which a number of topics were addressed with respect to the future of the association. Two of them - how to broaden the membership, both geographically and topically, and how to better engage the young generation - were directly connected to the roundtable on Outreach and Partnership, at which the ISTC representative, Kamen Velichkov, SPM & DA, made a presentation, entitled: ISTC in Support of the EU-African Partnerships in Nuclear Safety and Safeguards.

The presentation was based on the experience accumulated by ISTC throughout the implementation of EC-funded projects in Africa, in particular, the multiple countries project Support to Southern African States in Nuclear Safety and Safeguards, funded by the EC DEVCO under the Instrument for Nuclear Safety Cooperation, and also through the support ISTC accorded to the establishment of the network of professionals African Young Generation in Nuclear (AYGN) – the African Chapter of the International Youth Nuclear Congress.

The Project involves four African countries (Tanzania, Malawi, Namibia and Zambia) and offers capacity building support to the relevant Southern African Development Community (SADC) working group - the Nuclear Regulators’ Network. The Project draws on South African and on European experience as evidenced from the Training Workshop Course: Nuclear Safety, Security and Safeguards in the Transport of Uranium Ore Concentrates and Other Radioactive Materials, carried out in Krugersdorp, South Africa, and the study visit to the Eurajoki site: TVO Nuclear Power Plant and Nuclear Waste Facilities in Finland. Such forms of knowledge transmissions help create conditions for adoption in Africa of internationally established standards in nuclear safeguards. Within the Project’s framework the young professionals from AYGN adopted a position statement, pledging -inter alia- ‘to support the application of safeguards requirements … and to create awareness and commitments thereof among the governments and the populations across the [SADC] member states…

These examples from ISTC engagement with African partners, governments and professional communities alike, illustrate that ESARDA may count on a reliable partnership with ISTC in addressing some of the short term and mid-term objectives of the Roadmap suggested by the Reflection Group 2019. The nuclear safeguards are a world-wide undertaking, with multiple players, and the strength of the overall system requires to get all shareholders involved on board and geared up to a sufficient level of implementation and compliance.

ISTC stands ready to share with ESARDA relevant data that may be useful with regard to knowledge preservation and management; interlinks of safeguards with safety and security; strategic export control; the impact of innovations; the interactions between dedicated expert groups with the aim to reach out to other nuclear disciplines and to team up with related specialized infrastructure and/or initiatives, for example, the nuclear security support centers or the EU CBRN Centers of Excellence.

The collaboration between ISTC and ESARDA has a lot to draw on from the reservoir of accumulated knowledge and experience by both organizations, but they also have a lot of new challenges to face together.

The European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA) provides a forum for the exchange of information and ideas between nuclear facility operators, safeguards national authorities and international inspectorates, and persons engaged in safeguards-related research and development. This co-operation is effected through co-ordination and harmonisation of the R&D work of the ESARDA partners, by the exchange of information and assistance at a technical level, and by the joint execution of programmes or parts thereof, including training related to nuclear safeguards. From its origins in 1969 as a partnership between the European Atomic Energy Community (Euratom) and the Kernforschungszentrum Karlsruhe (KfK), expanding in the following few years with the inclusion of a number of additional partners (or “Parties” to the ESARDA Agreement), by end-2018 ESARDA included 33 Parties from within the EU. In addition, a further eight laboratories, authorities, operators and academic institutions from outside the EU have joined ESARDA as Associate Members.

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