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ISTC Contributes to Securing Nuclear Materials

The contribution of the International Science and Technology Center, Moscow


The security of nuclear and other materials is a worldwide priority. Both President Medvedev and Obama called for further actions in their joint summit statement of 6 July 2009. Earlier, the US President, in his April speech in Prague, announced: “a new international effort to secure all vulnerable nuclear material around the world within four years”. A special Summit meeting on this issue is foreseen next year. The European Commission calls in a policy document of 24 June for renewed efforts in order to increase internal security for its citizens.

Measures relate to improve accounting and security of nuclear and radioactive materials, enhance security at facilities and to improve early detection to prevent illicit trafficking.

Much depends now on technical support to offer concrete solutions and to make rapid reactions possible.

The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is one of the organizations that provide answers through its work at a scientific and technical level.

In the past years, it has funded various projects in the field of nuclear safety, safeguards and nuclear materials control. For example projects relate to the creation of mobile devices for detecting dangerous materials in containers and luggage but also to development of smart sensors and robotic elements. Methods were developed and systems were designed to contribute to nuclear materials control and accounting.



A number of ISTC activities are to be mentioned as countries and international organizations look for further technical solutions to secure nuclear materials. These can be divided among various categories:

a) Nuclear forensics:
These activities relate to the development of technical means by which nuclear materials are characterized as to composition, physical condition, age, provenance and history.
ISTC in the Past:
ISTC funded projects that have developed experimental methods and methodologies to determine source and geographical origin of sensitive materials. Methods for isotopic markers have been developed and refined. Results from such projects can be practically used for forensic examinations by law enforcement bodies and international agencies both for tracing materials and for illegal production prevention.
ISTC in the Future:
ISTC will develop international technical support for nuclear forensic activities. With increased risks of non-state actors being engaged in illegal nuclear and radioactive activities better international technical cooperation is necessary. A Nuclear Forensics Targeted Initiative (JNFTI) is being considered.

b) Accounting of Nuclear Materials
ISTC is engaged in verifying material balances and nuclear materials, which is the cornerstone of the IAEA’s safeguards system, which is composed of two separate activities: i) weight/volume and ii) content verification.
ISTC in the Past:
With the support of ISTC, Russian and CIS institutes developed Nuclear Materials Control and Accounting System Models for Complex Nuclear Facilities. In particular, ISTC funded the creation of and upgrade of Nuclear Material Protection and Control Systems (e.g. “Sosny” institute in Minsk, Baikal-1 Complex in Kazakhstan, VNIIEF in Sarov, VNIITF in Snezhinsk etc.). 
As a result of these ISTC activities, progress has been made in better physical protection and modern control and accounting systems of radioactive materials. 
ISTC in the Future:
The nuclear renaissance requires extra attention in relation to nuclear material accounting and enhanced security must be developed using modern information and communication technologies. ISTC can offer a framework for international cooperation, e.g., remote monitoring using Internet and satellite communication, remote control of sealing and protective devices, etc. Such cooperation will be based on the existing working relations with the IAEA and the US National Laboratories This will provide the international experience and oversight. 
ISTC will be able to bring together international experts to assist in the development of technological innovations in the verification of reductions in nuclear weapon stockpiles and related reliable control of retired nuclear materials. In fact, it received an outside suggestion to undertake such work. ISTC would provide the needed legal framework for such cooperation. 

c) Detection methods of nuclear materials
Methods and devices to detect nuclear materials mainly during transport whether it be private or commercial has been a focus of international research for years and will need to intensify over the coming decades. 
ISTC in the Past:
Various ISTC projects supported the development of new methods and instruments for nuclear and radioactive material detection and control, for example: 
- Development of devices for Fissile Material (FM) detection and control by coincidences of neutrons and photons (based on different methods like digital technology and a pulsed DD neutron source, different neutron detection methods etc.);
- Development of devices for the control of the composition of highly enriched FM samples;
- Development of advanced seals and other control tools for FM storage containers;
- Design of new safer and more secure transport casks for nuclear materials and radioactive wastes.
ISTC in the Future:
The global threat related to uncontrolled and /or illegal handling, trading, and trafficking of nuclear materials is a significant concern.
There are several ISTC projects addressing the control of nuclear materials. One of which is at SOSNY in Belarus, where ISTC is funding works.

d) Safe and secure storage
These activities relate to the establishment of various facilities including security and surveillance procedures to ensure the safe storage of nuclear materials and to prevent unwanted access.
ISTC in the Past:
ISTC has funded projects related to nuclear power safety, in particular, to safeguard the back end of the nuclear fuel cycle, i.e. safe and secure radioactive waste management. As part of ISTC supported projects new designs were developed for casks and containers utilized to more securely store radioactive spent fuel.
ISTC in the Future:
The safety of nuclear power reactors and the management of their spent fuel are important components of future nuclear power facilities. In general a non -proliferate nuclear fuel cycle is a prerequisite for future nuclear power development. The way forward is via further international cooperation and additional projects to innovate related technologies.

The international community faces a very important task to see that nuclear materials stays out of the hands of unwanted third persons. Technical work needs to be stepped up to achieve these objectives. ISTC provides the framework to unlock expertise and know how for this purpose.


The International Science and Technology Center (ISTC) is an intergovernmental organization connecting scientists from Kazakhstan, Armenia, Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Georgia with their peers and research organizations in the EU, Japan, Republic of Korea, Norway and the United States.


ISTC facilitates international science projects and assists the global scientific and business community to source and engage with CIS and Georgian institutes that develop or possess an excellence of scientific know-how.

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