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Civilian Nuclear Power Technology and Nuclear Weapons Proliferation


Development of Concept and Methodology for Assessing Risk of Nuclear Weapon Proliferation through Civilian Nuclear Power Systems

Tech Area / Field

  • FIR-NSS/Nuclear Safety and Safeguarding/Fission Reactors

3 Approved without Funding

Registration date

Leading Institute
VNIITF, Russia, Chelyabinsk reg., Snezhinsk

Supporting institutes

  • Kurchatov Research Center, Russia, Moscow\nFEI (IPPE), Russia, Kaluga reg., Obninsk


  • CEA/DEN/SAC / Systems and Structures Modeling Department, France, Gif-sur-Yvette Cedex\nCEA / DRN / DER / CEN Cadarache, France, Cadarache\nPacific Northwest National Laboratory / Battelle, Putting Technology to Work, USA, WA, Richland\nTokyo Institute of Technology, Japan, Tokyo\nSandia National Laboratories, USA, NM, Albuquerque

Project summary

Interest of the world community to the new technologies in nuclear power engineering has significantly increased in recent years due to the strategic importance of these technologies and lack of alternatives in terms of efficiency in the world economy. Some countries including the Third World ones develop nuclear technologies independently using their own scientific and economic potential, other countries prefer to purchase these technologies. So, the number of countries looking for NFC technologies grows, and if nuclear materials are not reliably protected, a threat of violation of nuclear non-proliferation regime might increase.

In the recent years a lot of research activities have been aimed to study features of nuclear fuel cycles, that could ensure proliferation resistance. Development of measures to protect nuclear fuel cycle against proliferation of involved in it nuclear materials is an important task of evolution of nuclear power engineering as technology capable of satisfying energy needs of humanity for its further sustainable development.

NFC geography is wide, however, the involved countries fulfill their international commitments on non-proliferation of nuclear materials and technologies using their national security systems. This leads to a possibility that, having got access to nuclear power engineering, some countries or international groups of terrorists having connections in the governmental circles of such countries would modify the technological process in NFC to pert weapon-usable nuclear materials (NM) from NFC, despite the international commitments.

Therefore, countries exporting or offering their NFC technologies to other countries should incorporate protective elements at the stage of the technology development. Threat of production or theft of fissile materials in quantities needed to create nuclear explosive devices is directly associated with the organization of the technological process of NFC.

The most effective solution to the problem of intrinsic proliferation resistance of the technological processes of NFC is to apply promising technologies incorporating a needed set of technical solutions and means that create a technical barrier counteracting attempts to pert NM from NFC. However, selection of an optimal technical barrier providing no significant increase of NFC cost requires a quantitative analysis of the proliferation risk.

Issues of the quantitative risk analysis are usually solved by combining stochastic treatment of the processes with negative effects (probability of destabilizing factors) and deterministic treatment of the consequences caused by these effects and economic criteria of incurred losses. This effort involves labor-consuming simulations.

Probability-based risk assessment becomes even more complicated if a human factor is treated properly. Thus, a detailed (ideal) description of the process of proliferation resistance assessment for NFC technologies leads to the development of a cumbersome mathematical model, for which it is usually difficult to compile actual initial data.

Practical activities of SUE RFNC-VNIITF, RSC KI and SSC-IPPE related to non-proliferation and tight scientific contacts with other involved institutions and organizations resulted in the development of different proposals on the conceptual approaches to the methodology of proliferation risk assessment.

To solve similar problems, RFNC-VNIITF uses simplified methodologies of quantifying vulnerability of the complicated man-machine systems, based on fuzzy logics. An integral parameter used in the model is based on the reliability theory; the model is described with a limited number of the most critical parameters allowing non-rigorous determination of the system vulnerability and potential effects on it. To ensure completeness of risk assessment at such approach, it should be complemented with a task of elaborating an economic criterion of potential losses caused by the negative effects.

RSC KI developed a method of quantile estimates of high-entropy distributions of probability density in order to assess risk of proliferation considering the following materials as initial ones: low-enriched uranium (LEU), highly-enriched uranium (HEU), reactor-grade plutonium (Pu(e)) from the spent fuel of NPP reactors and weapon-grade plutonium (Pu(w)).

The results of these efforts can be used to:

- develop methodology of proliferation risk assessment;
- assess effectiveness of institutional and technical means of proliferation resistance for nuclear material reprocessing technology; and
- identify ways of strengthening the non-proliferation regime.

The objective of the Project is to develop conceptual approaches to the methodology of assessing risk of weapon-usable nuclear material proliferation through civilian nuclear energy systems.


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