On 5 July, the United Nations Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) organized a webinar on non-proliferation and nuclear security as the second of three webinars on the pillars of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) (disarmament, non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy). UNODA and the IAEA have co-organized a series of similar webinars since 2020 as one way of maintaining momentum in the lead up to the Tenth NPT Review Conference, which has been postponed on multiple occasions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
The goal of this webinar was to present expert views and perspectives on the importance of achieving and maintaining highly effective nuclear security, including the physical protection of nuclear and other radioactive materials. It sought to foster dialogue on an array of questions regarding the future of nuclear security, the role of legal non-proliferation and security frameworks in supporting the NPT, prospects for strengthening existing measures, and resources available to enhance global nuclear security regimes.
The event began with brief statements from the moderator, Ambassador Dominika Krois of Poland, who introduced a series of important concepts and raised questions about the current state of global nuclear security.
In his opening remarks, Mr. Thomas Markram, Deputy to the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, highlighted the constantly evolving nature of nuclear security and commended the IAEA for its comprehensive guidelines on nuclear safety. He also noted the importance of United Nations Security Council resolution 1540 in its role imposing obligations which strengthened legal frameworks and mechanisms to prevent acquisition of nuclear materials by non-state actors.
The keynote address was given by Ms. Elena Buglova, Director of the IAEA’s Division of Nuclear Security, in which she highlighted the important role played by the IAEA in global nuclear security. Ms. Buglova provided relevant historical data highlighting the necessity of physical protection of nuclear materials and emphasized the crucial role the IAEA played in pursuit of improving nuclear security over the past fifty years. She noted that nuclear security goes beyond the physical protection of materials, stating that “nuclear security focuses on the prevention and detection of, and response to, criminal or unauthorized acts involving or directed at nuclear material.” She also emphasized the IAEA’s priorities as outlined in the Nuclear Security Plan 2022-2025 and the importance of the 1987 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and its amendment which entered into force May 2016. Ms. Buglova stated that the IAEA provided assistance to member states to enhance their existing security capabilities, and that the Nuclear Security Training Center, scheduled to be completed in 2023, would allow the IAEA to respond to requests for practical nuclear security training.
The event included statements from three panelists, Ambassador Juan Facetti (Permanent Representative of Paraguay to the IAEA), Ms. Kathleen Heppell-Masys (Director General of the Directorate of Security and Safeguards at CNSC, Canada), and Ms. Pamela West (Principal Staff Officer, Policy and Strategy, Office of the National Security Advisor, Nigeria) who provided pertinent information from their various backgrounds in the field of global nuclear security. All speakers highlighted the significance of nuclear security in its contribution to the success of the implementation of the NPT, and identified various methods on national, bilateral, or multilateral scales that could be taken to improve nuclear security and confidence in the peaceful uses of nuclear materials. Specific suggestions made by speakers included utilization of advisory services to identify and fill gaps in nuclear security regimes, adoption of measures to meet the needs of emerging technologies and the threats they pose to nuclear security, and increased sharing of best practices to encourage communication and cooperation between States Parties.
The event closed with president-designate to the 10th NPT Review Conference Ambassador Gustavo Zlauvinen underscoring that incorporating high standards in nuclear security facilitated the expansion of peaceful uses and technologies, and that previous review conferences had highlighted the importance of following IAEA guidelines and recommendations. He mentioned the International Convention for the Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism as an important component in preventing any and all threats towards nuclear materials by terrorism, promoted support for the IAEA to achieve its goal of full outreach and the establishment of widespread nuclear security culture, and stressed that the upcoming Review Conference was the forum in which to propose measures to address the significant overlap between nuclear risks and technology.
The next and final webinar in the series before the 10th NPT Review Conference, titled The Role of Nuclear and Radiological Safety in the peaceful applications of Nuclear Science and Technology is scheduled for July 7th.