IAEA project considers implications of counterfeit and fraudulent items

13 March 2024

Trade in counterfeit and fraudulent items accounts for an estimated 2.5% of world trade, according to a 2021 study by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. A major research project aims to assess the implications for the nuclear sector.

(Image: L Han/IAEA)

The trade in counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items (CFSI) is believed to have been exacerbated by supply chain interruptions such as those caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), further globalisation "complicates the supply chain, and diminishes or completely prevents the transparency and traceability of items as they change hands on their way to the final customer ... this lack of transparency in production practices or traceability of item integrity allows for the pervasive issue of CFSI infiltration to take place on a grand scale".

Such items do not undergo the rigorous quality assurance procedures that legitimate items do and may also deviate from prescribed specifications and can be found in a range of industries and commercial sectors, including the nuclear industry, the IAEA says.

The inadvertent or malicious insertion of counterfeit or fraudulent items can diminish the integrity of equipment, systems, structures, components or devices, posing a significant risk to nuclear operations, and associated security and safety systems, it warns.

A one-year Coordinated Research Project is taking place to "identify lessons learned and best practices and develop strategies and tools for the prevention and mitigation of the nuclear security implications of CFSIs within the nuclear supply chain".

A number of individual projects are taking place as part of the overall research project, which when combined "will represent a holistic approach for minimising the likelihood that CFSI could initiate a nuclear security event".

One of the projects under way is by researchers at King’s College London who are carrying out a survey of nuclear professionals aimed at identifying approaches, lessons and best practices for combating counterfeit and fraudulent items. Participation in the survey is anonymous and full details can be found here. The survey closes on 30 April.

The IAEA lists the specific objectives for the Coordinated Research Project as to:

  • Define legislation considerations that allow counterfeiters and fraudsters to be held accountable through criminal prosecution, financial penalties, or other means
  • Understand strategies for requiring suppliers and sub-suppliers to engage in practices to mitigate the existence of CFSIs through contractual agreements and other regulations.
  • Develop techniques, tools, and technologies to non-destructively identify CFSIs within the supply chain, or during in-service inspections.
  • Promote methods for greater cooperation between law enforcement and other nuclear supply chain stakeholders (such as operators from other countries).
  • Establish channels for efficient and effective information sharing.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News