Work starts on IAEA nuclear security training facility

13 July 2021

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has begun construction at its Seibersdorf facility near Vienna of a new building that will house a nuclear security training centre. The IAEA Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre - scheduled to be operational in 2023 - will help strengthen countries' abilities to tackle nuclear terrorism in areas such as the illegal trafficking of nuclear material and the physical protection of facilities and major public events.

A rendering of the future IAEA Multipurpose Building which will house the Nuclear Security Training and Demonstration Centre (Image: IAEA)

The construction of the centre was marked with a ground-breaking ceremony yesterday attended by IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi and representatives of the agency's Member States.

The new centre will provide more than 2000 square meters of specialised technical infrastructure and equipment, the IAEA said. Hands-on training will be conducted on demonstration systems and virtual reality environments. These platforms will emulate security systems used at nuclear power plants, research reactors and border crossings.

Participants will practice procedures on access and alarm controls, inspect physical protection systems, better understand computer security risks, and learn how to sweep an area for radioactive material during major public events, among other activities. Exercises at the training centre will also strengthen capabilities in radiological crime scene management and nuclear forensics.

The centre, and the multi-purpose building that will house it, has so far drawn over EUR11.3 million (USD13.4 million) in extra-budgetary funding, indicating strong support from IAEA Member States to the Agency's work in nuclear security. Saudi Arabia, the UK and the USA pledged EUR8.3 million, EUR2 million and EUR1 million, respectively.

"This centre will help us in supporting countries to remain ahead of the curve in guarding against nuclear terrorism," Grossi said. "It will reinforce the central role the agency plays in this area of international importance."

The IAEA has been offering training in nuclear security since the early 1970s. Requests for such training, however, have increased in recent years due, in particular, to the 2016 entry into force of the Amendment of the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material - "the most significant international legal instrument in the fight against nuclear terrorism". In addition, the need to support Member States in the protection of nuclear material has become greater as more countries embark on nuclear power programmes or start construction of research reactors.

The IAEA Seibersdorf facility, which opened in 1962, houses eight nuclear applications laboratories working in food and agriculture, human health, environmental monitoring and assessment, as well as two safeguards analytical laboratories for nuclear verification.

Researched and written by World Nuclear News