Review of EU nuclear safeguards procedures

06 December 2013

The European Commission is to review its procedures for ensuring nuclear materials in the European Union (EU) are not diverted from peaceful to military uses.

It has released a tender for an expert to check its systems, which are coordinated by its directorate general for energy Directorate E, based in Luxembourg. The EC has 162 nuclear inspectors and a €20.5 million ($28.1 million) budget, conducting 1275 inspections in 2012, assessing 1.6 million records from nuclear operators. The commission said Directorate E is conducting an internal analysis of how it implements these checks, and wants an independent review to "identify, suggest and document any possible improvement."

The chosen contractor would assess concepts and methodology; internal organisation and procedures; interaction with external stakeholders; and verification evaluation and its effectiveness. The tender documents explain: "In all four aspects, focus is to be put on the efficiency of the use made of human and financial resources, while respecting the existing legal obligations under the Euratom Treaty and while maintaining the credibility and effectiveness of the Euratom safeguards system."

With regards to concepts and methodology, the consultant would be asked to consider whether the Commission's work "adequately cover the risk of possible diversion of nuclear material." The reviewer would assess the added value created by inspections. They will also be asked to propose inspection priorities, comparing assessments of quality of nuclear material; its quantity; and the type of nuclear facility involved, depending on the complexity of the technical process and/or the accessibility of nuclear material for safeguards verifications.

The consultant would also be asked to assess the importance of focusing on strategic installations (enrichment, fuel fabrication and reprocessing plants); those where deficiencies in the nuclear material accountancy and control system have been found; and plants where the risk of theft or loss is considered high. They will be asked to consider sample-taking and analysis; and assessments of how operators’ nuclear material accountancy and measurement systems fit external standards.

Regarding internal organization and procedures, the chosen consultant will assess how efficiently they are implemented and propose improvements. Targets for guidance would include the central accountancy system and nuclear accountancy bookkeeping verification. Also, cooperation between the directorate's accountancy and inspection units; its support and inspection units; the nuclear safeguards directorate, the radiation protection unit; and the financial cell, will be assessed.

On interaction with external authorities, the expert will especially look at liaison obligations under bilateral or multilateral international agreements. The commission wants proposals in boosting cooperation between the directorate and other commission services, notably the Joint Research Centre (JRC); the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA); non-EU countries, especially major nuclear material suppliers; EU member states and nuclear operators.

As for assessing the verification of evaluations, the selected expert will consider their quality, depth, relevance, completeness, coherence, conclusions and residual risk.

The tender documents say the study should propose revised safeguards implementation goals; revised concepts and principles; organisational modifications; and key performance indicators for future assessment of changes.

The deadline for tender applications is 31 January.

By Keith Nuthall
for World Nuclear News