International atomic authority leans on member states to improve inspections
Discussion on the research and development needs in safeguards and verification between the IAEA and its Member States was the focus of a meeting of the Member State Support Programme (MSSP) coordinators last week. The meeting at the IAEA brought together 41 delegates, who were briefed on plans in the areas of research, technology transfer and operational support for verification activities. Since the IAEA does not have the financial resources to develop the instruments and techniques that inspectors use on its own, it draws upon its Member States to provide equipment, material and know-how facilitated by MSSPs to meet its safeguards responsibilities.
Through the programme, Member States provide extra-budgetary contributions to the IAEA in excess of €12.5 million annually. The money goes into funding for safeguards research and development, an activity that falls outside of the IAEA’s regular budget. Yet money isn’t the only assistance provided. Member States also give the IAEA access to facilities to train inspectors and use of laboratories to develop equipment and conduct analyses.
This week’s meeting marked China and Spain’s entry as new participants to the programme, with both Member States joining in 2007.
The meeting coincided with the publication of Safeguards ‘Research and Development Programme for Nuclear Verification, 2008-2009,’ a document released biennially that details the IAEA’s near-term activities in research, development and implementation activities.
Verifying the nuclear programmes of all non-nuclear weapons States is an increasingly challenging task, and with the expected global nuclear expansion looming, the burden on Safeguards is amplified. The IAEA inspects over 900 declared nuclear facilities in 70 countries.
The meeting took place from 8-11 April and was the largest ever.
The following Member States and bodies participate in MSSPs: Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, China, the Czech Republic, the European Commission, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Japan, the Netherlands, the Republic of Korea, the Russian Federation, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, the UK and the USA. The first MSSP was established in 1977.