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Title: Strengthening IAEA Safeguards for Research Reactors

During their December 10-11, 2013, workshop in Grenoble France, which focused on the history and future of safeguarding research reactors, the United States, France and the United Kingdom (UK) agreed to conduct a joint study exploring ways to strengthen the IAEA’s safeguards approach for declared research reactors. This decision was prompted by concerns about: 1) historical cases of non-compliance involving misuse (including the use of non-nuclear materials for production of neutron generators for weapons) and diversion that were discovered, in many cases, long after the violations took place and as part of broader pattern of undeclared activities in half a dozen countries; 2) the fact that, under the Safeguards Criteria, the IAEA inspects some reactors (e.g., those with power levels under 25 MWt) less than once per year; 3) the long-standing precedent of States using heavy water research reactors (HWRR) to produce plutonium for weapons programs; 4) the use of HEU fuel in some research reactors; and 5) various technical characteristics common to some types of research reactors that could provide an opportunity for potential proliferators to misuse the facility or divert material with low probability of detection by the IAEA. In some research reactors it is difficult to detectmore » diversion or undeclared irradiation. In addition, infrastructure associated with research reactors could pose a safeguards challenge. To strengthen the effectiveness of safeguards at the State level, this paper advocates that the IAEA consider ways to focus additional attention and broaden its safeguards toolbox for research reactors. This increase in focus on the research reactors could begin with the recognition that the research reactor (of any size) could be a common path element on a large number of technically plausible pathways that must be considered when performing acquisition pathway analysis (APA) for developing a State Level Approach (SLA) and Annual Implementation Plan (AIP). To broaden the IAEA safeguards toolbox, the study recommends that the Agency consider closing potential gaps in safeguards coverage by, among other things: 1) adapting its safeguards measures based on a case-by-case assessment; 2) using more frequent and expanded/enhanced mailbox declarations (ideally with remote transmission of the data to IAEA Headquarters in Vienna) coupled with short-notice or unannounced inspections; 3) putting more emphasis on the collection and analysis of environmental samples at hot cells and waste storage tanks; 4) taking Safeguards by Design into account for the construction of new research reactors and best practices for existing research reactors; 5) utilizing fully all legal authorities to enhance inspection access (including a strengthened and continuing DIV process); and 6) utilizing new approaches to improve auditing activities, verify reactor operating data history, and track/monitor the movement and storage of spent fuel.« less
 [1] ;  [1] ;  [2]
  1. Lawrence Livermore National Lab. (LLNL), Livermore, CA (United States)
  2. Los Alamos National Lab. (LANL), Los Alamos, NM (United States)
Publication Date:
OSTI Identifier:
Report Number(s):
DN4001010; TRN: US1700440
DOE Contract Number:
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Research Org:
Pacific Northwest National Lab. (PNNL), Richland, WA (United States)
Sponsoring Org:
Country of Publication:
United States