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International safeguards conversations highlight achievements from last 30 months

The Office for Nuclear Regulation (ONR) has attended two key engagements as part of its ongoing work to ensure the UK meets its international safeguards obligations and implements domestic legislation.

This week, ONR attended a virtual two-day The European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA) implementation of safeguards working group meeting to discuss with fellow European counterparts its past and ongoing activities supporting safeguards implementation in the UK.

Mahtab Khan, ONR's Safeguards Delivery Lead, gave a presentation about the UK safeguards implementation, which was first undertaken by ONR at the end of 2020 after the exit from the European Atomic Energy Community (EURATOM).

Mahtab told online attendees, which included representatives from Finland, France, Belgium, Sweden, Spain, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland and Switzerland, how ONR's collaborative working with International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) colleagues has allowed it to continue to deliver UK’s safeguards obligations.

ONR has established an effective legal framework, where it is the statutory regulatory authority with the tools to enforce the provisions of the Nuclear Safeguards Regulations 2019.

To establish its role as part of the UK State System of Accounting for, and Control of, Nuclear Materials, ONR put in place a structured recruitment, training, development, coaching and mentoring programme which built the necessary capability and capacity in short timescales.

The COVID pandemic was a huge challenge for all within the industry, Mahtab reflected, however, ONR worked closely with all stakeholders and facilitated all IAEA missions successfully.

The purpose of the ESARDA working group is to provide the nuclear 'safeguards community' with proposals and expert advice on the implementation of safeguards concepts, methodologies and approaches aimed at enhancing effectiveness and efficiency on all levels.

Established in 1969, ESARDA is a forum for the exchange of information and ideas between nuclear facility operators, safeguards authorities and persons engaged in research and development.

Also taking place this week, Alan Homer, ONR’s Professional Lead for Safeguards, attended an IAEA Standing Advisory Group on Safeguards Implementation (SAGSI).

Held in Vienna, SAGSI regularly provides the Director General of the IAEA with expert advice and recommendations on technical topics related to IAEA safeguards.

Established in 1975, SAGSI is composed of up to 20 members who are recognised safeguards experts. Members are appointed by the Director General and serve in their personal capacity.

Each year, the group holds two series of meetings, consisting of a working group and followed by a plenary session. Alan is attending this one in Austria.

ONR became the state regulatory authority for nuclear safeguards two-and-a-half years ago.

This has enabled the UK to meet all its new international safeguards obligations and monitored the country’s compliance with international obligations not to use nuclear materials from civil nuclear programmes for non-peaceful purposes.