Security top priority for nuclear industry development

Source:Xinhua Published: 2016-3-31 20:46:56

With the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit coming up in Washington, nuclear industry leaders from all of the world reiterated that security is essential for the industry's sustainable development and pledged to jointly strengthen nuclear security. 

"Safety and security has always been the top priority of the nuclear industry, and we attach great emphasis on security in our daily operations," said Sun Qin, board chairman of China National Nuclear Corporation. 

Sun made those remarks on Wednesday at the 2016 Nuclear Industry Summit (NIS 2016), which is an official side event of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit. More than 300 leaders from the global nuclear industry gathered here to address security issues within the nuclear energy industry. 

Sun's viewpoints were shared by many other attendees. 

"The very nature of the materials we have to handle (in the nuclear industry) brings the element of safety and security to the highest level," said Thomas Haeberle, CEO of URENCO, a UK-based nuclear energy company. 
"We continue to strive and adapt our processes to new challenges, like the cyber security. Safety and security is always the moving target and we always have to strive constantly to meet it as close and as good as possibly. This is the nature of our business," Haeberle said. 
It is widely known that nuclear technology and materials make a vital contribution to modern society through their application in industry, medicine, agriculture, research and other fields. 
According to Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industrial organization, nuclear power currently provides 12 percent of the world's electricity and has one of the smallest carbon footprints of any major energy source. 
Yet the global environment of nuclear security has become more challenging than ever, as "brutal attacks by ISIS and other organizations are on the rise, raising the specter of catastrophic nuclear terrorism if violent extremists get control of dangerous nuclear or radiological materials," said Sam Nunn, CEO of Nuclear Threat Initiative, an anti-proliferation watchdog. 
Moreover, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said recently that nearly 2,800 incidents involving radioactive material going out of regulatory control have been reported to the IAEA by its member states since 1995. 
"Fulfilling the promise of nuclear technologies in commercial applications and expanding their benefits to more people around the world depends on an unshakable foundation of safety and security. That is essential to everything we do," Marvin S. Fertel, president and CEO of Nuclear Energy Institute, said on Wednesday. 
Nuclear industry leaders attending the summit highlighted two major areas they need to manage currently in terms of nuclear security -- countering the increasing threat of cyber attacks; securing nuclear and radiological materials during use, storage and transport. 
"Managing cyber threat is of great concern to the industry globally, and involves threats not only to sensitive nuclear information, but also to plant controls and processes at nuclear facilities," said Fertel, who also serves as the chairman of NIS 2016.  
"The industry must ensure that all regulations to protect these materials and installations are effective and the industry is not only adhering to these requirements but is also striving for excellence," he added. 
As for managing nuclear materials, Fertel noted that the industry should "continue to minimize the use of highly enriched uranium at research and isotope production facilities, and to make the switch, where possible, to low-enriched uranium while ensuring that the production of critical isotopes at these facilities can continue." 
Progresses have already been made in some countries. For instance, one of China's nuclear reactors achieved full operational capacity after being converted from high-enriched uranium to low-enriched uranium earlier this month, according to Sun Qin. 
Experts believe there is still room for improvement in terms of nuclear security. 
"The industry must also take steps to increase security by improving security culture, engaging in ongoing personnel training, developing systems to test security on a regular basis, and advocating best practices. In addition, liability and insurance gaps must be carefully reviewed by those possessing radiological sources with exposure to high risks," said Nunn.  

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