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Nuclear security implications of counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items

Aerial view of nuclear power plant

King’s academics are working on a project for the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) focused on the nuclear security implications of counterfeit, fraudulent and suspect items (CFSIs) in the nuclear supply chain. CFSIs, commonly known as ‘fake goods’, do not undergo rigorous quality assurance procedures as legitimate items do, and may also deviate from prescribed specifications. Due to the catastrophic impacts of a potential uncontrolled radiation release on human health and the environment, CFSIs present a particularly heightened concern for the civil nuclear industry. The inadvertent or malicious insertion of CFSIs into the nuclear supply chain can diminish the integrity of equipment, systems, structures, components or devices, with risks to nuclear security and safety. They thus pose immediate and extended threats to work safety, facility performance, the public and the environment – and also drive up the costs of doing business.

The civil nuclear industry is increasingly aware of the need to develop measures both to mitigate the nuclear security implications of CFSIs that have infiltrated the nuclear supply chain, and to prevent their introduction altogether. But even where operators follow the correct procedure of acquiring materials or components from a legitimate manufacturer or supplier, there is still a possibility that these items are CFSIs or contain them. Thus the issue of CFSIs extends much further than the materials or components alone, through to the extended supply chain, procurement processes, and human regulatory inputs.

The project team is developing a detailed handbook that explores through a series of case studies the security implications of CFSIs entering the nuclear supply chain. The case studies will focus on impacts to a range of items at nuclear facilities, including equipment, systems, structures, components and devices. In particular, the research seeks to uncover incidents of the malicious insertion of CFSIs – and seeks to explain motivating factors for this emerging phenomenon as well as the broader international security context. As there are few known cases of such incidents in the public domain, the study will draw upon the experience of other industries too. The research will provide policy recommendations to the IAEA and its Member States for preventing CFSIs from entering the nuclear supply chain, mitigating the risks and consequences of their presence, and facilitating their detection and removal.

The project is part of an IAEA Coordinated Research Project (CRP), which brings together research institutes in both developing and developed Members States to collaborate on research topics of common interest. More information about CRPs can be found on the IAEA webpage.

Aims

  • To raise awareness across IAEA Member States about the growing issue of CFSIs in the nuclear supply chain.
  • To provide detailed information about the nuclear security implications of CFSIs and communicate this to a range of stakeholders, including government, regulators, operators, research and academia.
  • To provide policy recommendations on CFSIs, focused on: preventing CFSIs from entering the nuclear supply chain; mitigating the risks and consequences of their presence; facilitating their detection and removal.
  • To collaborate with other partners within the CRP to develop a consistent approach to the project and build on synergies.

Impact

By carrying out detailed research into this understudied phenomenon, the project at King’s will help spread global awareness of the nuclear security implications of CFSIs and contribute to improved protection of nuclear and radiological materials. The handbook will be disseminated to all IAEA Member States and made available on the King’s website, helping to ensure sustainability of the research project that lasts during the period of the CRP and beyond.