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Strengthening safeguards through regional cooperation: establishment of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network

Paper presented to the Annual Meeting of the Institute for Nuclear Materials Management, Baltimore, 11-15 July 2010


Reflecting factors such as the program to strengthen IAEA safeguards, the increasing recognition of the importance of a well-functioning SSAC (State System of Accounting and Control) to safeguards effectiveness and efficiency, and the growing interest in nuclear energy in Asia, for many years heads of national safeguards agencies in the Asia-Pacific region have been discussing the establishment of a framework for regional safeguards cooperation. This culminated in agreement in April 2009 to establish the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN). APSN formally came into operation on 1 October 2009.

APSN comprises organisations involved in nuclear safeguards matters in states of the Asia-Pacific region. Currently organisations from 14 states have joined APSN or are expected to do so. APSN's aim is to strengthen the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation in the Asia-Pacific region, working closely with the IAEA, through activities such as training, professional development and sharing of experience. APSN provides a forum for safeguards professionals to exchange views and to share experience on matters of mutual interest.


The establishment of a regional safeguards association, to promote greater cooperation amongst safeguards authorities in the Asia-Pacific region, has been under discussion for many years. The concept originated through discussions between the author and his Indonesian, Japanese and Korean counterparts – our respective organisations had bilateral ties with each other, and also with organisations such as the US Department of Energy and Nuclear Regulatory Commission that are major providers of support in safeguards and security matters in the region. The objective was to multilateralise these bilateral relations and to broaden participation to include other states in the region.

As the concept of a regional association developed, Australia decided to seek the support of APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation). In 2006 the APEC Energy Working Group and APEC Ministers endorsed the proposal to hold two workshops to explore the concept further. The first of these workshops was a senior officials meeting held in Sydney on 26-27 June 2007, co-chaired by the author and his Indonesian counterpart, Mr Sukarman Aminjoyo, then Chairman of the Indonesian nuclear regulator, BAPETEN.

A second senior officials meeting was held in Seoul on 15-16 April 2009, co-chaired by the author and his Korean counterpart, Mr Hun-gyu Lee, then President of KINAC (Korea Institute of Nuclear Nonproliferation and Control). This meeting had participants representing 14 organisations from 11 Asia-Pacific states, together with the IAEA. Participants agreed to the establishment of the Asia-Pacific Safeguards Network (APSN), with a formal commencement date of 1 October 2009. The author was appointed inaugural Chair of APSN.

The first meeting of APSN was hosted by Indonesia in Bali on 2-4 June 2010. The meeting was opened by Indonesia's Minister for Research and Technology, HE Mr Suharna Surapranata, and co-chaired by Dr As Natio Lasman, Chairman of BAPETEN, and the author. The meeting re-appointed the author as Chair of APSN.



APSN's objectives, outline of activities, membership criteria, and organization and structure are set out in APSN's Statement of Principles, agreed at the meeting in Seoul on 15-16 April 2009. The Statement of Principles is available on APSN's web site ( APSN members are also listed on the web site.

The main aim of APSN is to strengthen the quality, effectiveness and efficiency of safeguards implementation in the Asia-Pacific region, working closely with the IAEA, through activities such as training, professional development and sharing of experience. In this regard, APSN notes that the IAEA has identified the professionalism and capabilities of State Systems of Accountancy and Control (SSACs) as a key challenge for safeguards implementation.

APSN members recognise the essential contribution of IAEA safeguards to efforts in ensuring the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the importance of supporting the IAEA in effective and efficient safeguards implementation. It has been decided emphatically that APSN will not undertake any inspection functions, so APSN will not duplicate the work of the IAEA or national safeguards authorities.

APSN's activities will include:

  • facilitating the sharing of views, experience, knowledge and information;
  • coordinating and supporting training, capacity-building and professional development;
  • facilitating regional cooperation in safeguards practice and technical assistance;
  • facilitating collaboration in safeguards R&D and other activities.


APSN is a professional network, rather than a formal intergovernmental organisation. In this respect the APSN concept has been influenced by the model of ESARDA (European Safeguards Research and Development Association). The members of APSN are government or government-affiliated organisations responsible for application, implementation or development of safeguards in the Asia-Pacific region.

APSN participants decided against an intergovernmental organisation in order to ensure a level of informality, and a focus on issues of professional and practical interest. Participants decided against individual membership on the basis that there already exists a global professional organisation for individuals, the INMM (Institute of Nuclear Materials Management).

Effort is being made to ensure the best mix of member organisations. Ideally APSN should not be limited to safeguards implementing or regulatory authorities – it is important to also include organisations involved with policy development in safeguards-related areas. There is mutual benefit for safeguards practitioners to be exposed to policy issues and considerations, and for policy makers to have a better understanding of practical issues and concerns. Already the APSN membership includes some relevant Ministries, and it is to be hoped this mix will broaden as APSN grows.

The IAEA has permanent observer status in APSN, and the European Commission's Institute for Protection and Security of the Citizen (IPSC) has also been invited as an observer.


APSN is very informal. Decisions are by consensus. There are no membership fees.

Members appoint a Chair for a period of two years. The Chair is responsible for convening APSN meetings and arranging Secretariat functions. The Australian Safeguards and Non-Proliferation Office (ASNO) has offered to provide APSN's secretariat services for as long as this is the wish of APSN members.


Although the formal commencement date for APSN was 1 October 2009, in August 2009 ASNO, the US DOE's NNSA and the IAEA jointly held a domestic inspector training course for participants from Vietnam and Thailand which was regarded as the first activity under the auspices of APSN.

Apart from this course, work to date has focused on establishing the APSN web site, and loading on to the web site information on training courses and the like. The efforts of Pacific Northwest National Laboratory in establishing the web site and acting as site administrator are very much appreciated. The web site was started as a private site, with access limited to APSN members, but it is recognised that a public web site is necessary to provide information about APSN and its activities to a general audience. Consequently, the web site is being converted to a public site with a members-only area, rather like the INMM's web site.

The first major activity for APSN has been the holding of the inaugural meeting in Bali on 2‑4 June 2010.


Some specific areas of activity for APSN are outlined as follows.

Sharing of views, experience, knowledge and information

This is the area where APSN has the greatest potential. Safeguards are an intellectual discipline, involving science and technology, complex ideas, analytical skills, knowledge management, and so on. Not only do practitioners benefit from exchange of ideas and experience, in fact it is absolutely essential to do so.

The best way of fostering the sharing of ideas and experience is through face-to-face contact. A vital part of APSN's program of activities must be the holding of meetings, workshops, seminars and the like. There are two challenges here: first, organising these events takes considerable effort, APSN will depend on members who are able and willing to undertake this work. Second, and more challenging, is the cost of travel – for many if not most members, budgets are tight and travelling to meetings can be difficult.

There is no easy solution – some members have been able to support others with travel funding, and it is very much hoped that support of this kind will continue. In addition, members need to be alert to opportunities to meet on APSN business on the margins of other meetings, such as the IAEA General Conference or INMM meetings. Where there are other events involving a number of APSN members, such as regional training courses, it may be possible to add an APSN discussion to the agenda.

In addition to face-to-face contacts, the APSN web site will be very important. It is important for members to use the web site to the fullest extent, for posting information on available training, educational and professional development opportunities, and as a way of connecting members looking for information and advice with those who may be able to assist. APSN should also consider the possibility of mentoring arrangements, where professionals who would benefit from mentoring can be put in touch with those willing to act as mentors.

Another valuable function of the web site will be in providing an electronic library resource.

Coordinating and supporting training, capacity-building and professional development

In some ways this is the easiest part of APSN's program to take forward. Training and capacity-building programs have been operating in the region for many years, and there are well-developed arrangements for identifying needs, scheduling courses and conducting outreach. Bringing these activities under the APSN umbrella should involve only a marginal addition to existing working arrangements – though it is hoped that APSN will broaden the awareness and catchment of training, development and assistance activities.

A new area for development is the possibility of professional exchange programs, where safeguards professionals could gain experience through temporary secondments in other states. Obviously there are practical issues to be worked through here, and APSN can provide a framework for this. Another aspect is developing recognition of professional qualifications, so that safeguards professionals can pursue career opportunities in other states.

An exciting development is the establishment of new educational institutions and centres of excellence in the region. Examples include the Japan Atomic Energy Agency's Nuclear Nonproliferation Science and Technology Center, and the Masters Degree Program in Nuclear Nonproliferation Engineering offered by Korea's University of Science and Technology. At the Nuclear Security Summit in Washington in April 2010, China announced it will establish a centre of excellence in nuclear security, and Japan announced it will establish an integrated regional support centre for non-proliferation and nuclear security. APSN needs to coordinate with these activities, to ensure that information about them is available to APSN members and the potential benefit to APSN members is fully realised.

Facilitating collaboration in safeguards R&D and other activities

The IAEA is substantially dependent on Member State Support Programmes (MSSPs) for meeting its safeguards R&D needs. Operating a Support Programme is an important way for states to become familiar with practical safeguards problems, and, through helping to find solutions, to make an important contribution to the IAEA safeguards system.

A number of APSN states operate MSSPs, but for others the costs are too high. Collaboration is one way that involvement in MSSPs can be broadened – those members that operate a Support Programme should look for opportunities to involve others in collaborative projects.

Safeguards R&D is not limited to MSSPs – there are other areas of R&D that might not be sufficiently developed for the IAEA, or might not be focused on an IAEA application. APSN members should look for opportunities to be involved in programs such as the US DOE's Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI). Here too, collaborative projects can be a way of involving members that do not have the resources for a major stand-alone effort.

A mechanism needs to be developed in APSN to alert members to opportunities for collaboration, and to encourage those with R&D programs to be proactive in seeking collaboration.

Building a safeguards culture

One of the most important responsibilities for APSN will be to contribute to building a non-proliferation and safeguards culture in the Asia-Pacific region. This is a major challenge.

A safeguards culture will provide a strong foundation for the future development of safeguards practice in the region, ensuring there is a regional approach, shared professional standards and values. A safeguards culture will strengthen safeguards as a regional confidence-building and transparency mechanism.

A strategic approach is needed – what is meant by a "safeguards culture"? What are the qualities to build and encourage? How to develop a safeguards culture, and how to promote it? These are not easy questions. A working group will develop some ideas for members to consider.

Nuclear security

At this stage there is no consensus by APSN members to include nuclear security in APSN's mandate. In part, this reflects that, for some APSN states, safeguards and security are the responsibilities of different agencies. There was a concern that expansion of the APSN membership to take in security agencies could result in loss of focus on the main subject, safeguards.

There are arguments in favour of revisiting this issue. First, there is a great deal of commonality between safeguards and security. Nuclear accounting and control measures are intended to ensure effective control of nuclear material – and this is the fundamental starting point for nuclear security. Next, reflecting this commonality, is the fact that for many APSN states the same organisation implements both safeguards and security. For these states, at least, it would be convenient to have APSN cover both areas.

Last, currently there is no network in the Asia-Pacific region dealing with nuclear security. The Washington Nuclear Security Summit emphasised the importance of international cooperation, in areas including experience-sharing, capacity-building and information-sharing – the same kind of programs and activities that APSN will be promoting for safeguards. So there is a strong case for including nuclear security. Concerns about loss of focus can be addressed by approaches such as holding meetings on security separate from, but back-to-back with, those on safeguards.

An informal working group has been established to deal with the relationship between safeguards and security. This working group will consider how best to coordinate activities on nuclear security. The issue of including nuclear security in APSN's coverage in the future, perhaps through forming a nuclear security chapter, will be kept under review.


A major challenge for APSN will be to ensure adequate funding for members needing support to be able to benefit from APSN activities. There is longstanding support for training and related activities from a number of APSN states. It is important for this support to be continued and broadened, both in terms of the funding base and the range of activities supported – such as travel to meetings.


The task ahead for APSN members – with the support of states and organisations that recognise the shared interests and benefits – is to take the APSN concept and turn it into something of practical value. APSN members have the opportunity to establish a solid foundation for the future, ensuring that safeguards implementation in the Asia-Pacific region reflects world best practice through high professional standards and a strong non-proliferation/safeguards culture. This is especially important given that this region is expected to be a major growth area for nuclear energy, with several APSN states planning expanded or new nuclear programs.

Safeguards support a number of vital objectives:

  • At the international level, safeguards enable states to demonstrate their commitment to using nuclear energy for exclusively peaceful purposes – thereby building international confidence and trust;
  • At the national level, safeguards are an essential element in the effective control of nuclear material, thereby contributing to nuclear security – protecting states and the public against nuclear terrorism.

Through applying world best practice in safeguards, APSN members will be serving their own national interest, and the interest of the international community, in ensuring robust and effective regimes for non-proliferation, disarmament and nuclear security.

Last Updated: 24 September 2014
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