IAEA Completes Safeguard Upgrades

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said Thursday that it had completed a three-year, $48.4 million project to revamp its Safeguards information technology system to be more effective in its work to ensure the peaceful uses of nuclear technology.

IAEACalled the Modernization of Safeguards Information Technology or MOSAIC project, the aim was to bring a sometimes archaic nuclear safeguard program up to date to allow technology to improve speed and efficiency of weapons deterrent monitoring and to foster communication, cooperation and organizational aspects of a complicated mission, to ensure nuclear materials are used for their designated peaceful purposes.

The inspections may be more extensive than most people realize. The IAEA said in 2017 alone, its staff conducted approximately 2,000 inspections under its mandate to monitor the world's nuclear materials. From 2010 to 2017, the amount of nuclear material under IAEA Safeguards increased by over 20 per cent, while the Safeguards program included operations in 182 States, compared with 176 States in 2010.

The demand on the IAEA’s Department of Safeguards continues to increase, the agency said, as more States seek to utilize the benefits of nuclear science and technology.

The MOSAIC project was launched in 2015. In the past three years, it has employing 150 in-house professionals, who developed more than 20 unique software applications to make Safeguards more effective, efficient and secure.

IAEA Director General Amano said the improvements "will ensure that the Safeguards IT system supports all implementation processes well into the future, allowing better planning, conducting, reporting, and quality assessment of Safeguards activities.” But he also said that the program was falling behind financially. "The IAEA budget is not keeping pace with that growing demand, so it is essential that we make optimal use of advanced technology,” he said at an event commemorating the completion of the MOSAIC upgrades.

“We are making more use of satellite imagery, enhanced data collection and remote monitoring techniques. We also continue to strengthen information collection and analysis,” Amano said.

MOSAIC has provided a suite of modern software applications, streamlining and integrating the processes of planning, performing activities, and reporting. 

These applications also facilitate the collection and analysis of Safeguards-relevant information. For example, in the past the IAEA collected tens of thousands of pieces of open source information per year. Thanks to MOSAIC software, that figure is now 140 million.

States with Safeguards agreements are required to declare their nuclear facilities and material to the IAEA. Processing such declarations and making the information available to IAEA experts used to be very time consuming. Now, these can be analysed immediately upon receipt, IAEA said in a press release.

MOSAIC has also enabled the IAEA to digitize the hundreds of thousands of documents on its verification work—records the Agency must keep on file. “Before MOSAIC, we used to have to go to the filing room, but with MOSAIC it’s like a one-stop service,” said Lai San Chew, an IAEA Safeguards Inspector. “You just click and you can get the information on the computer. It saves a lot of time.”

Work carried out as part of MOSAIC has also strengthened Safeguards information security – which is increasingly important to meet the growing number and complexity of cyber threats. MOSAIC ensures all confidential Safeguards information is well protected within an autonomous IT environment.

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