NNIS Program Technical Focus

Explanation of International Nuclear Safeguards

International nuclear safeguards consist of technical measures that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uses to verify that countries are in compliance with their legally binding commitments not to pursue nuclear weapons.  They comprise a wide variety of tools, methods, and technologies that provide assurances to the international community that a country’s nuclear activities are exclusively peaceful. Common safeguards measures include destructive and non-destructive assay of nuclear material, review and analysis of nuclear material accounting data and other facility operator records, facility design information verification, containment (e.g., use of tamper-indicating tags and seals), surveillance, environmental sampling, satellite imagery review and analysis, and open source searches for safeguards-relevant information, amongst others.

Research Objectives

The objective of the NNIS Graduate Fellowship is to identify and educate highly trained scientists and engineers to take on the challenges and opportunities of international nuclear safeguards.  NNIS fellows must demonstrate the safeguards-impact of their funded research, and an intent to pursue a career that will positively contribute to the international safeguards regime.  To that end, applications shall describe:

  • The potential safeguards impact of their research. For example, will research results enhance the IAEA’s technical capabilities to detect the diversion of nuclear material, facility misuse, or undeclared nuclear activities in a timely manner? Will the research results lead to greater efficiency in the implementation of safeguards, e.g., by allowing the IAEA to spend less time on in-field verification? Why does this matter? The best applications will link research proposals to priorities identified in the IAEA Long-Term Safeguards R&D plan, or other indications of IAEA and/or United States Government (USG) safeguards interest/concern.
  • The specific existing or future technical safeguards challenge that the research addresses. For example, if research intends to improve containment/surveillance (C/S) capabilities, how specifically will that be achieved? By designing a more sensitive monitor? Improving telemetry? Developing a new material for use in tamper-evident seals?
  • The dearth of viable fixes to the technical challenges they propose to address.