Global Best Practices for Nuclear Materials Management

For many years the Institute of Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) has conducted professional development workshops in the six principal areas of
nuclear materials management: international safeguards, material control and accounting, nonproliferation and arms control, packaging and transportation, physical protection, and waste management. In many cases the substance of these workshops has been the identification, development, and sharing of global best practices in nuclear materials management.

The purpose of this page is to communicate with our members, other nuclear professionals, students, the media, the public, and all others who browse this space, both the long evident and the newly evolving global best practices in nuclear materials management.  

INMM Best Practices Defined
The definition of “best practices” used here is:

A set of effective (improved performance) and/or efficient (less costly) methods that have been identified and documented by a group of experienced nuclear security practitioners.

The best practices presented here were produced from meetings, noted in the following sections, of international nuclear security experts convened jointly by the INMM and the Nuclear Threat Initiative.  Best practices are neither standards nor requirements.  Best practices may in some cases be referenced and used as guidance for a specific topic. (Standards are normally produced by specific organizations that have been designated by a government or industry to do so, using a formal process to draft, review and approve procedures that are then designated as requirements in order to be approved or licensed to conduct specific operations.)  Others may use the term good practices instead of best practices.  However, there is little value in debating if these are good, better, or best practices.  Their importance is as tools to consider using when striving for continual improvement in nuclear security.

What are Best Practices?
The concept of "best practices" began in the business world to encourage reflection on lessons learned and increase effectiveness and efficiency. When applied to nuclear materials management, best practices should be consistent with fundamental principles and objectives for nuclear material protection, control, and accountability. To be of most value, these principles and objectives should:

  • Have wide application and replication to all countries with nuclear programs and to both civilian and military programs.Nuclear materials are potential targets for theft or sabotage regardless of where they are located.
  • Prescribe desired program outcomes including examples as to how to achieve those outcomes. Nation states and nuclear activities conducted by states require substantial flexibility to implement practices that are appropriate for their unique circumstances.
  • Contribute to the formation of both state and international regulations and policies.
  • Seek creative, cooperative ways to mitigate states' concerns, including costs, national sovereignty concerns, and fear of disclosing sensitive national security information.

Best Practices in Nuclear Security Risk Management
Some degree of risk is associated with all human endeavors and this certainly includes nuclear material activities. Responsible stewardship of nuclear materials requires risk management. Risk management should be considered as the highest level of nuclear materials management.

Best practices were identified, discussed, and documented at a workshop on international best practices in nuclear security risk management held in Washington, DC, in May 2007. This workshop was conducted in partnership by three INMM entities: the Government-Industry Liaison Committee, the Physical Protection Technical Division, and the Materials Control and Accountability Technical Division. Participants came from four States with large nuclear programs and represented government agencies and regulators, licensees and operators, commercial industry, national laboratories, and academia.

Nuclear security risk management international best practices are presented as a standalone set. They are consistent with the other best practices published on the INMM Web page but they have not been collated or combined. This may be considered for future versions.

Best Practices for Nuclear Material Security
The collection of these best practices was documented at two sequential one-week workshops on material control and accountancy and on physical protection. These workshops were conducted by INMM in Prague in June 2005 and they were sponsored by the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Several dozen international experts participated in each of these workshops and reached a high degree of consensus in their recognition of best practices in MC&A and physical protection. In future versions of the best practices webpage INMM will expand the breadth and the depth of this information by reporting the results of additional workshops and other sources.

The breadth will be expanded beyond the State's systems for physical protection and accounting and control of nuclear material to address the other four areas of nuclear materials management cited above. The depth will consist of more detail on how to implement the higher level best practices stated in this version of the Web page.