By Bonnie D. Jenkins
Since the 2010 Nuclear Security Summit, Centers of Excellence have been recognized as an important part of the global nuclear security architecture. Centers of Excellence serve as a mechanism for ensuring individuals, whether facility managers, regulatory staff, scientists, engineers, or technicians, are trained on a wide number of important nuclear security issues. These centers focus on the important “human factor” of the global effort to secure nuclear material.
The importance of these centers is highlighted in the Nuclear Security Summit (Summit) communiqués and work plan. Several country participants at past Summits have highlighted their intention to establish a center of excellence or training center. A few have done so since that time, while other centers are still in progress. As a result of the increased attention to training and the human factor in nuclear security, the number of centers of excellence and training centers around the globe has increased, as has the global cadre of trained individuals in nuclear security. These centers can promote a regional, not just national, approach to nuclear security training.
The promotion of centers of excellence and training centers has also been strongly supported through “gift baskets,” or joint commitments by a subset of Summit participants, at the last two Summits. At the 2014 Summit, Italy took the lead in a gift basket titled, “Nuclear Security Training and Support Centers /Centers of Excellence.” The COE Gift Basket, endorsed by over 30 Summit participants, describes progress achieved since the 2012 Summit, and promotes the development of additional centers and deepening cooperation through the NSSC Network (see below). This number of supporters of the gift basket was an increase from the 24 Summit participants that supported the gift basket in 2012.
In an effort to strengthen the coordination of the increasing number of centers of excellence and training centers, in 2012 the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) established a Nuclear Security Training and Support Center (NSSC) Network. This network, currently consisting of 108 members from 43 countries, promotes coordination, collaboration, and best practices among existing centers and centers under construction. The network is complemented by the IAEA Nuclear Security Education Network (INSEN), which is focused on the promotion of education in nuclear security at universities. INSEN has over 90 members from 38 countries. Both the NSSC and INSEN work towards the sustained development of educated and trained nuclear security personnel.
Gathering on the sidelines at the NSSC meetings, China, the Republic of Korea, and Japan have recently established an Asia Regional Network to promote coordination and collaboration among their training centers. Their goals are to share information about trainings, share good practices, and share resources. Through the NSSC Network, more such regional sub-groups can be established. As noted by participants in the Asia Network, these regional sub-groups can serve to help develop expertise across a broader range of topics, collaborate efficiently, identify gaps, better understand the needs of other centers in the region, and optimize the use of resources by avoiding duplication of effort.
As we move forward, strengthening the global nuclear security architecture to sustain the important efforts of the Summits is vital. Strengthening nuclear security sustainability and fostering an enduring nuclear security culture requires all individuals involved with nuclear matters on a daily basis be cognizant and appreciative of nuclear security, including by promoting its importance to peers and colleagues. Centers of excellence and training centers, which promote expertise in nuclear security, will remain an essential part of that effort.
A version of this post can be read on the State Department's blog Dipnote.
Bonnie D. Jenkins is the U.S. State Department's Coordinator for Threat Reduction Programmes in the Bureau of International Security and Nonproliferation.