IAEA Inspectors Investigate Nuclear Capabilities in "Freedonia"

Brookhaven Lab Hosts Annual Training Exercise

For one week in June, the Brookhaven National Lab site became a scientific facility in the mythical country of Freedonia, where a team of inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) conducted an exercise to ensure the absence of undeclared nuclear activities. This on-site exercise was the field part of a two-week training course that took place both here on Long Island and in Austria.

During the first week at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, four three-person teams collaboratively analyzed and evaluated a comprehensive set of information on Freedonia, prepared by Brookhaven Lab and the IAEA according to a carefully designed scenario. The goal was to define technical objectives and to select facilities, locations, and buildings for performing nonproliferation verification activities. The emphasis was on areas of research and development with and without use of nuclear material.

Brookhaven’s Warren Stern and a team from the Nonproliferation and National Security Department (NN) coordinated the annual training exercise, built and carefully designed in a joint effort with the safeguards training section of the IAEA. 

“Support for the IAEA safeguards system is an important Lab activity.”

— Lab Director Doon Gibbs

“A broad range of inspectors from the IAEA, some very seasoned, took the course to enhance their skills for carrying out inspections to find hidden nuclear materials or facilities; these verification activities are known as ‘complementary access,’” Stern said. “The exercise included IAEA senior staff as evaluators who identified how well the inspectors performed and determined what improvements could be made in carrying out these inspections across the agency.” 

The international team of 12 inspectors from countries including France, Japan and Russia was evaluated by five experienced IAEA facilitators, who followed the inspectors’ efforts and later commented on and assessed their performance. The inspectors monitor nuclear sites around the world to insure that countries’ reports to the IAEA are complete and correct in declaring all of a country’s nuclear material in all nuclear activities. 

“Support for the IAEA safeguards system is an important Lab activity,” said BNL Director Doon Gibbs.  “We are a science laboratory with a long tradition of supporting national security efforts, and we are very proud of the work we have done in this area for decades.”

The Freedonia scientific facility in the exercise bore many similarities to the real Brookhaven National Lab, but with some significant differences: Freedonia, a state corresponding geographically with Long Island, purportedly is engaged in clandestine activities, according to the carefully built scenario. Freedonia and its defense ally, the mythical nation of Mapleonia, have entered into a mutual defense pact because of their mutual fear of Sylvania, a nuclear weapons state they share as a neighbor, located across Long Island Sound in the approximate location of Connecticut.  In the exercise scenario, the intention was to verify the absence of activities in Freedonia that would enable these two states to develop key technologies and work on a nuclear weapons program.

The participants were deployed in teams to various Lab facilities where a variety of clues to the clandestine activities were planted, fully consistent with the scenario. Although one of the objectives of the training was to improve inspectors’ observation skills and their abilities to identify indicators of possible undeclared activities, the ultimate goal was to enhance their abilities to properly meet the technical objectives prepared during the analysis in Vienna, to “connect the dots,” evaluate their findings and draw conclusions, and, as a result, propose timely and relevant follow-up actions.

“To make this happen, you have to create the scenario, you have to create indicators supporting this scenario, and you have to establish technical elements that the inspectors can put together to analyze, identify and report on what’s going on in Freedonia in an articulate manner, through visits to several of our facilities,” Stern said.  “Making it happen took a tremendous effort by many parts of the Lab.” 

Stern added that the NN Department is particularly grateful to all the Brookhaven Lab staff who helped create a successful training exercise.

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