Review Conference on the Security of Nuclear Material

The first review conference of the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material took place from 28 March to 1 April 2022. Switzerland lobbied for a repeated review of the implementation of the Amended Convention, to be carried out in five years time as part of an IAEA conference. 

The Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material is the only legally binding international instrument dedicated to the physical protection of nuclear material. It regulates the scope of protection for nuclear material, forms the foundation for international cooperation and requires the creation of legal bases for the punishment of crimes related to nuclear material. “When it comes to the strengthening of nuclear security, we consider the Convention to be the most important international instrument in this area. The task now is to ensure its implementation and to review it in the context of a future IAEA conference,” said ENSI Director Marc Kenzelmann.

More information on the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) came into force in its original form in 1987 and currently has 164 contracting parties. The scope was limited to the protection of nuclear material used for peaceful purposes during international transports.

In 2005, the Convention was amended to extend its scope to include nuclear material in national use, storage and transport, and nuclear installations in general. It also provides for enhanced cooperation between and among states on rapid actions to locate and recover stolen or smuggled nuclear material, to mitigate any radiological consequences of sabotage, and to prevent and combat related crimes. Switzerland ratified the Amended Convention in 2008, which finally came into force in 2016.

The first review conference on the Amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material took place from 28 March to 1 April. The Swiss delegation consisted of the Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs, the Swiss Federal Office of Energy and the Swiss Federal Nuclear Safety Inspectorate (ENSI). The Convention provided for a review conference to be held five years after the entry into force of the amendment in 2016. As a result of the pandemic, this conference was postponed from 2021 to 2022.

The conference was led by two co-presidents, one of whom was the Swiss permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Ambassador Benno Laggner. ENSI participated both in the preparations for the conference and in the conference itself. “The exchange of experience, know-how on challenges and ‘best practice’ will lead to a more effective implementation of the Amended Convention. The conference also contributed to the further universalisation of the Amended Convention,” said Benno Laggner, co-chairman of the conference and Swiss IAEA Ambassador in Vienna.

Conference strengthens the cross-border security of nuclear material

At the conference, it was decided that a further conference should be held in five years time to check that the convention still remains up-to-date and pertinent. Moreover, the contracting parties were agreed that other elements such as cyber security are also integral components for the physical protection of nuclear installations and materials.

Currently, 129 states are contracting parties to the Amended Convention. Joining the convention, contributes to the improvement of nuclear security. This is achieved by strengthening physical protection at both a national and global level, as well as by the criminalisation of offences, and improving international cooperation in these areas.

Switzerland’s concerns

At the conference, the Swiss delegation promoted a wide understanding of the scope of the Amended Convention, such that it also includes information security, and computer and cyber security, taking into consideration the dynamic environment with its new technological developments.

Switzerland also advocated that the implementation of the Amended Convention should be reviewed at regular intervals. International peer reviews, such as the IPPAS missions, which are offered by the IAEA, are among the measures that contribute to this. Switzerland’s implementation of the physical protection of nuclear material was reviewed within the scope of the 2018 IPPAS mission.