FAQ on Proliferation Resistance and Physical Protection

1. What is the Proliferation Resistance and Physical Protection (PR&PP) evaluation approach?

The PR&PP methodology is a systematic and comprehensive tool for assessing and optimizing, at all stages of design, the level of proliferation resistance and physical protection of a nuclear energy system, or components thereof. It is a “pathways evaluation” approach which can account for a full range of hypothetical proliferation or terrorism scenarios (including diversion, misuse, clandestine operation, sabotage, and theft), and compute their impact against a set of high level measures.

2. Why was the PR&PP methodology developed?

The PR&PP methodology was developed to address one of the four goals identified for future nuclear energy systems in the 2002 Generation IV Roadmap (i.e., next-generation power reactor designs that will see commercial deployment beyond 2030): “Generation IV nuclear energy systems will increase the assurance that they are a very unattractive (i.e., present significant barriers) and the least desirable route for diversion (i.e., removal by a State from a declared safeguarded facility, or used to produce undeclared nuclear material) or theft of weapons-usable materials, and provide increased physical protection against acts of terrorism.”

3. What is the level of effort needed to perform a PR&PP evaluation?

The level of effort depends on the stage of design, the range of challenges evaluated, and the needs of the user performing the evaluation. The methodology is adaptable to differing needs. It can involve a single PR&PP expert with subject matter expert support from design staff (for a scoping study), or a team, requiring a few staff-months to a few staff-years.

4. What is the time needed to perform a PR&PP evaluation?

The time requirement can be as little as a few weeks of work for a scoping study that evaluates the system response a small number of representative PR or PP challenges, to a year or more of work to evaluate response to a comprehensive spectrum of challenges.

5. What is the form of the results?

The results take the form of tables of quantitative or qualitative measures indicating material being obtained, difficulty of obtaining the material and likelihood of detection. These results can be presented in various graphical or tabular forms, depending upon the needs of the individual user and the audience they will be presenting to.

6. Who would use the results?

The range of users of the methodology includes designers, program policy makers, national regulators, international agencies, and other stakeholders.

7. What is the expertise needed to perform an evaluation?

Familiarity with the PR&PP methodology, the system design, and the general requirements of non-proliferation (e.g. international safeguards) and physical protection. Note that this combined expertise need not reside in a single evaluator, but can be represented by an assessment team.

8. How does a PR&PP evaluation differ from an IAEA INPRO evaluation of proliferation resistance?

PR&PP is a design tool that evaluates the system response to a spectrum of potential PR&PP challenges (e.g., diversion, clandestine program, break-out scenario and terrorism), and can also be used by customers or policy makers in guiding decisions; INPRO is a best-practices checklist aimed mainly at assisting embarking countries in making decisions. INPRO is a broad assessment, including high-level state policy, while PR&PP is focused on the technology. [The International Project on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO) was established by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and has developed a methodology for proliferation resistance evaluation which can be found at http://www.iaea.org/INPRO/about.html.]

9. What is the relation between PR&PP and IAEA safeguards?

PR&PP incorporates International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards as external components (sometimes referred to as “extrinsic measures”) of the nuclear energy system being assessed. PR&PP can be used by designers at an early stage to assess where and how one might implement safeguards, in order to guide conceptual design decisions. Safeguards is one feature of a good design that enables the detection of proliferation. PR&PP assessment assures that this detection is timely by accounting for technical difficulty, time to achieve success, and material type.

10. Does PR&PP apply to national or sub-national actors?

Generally PR applies to national actors, and PP to sub-national actors, although there can be interaction between these two.

11. How does a PR&PP evaluation relate to a safety and reliability evaluation?

There are possible synergies between PP&PP and safety/reliability if assessed early enough in the design process and possible conflicts that may be addressed at this time. Even at the earliest stages of conceptual design it is recommended that, in addition to representative safety challenges, designers perform qualitative assessments of the potential system response to representative PR and PP challenges.

12. At what stage of an evaluation should a PR&PP evaluation be performed?

PRPP can be performed at the earliest stages of design, and then revisited periodically and detail added as a design progresses and more detail is known.

13. To what type of systems does a PR&PP evaluation apply?

PR&PP is designed for the assessment of nuclear energy systems, with no specific technology dependence.The elements of the fuel cycle (i.e., components of the fuel supply, reactor, or spent-fuel management architecture) that are included in the assessment are dependent upon the user’s needs.

14. Are there other methodologies for performing similar evaluations?

There are other assessment methodologies (e.g. INPRO). The methods are complementary. INPRO assessments can assure that best practices have been considered, and adopted where appropriate, in system design. PR&PP assessments can assure that the system response to PRPP challenges will be acceptable.

15. Will the PR&PP methodology be updated or is it in final form?

The methodology is ready for use, currently as Revision 6. It will receive updates as feedback is received on implementation, and as the field of knowledge in non-proliferation and physical protection evolves.

16. What are benefits to performing PR&PP analysis early in the design process?

Benefits include synergies with safety and economics, reduction of risk for schedule slippage, efficiencies in implementing PR&PP-related system design components, guidance on design decisions with maximum flexibility to early design stage.

17. Where can I find more information?

The PR&PP Evaluation Methodology report is available online. The journal Nuclear Technology provides several articles discussing the methodology and providing examples of its application, in Vol. 179, pgs. 1-96, July, 2012.