Safeguarding Uranium Enrichment Facilities

Reuben W. Hills Conference Room

Nuclear energy production today and in the near future will still be dominated by light-water reactors and therefore there will be a continued need for uranium enrichment. There is currently a focused attention on gas centrifuge enrichment. Gas centrifuge technology is much cheaper and efficient, but also poses a greater security concern, than the former gas diffusion technology.

In order to address the increased security concerns, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is planning and implementing strengthened safeguards procedures involving an increased reliance on continuous and remote monitoring technologies, and environmental sampling. The IAEA is also promoting multilateral enrichment centers as an additional avenue to enhance international security. Much of the current enrichment industry today already involves international partnerships such as between the US and European companies, or the tripartite agreement between Russia, China and the IAEA.

In order for safeguards and multilateral approaches to be viable and effective, they need to be accepted by industry, operators, states and the regulatory agencies. This talk will address how strengthened safeguards could be implemented while accommodating potentially conflicting interests such as: the protection of proprietary information, transparency in monitoring, applicability in multilateral arrangements, cost-effectiveness, and the ultimate goal of ensuring that enrichment activities remain peaceful.

Elena Rodriguez-Vieitez is a postdoctoral science fellow at CISAC, Stanford. Her research concerns proliferation risks associated with the global expansion of nuclear power. She received her PhD in nuclear engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. Her dissertation focused on nuclear physics experimental work conducted at cyclotron facilities at the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and Michigan State University, where she analyzed nuclear structure and fragmentation reaction data of neutron-rich unstable nuclei. As a nuclear engineering graduate student, she collaborated on a Department of Energy research project on radioactive waste transmutation in molten-salt reactors, where she modeled actinide transmutation efficiency and evaluated proliferation and environmental risks. As a graduate student, Rodriguez-Vieitez was also a research associate on public policy and nuclear threats at the University of California Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. Prior to her PhD studies, she was an intern at the National Academy of Sciences' Board on Radioactive Waste Management in Washington, DC.