IAEA demonstrates safeguard inspection process for nuclear material

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released a video on Tuesday detailing the safeguard inspection process for enriched nuclear materials.

The video focuses on a gas-centrifuge uranium-enrichment plant in the Netherlands. In the video, IAEA Safeguards Inspector Ania Kaminski details the inspection process, including checking inventories, enrichment level verification and sample collection.

“In general, enrichment is a service,” Kaminski said. “It’s a service that is offered to many countries all over the world, and enrichment is for the fuel for civil nuclear power reactors, mostly light-water reactors.”

Uranium is naturally mined, with approximately 0.71 percent of its atoms consisting of the U-235 isotope. The process of enrichment increases the concentration of fissile atoms -- those that are able to perform nuclear fission and produce energy -- to a maximum of 6  percent through enrichment. Most material is enriched to be between 3 and 5 percent.

The IAEA said enrichment for weapons-grade uranium requires 85 percent U-235 atoms to be present. The processes used at the Netherlands plant could be used to enrich weapons-grade uranium material.

IAEA inspectors also will look at a facility’s inventory to ensure that the declared nuclear material matches what is actually present and that enrichment levels are within legal and international regulations.

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International Atomic Energy Agency

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