Atomic Pulse

Celebrating the History of Nuclear Safeguards and Imagining The Future

Every four years, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) convenes nuclear experts and stakeholders from around the world to talk about a critical component of the global non-proliferation framework: international nuclear safeguards. Safeguards are the technical measures that allow the IAEA to confirm that nuclear facilities and materials are only used for peaceful purposes, as stipulated in the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. These measures are laid out in safeguards agreements that countries negotiate with the IAEA. Without the IAEA to implement safeguards agreements, the international community would have no way to independently verify that countries are sticking to their non-proliferation commitments.

NTI played a prominent role in this year’s IAEA Symposium on International Safeguards, which had the theme of “Reflecting on the Past and Anticipating the Future.” NTI President Joan Rohlfing, Senior Director Eric Brewer, and Program Officer Jessica Bufford travelled to Vienna to participate in a number of symposium events. Learn more about their experience at the symposium by scrolling through the pictures below.

Upon arrival at the symposium, Joan Rolfing, Eric Brewer, and Jessica Bufford explored exhibition rooms set up with safeguards technologies from different eras—along the theme of past and future. One room displayed how safeguards were implemented in the 1970s and included computing technology and a video of inspectors on the job. Today, technologies must evolve to keep pace with emerging proliferation risks; gatherings like the symposium serve an important role by providing scientists and experts with opportunities to learn from each other and brainstorm innovative, next-gen solutions.

Exploring Exhibition Rooms


NTI and the Center for Energy and Security Studies (CENESS) co-sponsored a side event at the symposium. A panel of experts, moderated by Jessica Bufford, presented and discussed recommendations for strengthening U.S.-Russian cooperation on international safeguards. These recommendations were developed during a series of dialogues held by NTI and CENESS from 2019-2021 and fall into four categories: safeguards efficiency, effectiveness, culture, and sustainability.



This year’s symposium came on the anniversary of three important developments in the history of safeguards: 60 years of IAEA safeguard inspections, 50 years of comprehensive safeguard agreements, and 25 years of additional protocols. NTI sponsored a reception in celebration of the occasion at the iconic Rathaus building, which serves as Vienna’s City Hall. Joan Rohlfing delivered welcoming remarks, alongside IAEA Director-General Rafael Mariano Grossi, Municipal Council and State Parliament of Vienna Member Marcos Schober, and IAEA Team Leader Jenni Rissanen.

Photo Credit: Dean Calma / IAEA

Joan Rohlfing Addresses Reception at Vienna City Hall


Eric Brewer was a featured panelist at two events, “Strengthening Confidence in the Absence of Undeclared Activities” and “Anticipating the Future – Drivers.” On the first panel, he spoke about how a technique called wide area environmental sampling could be a helpful tool for IAEA inspectors as they work to detect undeclared nuclear activities. On the second panel, he discussed his role in the IAEA’s effort to develop future scenarios that can help experts understand how safeguards may have to adapt to keep up with new challenges and geopolitical dynamics that threaten the stability of the non-proliferation regime.

NTI’s Eric Brewer Speaks on the Future of Safeguards


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