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Ajai Vir asked: What is the difference between Nuclear Safety and Nuclear Security? Which one should have higher priority?

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  • S. Samuel C. Rajiv replies: Nuclear Safety primarily refers to the measures taken to ensure the well-being of power reactors and other civilian uses of nuclear energy. Nuclear Security on the other hand refers to measures taken to prevent the misuse of nuclear/radiological materials/weapons including physical protection of sources, among others.

    Both have the common purpose of ensuring that the negative effects of nuclear materials/technologies on society and environment are prevented. Both should have equal priority depending on the nature of the threat, technologies being used, among other pertinent factors.

    Issues of nuclear safety came into prominence after the Chernobyl meltdown. Organisations like World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) were formed to help ensure uniform standards in civilian nuclear plant operations, improved safety procedures, among others. Issues of nuclear security came into prominence in the aftermath of 9/11. Events like the Nuclear Security Summit have sought to focus attention on these aspects. The IAEA’s Nuclear Security Fund (NSF) is another prominent initiative, in which India is a significant partner.