A new organisation aiming to strengthen the physical protection and security of the world’s nuclear and radioactive materials and facilities was formally launched at a ceremony on 29 September, at the opening day of the IAEA’s 52nd General Conference in Vienna.

The World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) aims to provide nuclear security professionals with a forum where sensitive information may be discussed openly among members, to help them share best practices and implement security improvements quickly and effectively. The scope of the new organisation’s work will include all radioactive materials but its initial activities are to concentrate on highly enriched uranium and plutonium, which could potentially be used to make a nuclear weapon.

WINS was initiated through the efforts of the US-based Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) and Institute for Nuclear Materials Management (INMM) and the US Department of Energy (DoE), but it will be an independent entity accountable to its own membership, board and participants. NTI has committed $3 million of funding, which DoE has promised to match, while Norway has pledged an initial contribution of $100,000 to support the participation of security professionals from developing countries in WINS activities. WINS expects to leverage additional contributions from governments and the nuclear industry.

IAEA director general Mohamed ElBaradei expressed his support for WINS. “We very much complement each other and work toward the same objective,” he said. WINS is to have its headquarters in Vienna to allow the two bodies to work closely together.

The World Association of Nuclear Operators (WANO) and its forerunner, the US Institute of Nuclear Power Operators (INPO), both bodies which allow plant operators from around the world to visit each other’s facilities and share best practice in a spirit of open dialogue, have been inspirational in the formation of WINS. However, whereas WANO and INPO were born in the aftermath of nuclear incidents – Chernobyl in the case of WANO and Three Mile Island for INPO – those responsible for WINS hope that the new body will be able to stop a security disaster before it happens. “Our message to everyone handling nuclear materials is that a terrorist nuclear attack anywhere in the world will cast a dark cloud over the entire nuclear community – no matter where the material originated. WINS will help ensure that we can enjoy the benefits of nuclear energy while defending against its dangers,” said NTI co-chairman and former US Senator Sam Nunn.

Roger Howsley, former director for security, safeguards and international affairs at British Nuclear Fuels, has been appointed as WINS’s executive director.

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