Promoting competence in nuclear security

4 November 2015

The World Institute of Nuclear Security is calling on countries to drive forward national requirements for the certification of managers with responsibilities for nuclear security. By Brunelle Battistella, Dan Johnson and Roger Howsley

At the March 2014 Nuclear Security Summit in the Netherlands, 58 world leaders convened to demonstrate their commitment to improving nuclear security and its governance. The states agreed to support activities that will prevent nuclear material from falling into the hands of terrorists. Furthermore, 35 states signed an agreement on Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation that contains four commitments:

  1. Subscribe to International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) nuclear security "fundamentals".
  2. Embed IAEA guidance into national rules and regulations.
  3. Conduct self-assessments and host peer reviews.
  4. Ensure that management and personnel with accountability for nuclear security are demonstrably competent.

All of these commitments are very important, but the fourth is most difficult to quantify and deliver.

Professional certification through accredited competence testing is the norm in nearly all professions. No one would consider attending a appointment with an accountant, or trusting their computer network to an information technology specialist, unless they were confident that the person was academically qualified and professionally certified. It is therefore surprising to discover that the same framework and availability of training does not seem to be common for security professionals and others with senior managerial or regulatory responsibilities relating to security. One of the major challenges is that no internationally recognised criteria have been developed for training and certification of personnel with security accountabilities.

WINS Academy

In an effort to make "demonstrable progress" on security competence and certification, the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) has spent considerable time and effort since 2012 developing a model nuclear security training and certification programme. The WINS Academy comprises a suite of certified materials aimed at different professional disciplines, all of which have accountabilities for the security of nuclear and radioactive material.

Its target audience includes board members, executive managers, security directors, scientists, technicians, engineers, offsite incident responders and regulators. All participants begin with a Foundation Module that sets out security both as a fundamental aspect of risk management and corporate reputation, and a strategic, operational activity that needs to be implemented organisation wide.

Participants then choose one elective course according to their interests, needs and background. After completing both courses, they have the opportunity to take an exam; if they pass, they are certified by WINS as a nuclear security professional.

One of the major premises underlying the WINS Academy is the necessity to demonstrate individual competence through professional certification sanctioned by a proctored exam. As an overall framework, the programme uses ISO standard 29990:2010, in which WINS received certification in 2014. This standard is an important piece in the effort to measure training quality and effectiveness.

The WINS Academy was first announced in principle at the Seoul NIS in 2012, and the first Academy certification programmes were launched online coincident with the 2014 NIS. In just 18 months, we have enrolled over 550 participants from more than 70 countries and issued about 120 certificates. We have delivered certifications in nuclear security governance, nuclear security executive management, science and engineering for nuclear security, nuclear security incident management, and nuclear security communication. We have also established Key Performance Indicators (KPIs) that are instrumental to WINS' ISO 9001 certified quality management system, as well as to measuring the impact our training is having on participants.

One of our next steps is to find out how training and certification are affecting our participants' career and advancement opportunities. We plan to analyse the data (especially relating to salary, work hours, job satisfaction and knowledge transfer) to identify trends in behaviours and results. In
addition, we plan to create a career report that can be used by individuals and organisations to evaluate the results of training.

In other industries (including nuclear safety), leading performance indicators are measured through training and certification to ensure that practitioners can demonstrate competence. These certification frameworks and trainings approach security as a business. Security managers become business managers, leading to more operationally effective and financially efficient security operations. All international nuclear security efforts must lead to sustainable changes and improvements for the effort and expenditure to be worthwhile. In advance of the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit, all states should be encouraged to subscribe to the Strengthening Nuclear Security Implementation Joint Statement, and to support efforts to drive forward national requirements for the certification of managers and practitioners with accountabilities for nuclear security.

WINS recognises that building learning frameworks, developing quality materials, and creating an effective certification programme is much more complicated and time consuming than simply running awareness courses, but such an approach is also much more likely to lead to sustainable improvements internationally. We envision that WINS Academy certified practitioners will play an instrumental role in promoting nuclear security certification and continual professional development among their peers. Over time, this will help build a network of security-trained professionals who can lead the effort to improve security culture worldwide. In 5-10 years we envision that this group will be at the forefront of new professional requirements for nuclear security competence, with certification becoming the norm. We also believe that certification will lead to increased salaries and managerial responsibilities.

About the authors

All authors work for the World Institute for Nuclear Security. Dr. Roger Howsley is WINS' co-founder and Executive Director while Mr. Dan Johnson, Head of the Academy, and Ms. Brunelle Battistella, Project Manager, work on the WINS Academy programme."

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