The threat of nuclear terrorism was recognized by the world community as one of the key problems of international safety. Today, in times of political and economic instability, the number of terrorist acts increases constantly thus rising probable use of radioactive materials by terrorists or other criminal groups or individuals in their activity. Nuclear security plays the key role in solving this problem. Protection of the state, the public and the environment against terrorist acts, sabotage, theft or any other illegal act related to nuclear materials, radioactive waste and other radiation sources or nuclear facility (the facility) depends on its effectiveness.

The main terms

As defined by the International Atomic Energy Agency (hereinafter the IAEA), nuclear security is prevention and revealing of theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal trafficking or other malicious acts against nuclear materials and other radioactive substances or facilities related to them, as well as respond to such actions.


Since English terms “safety” and “security” in Ukrainian and Russian have the same equivalent – “safety”, this causes difficulties in translation. In order to address this issue, the term “nuclear security” is translated into Russian as “physical nuclear safety”. Some Ukrainian experts also translate this term into Ukrainian as “physical nuclear safety”. Such formulation was not presented in appropriate Ukrainian regulations. Instead, the Law of Ukraine “On Physical Protection of Nuclear Installations, Nuclear Materials, Radioactive Waste and other Radiation Sources” includes the definition “security of nuclear installations, nuclear materials, radioactive waste and other radiation sources”, which means bringing physical protection of nuclear facilities, nuclear materials, radioactive waste and other sources of ionizing radiation to compliance with the level established by the Ukrainian legislation. In turn, the IAEA recommendations on nuclear security related to physical protection of nuclear materials and nuclear installations (INFCIRC/225/Rev.5) stated that “physical protection” is currently known as “nuclear security”. In addition, the same document noted that the functions of “nuclear security” comply with the physical protection functions.

Thus, the term “nuclear security” fully meets the definition “nuclear security”. Consequently, the Ukrainian and Russian versions of this website will further use the term “nuclear security”.

What is the difference between security and safety?

In other words, this difference can be explained as follows:

  • safety measures protect people against the impact of nuclear facility and other radiation sources;
  • measures of security/physical protection ensure protection of facility or a source against their use that may be harmful for people.


The main constituents

According to the definition, nuclear security includes the following areas of activity:

  • prevention: account, monitoring and protection of nuclear materials and facilities against malicious acts;
  • revealing: measures aimed at revealing malicious acts related to nuclear and other radioactive materials and facilities and other infrastructure;
  • response: measures aimed at efficient response to malicious acts including the analysis and determination of the origin of seized materials and substances.

Thus, immediate nuclear security measures at the national level include physical protection to ensure security of nuclear materials and installations and other radiation sources, prevention of unauthorized activity, as well as accounting and control of nuclear and radioactive materials.

In turn, they include measures to prevent the use of nuclear material for military purposes and illicit trafficking of nuclear and radioactive material.

The level of risks for the state related to illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials and terrorist acts depends on the efficiency of nuclear security measures. At the same time, nuclear security at the national level is a component of global safety. The governments of the IAEA member states are responsible for the state of the national nuclear security systems, but the IAEA and the member states may provide substantial assistance to individual countries, if necessary.

Active computerization and informatization of nuclear industry leads to the need for computer security improvement at nuclear facilities. The international community repeatedly expressed serious concern about vulnerability to cyber threats of nuclear and radioactive materials and appropriate facilities. The IAEA noted that the experience related to “Stuxnet” virus demonstrated real threat of cyber-attacks to nuclear facilities, and stressed that such events negatively affected the level of nuclear safety and security.


Computer security plays an increasingly important role in achieving the main goals of nuclear security including prevention and revealing of theft, sabotage, unauthorized access, illegal trafficking or other malicious acts related to nuclear materials and other radioactive substances or facilities, as well as response to such acts. In turn, the purpose of computer security is usually protection of the characteristics of confidentiality, integrity and availability of electronic data or preparedness of computer systems and processes. Thus, safe operation of nuclear facilities may be improved by defining and protecting relevant data or systems that affect nuclear safety and security at nuclear facilities.


1. Documents of the SNRIU
2. Documents of editorial board