Nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation are absolute priorities for the EU, supporting the international initiative on a holistic Safety, Security and Safeguards ('3S') concept for nuclear energy. The European Commission as guardian of the Treaties operates as an effective regional nuclear safeguard system (EURATOM) in close partnership with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
Verification and detection in safeguarding nuclear material, conformity of information on materials and processes in nuclear forensics, as well as response in nuclear security are based on reliable measurement results with appropriate quality control tools as prerequisite. JRC supports the technical convergence of nuclear safeguards, nuclear forensics and nuclear security by providing nuclear material measurement standards and conformity assessment tools to the Directorate-General for Energy and other customers.
IRMM organises and contributes to workshops, training courses and education modules via the EC support programme to the IAEA and the European Safeguards Research and Development Association (ESARDA).
IRMM with its considerable experience in state-of-the-art measurements is providing advice to Directorates-General of the European Commission and the External European Action Service (EEAS) within its area of expertise for the EU chemical, biological, radiological and nuclear (CBRN) Action Plan.
Measurements for nuclear material accounting and control need reference materials as the foundation of the measurement processes. IRMM is an accredited reference material provider specialised in isotopic reference materials. IRMM has, for instance, developed dried spikes for the EURATOM on-site laboratories and a method to prepare uranium fluoride gas samples with specified isotopic compositions. A complete set of uranium and plutonium isotopic reference materials are available for fissile material control at the back end (reprocessing) as well as the front end (enrichment) of the nuclear fuel cycle.
Emphasis is given to the development of new nuclear material measurement standards and conformity assessment tools supporting the technical convergence of nuclear safeguards, nuclear forensics and nuclear security as part of the “3S” concept. The challenge is to develop new isotopic reference materials and quality control materials that resemble real samples supporting the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) and the model additional protocol (INFCIRC/540).
Particular research and development is carried out at IRMM towards well-characterised isotopic bulk and particle reference materials for environmental sample analysis and for dating of nuclear material in nuclear forensics applications.
External quality control programmes
IRMM organises interlaboratory comparisons for conformity assessment for the IAEA Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL) and other laboratories in the field. These quality control programmes are under the accredited aim at the analysis of uranium and plutonium containing materials and nuclear signatures in the environment.
Samples are prepared and certified at IRMM and sent ‘blind’ to participating laboratories who send in their measured results, which are evaluated according to international guidelines in comparison to the independent external certified reference values with demonstrated metrological traceability and uncertainty.
IRMM started the Regular European Interlaboratory Measurement Evaluation Programme (REIMEP ) over 20 years ago for carrying out external control of the quality of the measurements of the nuclear fuel cycle materials. A similar programme ‘Nuclear Signatures Interlaboratory Measurement Evaluation Programme’ (NUSIMEP ) was established in 1996 for measurement of the typically small amounts of nuclear materials in environmental samples. Recently IRMM has successfully extended the range of certified environmental test samples by providing NUSIMEP comparisons on uranium particles.