Home Global Village PCENS: Preparing to prevent nuclear terrorism – Zafar Nawaz Jaspal

PCENS: Preparing to prevent nuclear terrorism – Zafar Nawaz Jaspal


Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal |

The nuclear and radiological terrorism is intelligently securitised, and the spectre of nuclear attack by terrorists added in our collective consciousness during the last decade. However, a careful study of the atomic material acquisition and steps involved in manufacturing and exploding a nuclear/radiological device manifest that nuclear terrorism is a cumbersome task. It becomes more difficult if the terrorist organization manages to get a hold on a nuclear weapon and tries to use it, due to the inbuilt device code systems.

Nevertheless, these difficulties do not guarantee foolproof security against nuclear terrorism. Interestingly, despite the non-existence of the precedent of nuclear terrorism, the security analysts view it as a real and immediate threat. The possibility of misuse of nuclear and radiological material by terrorists for nuclear and radiological terrorism cannot be ruled out.

Pakistan also deployed Special Nuclear Material Portals on key exit and entry points to counter the illegal smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. The trainees at the PCENS also benefit from the excellent experience of PNRA.

Therefore, the establishment of a foolproof nuclear security system is imperative for every nuclear power to prevent nuclear accidents and to fall of nuclear material in the hands of terrorists. The United Nations Security Council Resolutions 1540 (2004) and 1887 (2009) necessitate that all the states shall legislate their laws to avoid the falling of nuclear material in the hands of terrorists.

The communiqué of four nuclear security summits sensitised the nations about the importance of foolproof nuclear security. These summits also underscore that without the continued and sustained international cooperation of international community prevention of nuclear/radiological terrorism is very problematic. However, these summits did not create a new institution, which ensures the mutual collaboration between/among the nuclear powers to thwart the nuclear/radiological terrorism.

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Therefore, the International Atomic Energy Agency is struggling to execute the collective vision of the summits to maximize the safety and security of nuclear material located in various states. Pakistan, as a responsible nuclear power, is always conscious of maintaining the safety and security of its nuclear facilities and material. Through legislation, it has established one of the most effective nuclear security systems.

The Pakistani Nuclear Regulatory Authority regulates the safety of Pakistan’s civilian nuclear infrastructure. Pakistan’s nuclear military program is managed and secured by the Strategic Plans Division (SPD), a unit of the Pakistani military. While securing its nuclear assets, the Pakistani nuclear establishment has been assisting the international community in training the workforce to ensure the nuclear security material domestically and internationally.

The purpose of the Export Control Act was to further strengthen controls on the export of sensitive technologies, particularly related to nuclear and biological weapons and their means of delivery.

Indeed, the training of human resources is essential for maintaining foolproof nuclear security. Pakistan, therefore, established a state-of-the-art Pakistan Centre of Excellence in Nuclear Security (PCENS) that provides specialized courses in nuclear safety, physical protection, material control, and accounting, transport security and personnel reliability. The PCENS acts as a regional and international hub to train the people.

It organizes training workshops for both national and international nuclear security personnel in collaboration with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Recently, PCENS faculty along with four IAEA experts conducted the international workshop to evaluate the physical protection system. The 18 foreign participants attended the workshop from Belarus, China, Egypt, Indonesia, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Nigeria, Romania, Spain, Uzbekistan, and Vietnam.

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The autonomous Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) established in 2001, guarantees physical protection of nuclear material and facilities, nuclear material control and accounting, transport security, border controls, the prevention of illicit trafficking and radiological emergencies. Pakistan also deployed Special Nuclear Material Portals on key exit and entry points to counter the illegal smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. The trainees at the PCENS also benefit from the excellent experience of PNRA.

Another, area in which Pakistani experts can assist the friendly nations is legislating and executing domestic laws according to the demands of the UNSC Resolution 1540 (200). It is Material and Equipment Related to Nuclear and Biological Weapons and their Delivery Systems Act — passed in September 2004, is considered as a referred document at international forums.

It was a reasonable attempt by the Government of Pakistan to fulfill international obligations envisaged by the UNSC Resolution 1540 in April 2004. The purpose of the Export Control Act was to further strengthen controls on the export of sensitive technologies, particularly related to nuclear and biological weapons and their means of delivery.

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Pakistan also established a Strategic Export Control Division (SECDIV) in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in April 2007. The purpose of the SECDIV is to further tighten controls over exports, by monitoring and implementing the Export Control Act of 2004. To conclude, nuclear/radiological terrorism is not a myth; therefore, Pakistan’s Centre of Excellence in Nuclear Security is imparting training to prevent nuclear/radiological terrorism nationally and globally.

Dr. Zafar Nawaz Jaspal is Associate Professor, School of Politics and International Relations, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad. He is also an advisor on Non-Proliferation to SASSI, London and a course coordinator at Foreign Services Academy for the Pakistan Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Email: jaspal_99@hotmail.com. This article was first published in Pakistan Observer and has been republished with the author’s permission. The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Global Village Space’s editorial policy.