Nuclear safety and nuclear security are often paired together. Indeed, they almost seem synonymous. On the CNA website, “Safety & Security” is a single section. And in some ways, it makes perfect sense.
Nuclear safety and security have in common the aim of protecting people, property, and the environment. Safety and security measures have to be designed and implemented in an integrated manner to ensure synergy, and also in such a way that security measures do not compromise safety, and safety measures do not compromise security. However, there are some important differences that, at times, pit one against the other.
Safety is enhanced through transparency. Greater openness and awareness of procedures, measures and facilities designed to strengthen safety serve to reinforce public confidence in the industry and increase the public’s understanding and acceptance of nuclear technology..
Security, conversely, relies on confidentiality in order to be effective. The best security measures are the ones that limit access to sensitive facilities, procedures and sources so as to reduce possible interference or attack by criminal or terrorist entities. In short, security is dependent on the extent to which information is kept from wider exposure.
Though discussions typically group these two terms together, the reality is that there is a constant balance that must be struck between the openness of safety and the assurance of security. Some measures must remain confidential and protected in order to be effective in enhancing nuclear security. Yet, certain details must nevertheless be communicated so as to provide public assurance.
Each part of the industry has a different balance to strike between safety and security. It depends on the range of threats, risks and potential impacts of the nuclear technology in question. There is also the recognition that transgressions can occur internally, as well as externally.
Thankfully, the industry never rests on its laurels and is continuously working on finding new and better ways ensure safety AND strengthen overall security.