FANR’s activities in support of the international nuclear non-proliferation regime continued in 2020, despite the Covid-19 pandemic. Whilst precautionary working practices were adopted to ensure people’s safety, FANR’s investment in modern digital systems and services ensured that key commitments were honoured and that systems development and training continued.
FANR ensured business continuity with respect to the correct, complete and timely submissions to the IAEA of nuclear material accounting reports, facility attachment records and additional protocol declarations. National and international cooperation continued through FANR’s involvement in system integrations, international joint studies, licensing and verification activities for more than 70 entities, training and national outreach programmes. These efforts collectively raised the bar for non-proliferation and global safeguards standards.
In addition to FANR’s timely submissions to the International Atomic Energy Agency of nuclear accounting reports, FANR conducted five inspections relating to the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant. These were:
One export control-related inspection at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant site.
Three export control-related inspections using remote inspection techniques that also use in-field support from resident inspectors at the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant site.
A safeguards operational readiness inspection at Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant in October 2020 to assess the readiness of the operator to meet its safeguards obligations; and to support a recommendation to the FANR Board of Management on the issuance of an operation licence to Nawah Energy Company.
FANR also conducted 63 safeguards-related inspections at locations outside facilities, which are commonly known as LOF’s. The majority of these were conducted as integrated FANR inspections (i.e. combining the efforts of safeguards, safety and security inspectors) and employed both remote and physical inspection techniques.
A first-ever joint inspection was conducted by FANR with the Ministry of Defence on items that appear on the control lists of both organisations.
Nuclear Export Control Training and International Cooperation
The project to integrate FANR’s Nuclear Technology (NuTech) Portal electronically with the General Authority of Ports, Borders, & Free Zone Security (Manafth) Advance Cargo Information (ACI) made excellent progress during the review period.
ACI supports the UAE to improve on the Logistics Performance Index as part of the UAE 2021 National Agenda. It uses artificial intelligence and machine learning technology to analyse the data provided from ports, custom authorities, international shipping companies, intelligence, and open sources to check if any incoming shipments to the UAE match with the targets of each entity; and then sends notifications to the respective entity to prompt relevant action.
There was also some electronic integration with the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority in 2020. This followed the Dubai government’s approval in December 2019 of nine significant initiatives for fast-track implementation including the ‘Transporting Dangerous Materials by Air’ initiative, of which FANR was a member.
The aim of the initiative was to create a one-stop platform where customers could receive all required approvals to transport dangerous materials by air through Dubai Airport. The testing phase of the connectivity integration using the FEDNET & GIN Network started in April 2020 and by October 2020 all eight entities were integrated through a unified platform and supported by FANR’s e-Licensing system. The completed initiative led to a 10% increase in customer satisfaction, a 35% reduction in the cost per transaction and a 97% reduction in the time required for approval. The International Air Transport Association (IATA) 2019 Air Cargo Ranking placed Emirates Airlines first internationally in quantity of air cargo. The Dubai government aims to maintain this ranking by attracting more shipping companies to use its routes thereby making this initiative a positive contribution.
FANR staff serve as members of working groups on national projects aimed at controlling illicit trade and facilitating the processing of related transactions in accordance with existing laws and regulations. One of the key projects in 2020 was the ‘Single Window of Trade & Logistics in Abu Dhabi – Al Maqta Electronic Gateway Project’, which entailed developing and operating the Advanced Trade and Logistics Platform. The lead of this project is Abu Dhabi Economic Development Department.
FANR also helped strengthen import/ export control in free zones by providing training and establishing effective communications and initiatives, such as the FANR/JAFZA-Trakhees Project. Based on cooperation with the relevant entities, FANR gained access to JAFZA’s licensing data and is in the process of gaining access to the Trakhees system to support the implementation of national and international obligations in import and export control as well as safeguards.
Another exceptional achievement in the year under review was the establishment of the ‘Fawri Tick’ system. Following the formation of the National Committee for Combating Money Laundering and the Financing of Terrorism and Illegal Organisations to implement Financial Action Task Force (FATF) requirements, the Central Bank requested FANR’s support for the FATF report in May 2020. A work mechanism was established between FANR and the Central Bank to cooperate on combating proliferation financing; and FANR Regulation 09 on Export and Import Control of Nuclear Material, Nuclear Related Items and Nuclear Related Dual-use Items (FANR-REG-09) was amended to include Proliferation Financing to support investigations related to the illicit trade of controlled shipments. FANR’s NuTech Portal was also enhanced to allow for the International Bank Account Number (IBAN) to be added for each import and export request, which is an important advancement as the IBAN can be used by the Central Bank in investigations.
The UAE enhancement plan was ready for implementation in August 2020. As per the FATF requirements, the UAE shall freeze all financial assets that are being used in proliferation financing and implement targeted financial sanctions without delay. Whereas the UAE response rates had been averaging 43.3 days, the ‘Fawri Tick’ online support for the UAE government on financial cases has helped significantly reduce the average response rate (to less than 48 hours). The use of ‘Fawri Tick’ also raised the number of cases submitted by 600% up until December 2020. The NuTech Portal has the capacity to filter all incoming requests against more than 150 customs’ Harmonised System Codes, United Nations Security Council Resolutions, and the FANR watch list.
FANR and the Republic of Korea agreed in 2019 to commence a series of joint studies in order to learn from each other as well as share regulatory experiences. The aims of the studies were to develop junior staff members and identify best practices in safeguards. Online meetings allowed for continued collaboration with the Nuclear Safety and Security Commission and Korea Institute for Nuclear Non-Proliferation and Control in 2020. The first joint study, which aims to compare and contrast the development and evolution of the national State System of Accounting for and Control of Nuclear Material, was initiated in the third quarter of 2020 with the first two working group meetings being held in July and August.
State System of Accounting for and Control (SSAC) of Nuclear Material
The UAE’s SSAC continued to operate effectiveWWly and efficiently in 2020. By the end of the year, the SSAC included three operational material balance areas. Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant each represent one material balance area and the third material balance area covers locations outside facilities .The LOFs include companies that customarily handle small quantities of nuclear material and typically practice industrial radiography, well logging and laboratory analysis. At the beginning of the review period, 71 LOFs were licensed and had registered within the SSAC and this number increased slightly by the end of the year with some having closed and others being newly licensed.
Subsidiary arrangements (i.e. facility attachments) that outline facility-specific IAEA safeguards arrangements are now in force for Unit 1 and Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant as well as the LOF’s material balance area. Unit 2 of the Barakah Nuclear Power Plant and the LOF’s facility attachments came into effect on 3 June 2020.
Physical inventory taking activities in all three material balance areas were conducted in February 2020, with IAEA safeguards inspectors conducting physical inventory verifications in the following month to close the material balances. The UAE made special arrangements to support the IAEA to continue its verification activities safely during the pandemic. With the support of relevant government authorities, FANR facilitated smooth access to the UAE for IAEA inspectors to have complementary access, and carry out inspection and design information verifications in the last quarter of 2020.
FANR continued to work on further developing the SSAC and integrating its activities and information systems. During the second half of the year, the first phase of an integrated approach to licensing was completed with the issuance of safeguards, safety and security (the 3S) licences. FANR introduced integrated ‘3S’ inspections in the first quarter of 2020 as part of its routine approach to ensuring licensee compliance with safeguards obligations. Certain elements of inspections were conducted using remote inspection techniques via digital meeting software in respect of social distancing requirements. The development of information systems continued and an online system to allow LOFs to submit nuclear material accounting reports began internal testing to ensure they would be ready for roll-out in the first quarter of 2021.
Nuclear safeguards, export controls and non-proliferation training
As part of our commitment to continuous learning and the development of skills, experts from Rosatom conducted commodity identification training for FANR staff in January 2020. FANR conducted training using real cases in cooperation with the United States Department of Energy as well as the Ministry of Defence and UAE Space Agency.
The FANR Nuclear Non-Proliferation Centre was established in August 2020 to serve as an English and Arabic platform for training and support in the area of nuclear safeguards, export control and non-proliferation. The centre aims to conduct joint studies with national, regional and international counterparts in addition to leveraging relevant provisions of nuclear cooperation agreements. Emiratisation and promoting research and development projects from the safeguards research and development programme are amongst its top priorities. Through these activities, the FANR Nuclear Non-Proliferation Centre will develop training material, share best practices, and ultimately maintain an online repository of relevant materials.
As part of its annual licensee training and awareness programme, FANR conducted an online workshop for its licensees in November 2020. The workshop, which complements larger national workshops held periodically, allowed continued outreach during the pandemic. It also achieved its objective of boosting licensee performance particularly with respect to the submission of licence applications and nuclear material accounting reports.
Import and export control system
FANR has obtained intellectual property certification from the Ministry of Economy for its NuTech Portal. This highlights FANR’s commitment to developing smart solutions in support of the UAE government’s smart transformation of its services as well as the adoption of the criteria of the Mohammed bin Rashid Government Excellence Award to ensure customers and employees’ efficiency and happiness.
The NuTech Portal, which was developed by FANR and launched in 2018, is the first automated import and export control system for nuclear-related dual-use items and aims to help businesses in the UAE with the process of importing and exporting regulated items. The platform seeks to prevent the diversion, misuse and illicit trafficking in nuclear equipment and technology in line with the international nuclear non-proliferation regime. Over 3,000 requests were processed in the first quarter of 2020 with 98% being completed in one day or less. The first NuTech Portal customer satisfaction survey conducted in 2020 received a satisfaction rating of 99% from licensees for to its efficiency and fast turnaround time.