Introduction to Nuclear Security Culture

What is nuclear security culture? The IAEA
has a specific definition for nuclear security culture that is documented in the IAEA Nuclear
Security Series No. 7 document from 2008. In that document, it gives you a definition
for what is nuclear security culture. It derives that definition from a basic definition of
culture, where culture is related to our beliefs and our behaviors, which includes our habits.
The decisions and the actions that we take that oftentimes are not coming from our thinking
specifically about what actions to take, but just are the natural actions that we do every
day. For nuclear security culture, the definition that the IAEA gives is it’s “an assembly
of characteristics, attitudes and behavior of individuals, as well as organizations and
institutions, which serve as a means to support and enhance nuclear security.” Many times
people, when they think about culture, they think of culture from the standpoint of an
individual’s culture, and they sometimes don’t think about the fact that organizations
and institutions also have culture. The organization that maybe you work in probably has a particular
culture to it in the way it does business and in the way it takes decisions and actions.
In this particular case, this culture is related specifically to the nuclear security system
for a facility, an institution, or, more particularly, a country.
Well, you might ask the question, “Well, okay, so that is what nuclear security culture
is, that’s the attitudes and behaviors that we might have for those of us who potentially
work in or design nuclear facilities. But why is this important? Why is nuclear security
culture important? Well, it’s important because, if we go back to the definition of
a culture, a culture is many of the decisions and actions we take are based on our culture.
They are based on our belief system. And they are not necessarily decisions and actions
in which we think systematically about those decisions. Oftentimes, when you do little
things in your life, it’s based on those cultural beliefs. This is important because
a nuclear security system is a system that is a robust technical system that involves
detector systems and detection and delay elements, those physical mechanisms, but it also is
based on humans and human decision factors. The humans have to make decisions in the system.
Those decisions include whether or not to respond to certain physical elements in the
system. Whether or not they take the threat seriously. Whether or not they potentially
could pose a threat to the facility or whether or not their colleagues who work in the facility
could potentially pose a threat to the facility. So those cultural beliefs and those decisions
that they make can have a big impact on the facility.
Now, there are a lot of examples of this. There’s very simple examples you can go
through. When you go to a particular facility, in some of those facilities you’ll see a
lot of posters around the facility associated with them saying things like, you know, “Security
is up to you,” or, “It’s the responsibility of every individual.” “Pay attention to
where you place your bags.” Those sorts of details. Simple things like that to try
to enhance culture.

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