As part of the NRC mission, all civilian uses of high-assay low-enriched uranium (HALEU) material will be licensed in a way that is not inimical to the common defense and security. Like all the material licensed by the NRC, HALEU will require attention to physical security, safeguards, and material control and accounting (MC&A). For MC&A and security purposes, special nuclear material is generally divided into three categories, based on the material type, quantity, and enrichment level of uranium-235 (U-235). Category I is the most strategically significant and Category III the least. The graded approach for MC&A and security applies different requirements to facilities possessing different categories of special nuclear material. Facilities with HALEU enriched to less than 10 weight percent U-235 are subject to Category III requirements, while those with 10 kilograms or more of U-235 in uranium enriched to 10 to 20 weight U-235 are subject to Category II requirements.
Safeguards include the use of material control and accounting programs to verify that all special nuclear material is properly controlled and accounted for, as well as the physical protection (or physical security) equipment and security forces. As used by the International Atomic Energy Agency, this term also means verifying that the peaceful use commitments made in binding nonproliferation agreements, both bilateral and multilateral, are honored. For additional detail, see Nuclear Security and Safeguards.
Physical protection (also called physical security) consists of a variety of measures to protect nuclear facilities and material against sabotage, theft, diversion, and other malicious acts. The NRC and its licensees use a graded approach for physical protection, consistent with the risk significance of the facilities or material to be protected. In so doing, the NRC establishes the regulatory requirements and assesses compliance, and licensees are responsible for providing the protection. Examples of physical security include security fences surrounding a facility, security patrols, guard towers, training drills, and many other means of ensuring nuclear material is properly protected from threats.
Material Control and Accounting (MC&A)
MC&A is the use of measures taken to ensure proper handling and control of the nuclear material itself. An example of an MC&A measure would be keeping chains of custody for radiological shipments to ensure no material is missing between destinations. The NRC has determined that no near-term updates to the regulatory framework for MC&A are necessary to review applications related to HALEU.