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The widespread use of radioactive materials for medical and industrial applications is associated with the risk of theft of such materials with their potential use in criminal and terrorist acts. These increased threat concerns are acknowledged by the international community in numerous international commitments and resolutions. In our globalized world, facing with steadily expanding trade and growing exchange of goods, directed efforts, in particular by assisting countries in developing, enhancing and upgrading their prevention, detection and response capabilities, shall increase nuclear security without hampering international trade.

The success of the fight against illicit trafficking of nuclear and other radioactive materials necessitates the mobilization and interaction of different competent authorities such as police, customs, border guards, regulators, radiation protection and expert scientists. Each of these authorities has a role and responsibilities during nuclear security incidents that require a close interagency cooperation and interdisciplinary skills and an understanding of the technicalities involved with the detection, handling and analysis of nuclear or other radioactive materials. Thus, non-experts in the radiological field, such as front line officers, need to be familiarized with radiation detection, radiation hazards, and measuring and relaying technical information obtained from instruments for subsequent analysis by the scientific experts. This complexity and the need for optimized use of radiation measurement equipment obviously call for thorough training of the front line officer and the other competent authorities relative to their roles in the State’s national nuclear security plan.

The European Nuclear Security Training Centre (EUSECTRA) was specifically established to address these concerns. The Joint Research Centre was tasked by the European Commission (DG HOME) to set up a dedicated training centre as recommended by the EU CBRN Action plan adopted by the European Council in December 2009. Located at the European Commission, Joint Research Centre, in Karlsruhe and Ispra, EUSECTRA aims to improve Member States capabilities to address the threats associated with illicit incidents involving nuclear or other radioactive materials by providing hands-on training using real nuclear materials to front line officers, their management, trainers and other experts in the field. Based on the unique combination of scientific expertise, specific technical infrastructure and availability of a wide range of nuclear materials, EUSECTRA complements national training efforts by providing realistic scenarios with real special nuclear material. The training program offers a unique opportunity for trainees to see and experience actual materials and commodities, as EUSECTRA is one of the few places in the world where a wide range of samples of plutonium and uranium of different isotopic compositions can be used for training in detection, categorization and characterization.

EUSECTRA represents a substantive enduring and sustained new core activity at JRC and positions nuclear security training at the centre of its extensive nuclear counter-terrorism and nuclear non-proliferation portfolio. This initiative outlines integration of the different modules into a coherent and comprehensive set of training courses covering both detection and response strands. Training areas for EUSECTRA include border detection, mobile detection, covert search, train-the-trainers, mobile response (i.e., MEST), reach-back, creation of national response plans, nuclear forensics, radiological crime scene management, nuclear security awareness and sustainability of a national nuclear security posture.

EUSECTRA benefits from the experience and the cooperative work of the Border Monitoring Working Group and with experts from the ITWG (Nuclear Forensics International Technical Working Group) in elaborating comprehensive training schemes for front line officers, first responders, measurement expert support teams and nuclear forensic experts comprising practical and table-top exercises. Such reference and standardised training materials were developed in close collaboration with international experts (e.g., from IAEA, US-DoE, FBI, NFI, CEA) to integrate different available modules into a coherent and comprehensive set of training courses. This concept of EUSECTRA is continuously being optimized with the help of these partners and States in a complementary and effective combination of national and regional capabilities. Trainers come from the competent Commission services, from Member States authorities or international organizations as well as from third countries. The EUSECTRA can hence provide assistance to States in indigenizing such training activities by integrating these elements into their established law enforcement curricula.

Since its official launch, EUSECTRA has hosted trainees from over 70 different countries which have benefited from the training provided. During the year of 2015, for instance, more than 300 participants were trained in its facilities. EUSECTRA trainings are repeatedly acknowledged by trained countries to be beneficial in terms of enhancing preparedness, detection of and response to nuclear security events. EUSECTRA's unparalleled training opportunities lead to a steadily increasing demand for training sessions.

Within only a few years of operation, EUSECTRA has developed into a corner stone of an EU and international training network aiming to ensure, in the most appropriate way, the transfer and the dissemination of knowledge necessary to spread worldwide rigorous nuclear Security Culture.