RECOVER:

A Potentially Useful Technology for Nuclear Safeguards, but Greater International Commitment Is Needed

ID-83-9: Published: Jan 25, 1983. Publicly Released: Jan 25, 1983.

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GAO reported on the Arms Control and Disarmament Agency's (ACDA) Remote Continual Verification (RECOVER) system which is being developed to help the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) better use its inspectors. The RECOVER system would remotely monitor the operational status of surveillance cameras and containment devices.

GAO stated that the potential benefits of RECOVER for international safeguards are still uncertain. Although it is intended to improve IAEA efficiency and effectiveness, how and to what degree these goals would be achieved has not been determined. An initial report indicated that RECOVER would be potentially cost effective at only a small percentage of installations. IAEA believes that RECOVER may enhance the credibility of safeguards but that it will not reduce routine inspections. At present, the involved parties do not have the basic information necessary to make an informed decision on RECOVER benefits. In addition, potential legal and political obstacles to its routine use remain unexamined. The RECOVER project is having difficulty making the transition from research and development to implementation. The program has fallen 2 to 3 years behind schedule, and milestones for the integration of RECOVER into international nuclear safeguards procedures have been missed. The delays are partially due to the ACDA lack of resources, including a shortage of technical staff. There is general agreement that no insurmountable technical barriers block the use of RECOVER, but significant additional technical development is necessary before RECOVER could be used routinely for international safeguards. Uncertainties also continue concerning the likely cost of implementing the system because the eventual size of such a system is unknown and existing cost estimates for components are outdated and incomplete.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: The RECOVER project has been phased out and superseded by a POTAS-funded, interagency U.S. project on remote verification in general. IAEA is to be closely involved in the remote verification project which, in contrast to the goals advanced for RECOVER, is at least 2-3 years from entering a test phase.

    Recommendation: The Director, ACDA, should request assistance from the Departments of State and Energy and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to determine: (1) the RECOVER priority among all U.S. safeguards equipment development efforts; and (2) the appropriate division of responsibilities among U.S. Government agencies for expeditiously completing RECOVER tests and studies.

    Agency Affected: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The RECOVER project has been phased out and superseded by a POTAS-funded, interagency U.S. project on remote verification in general. IAEA is to be closely involved in the remote verification project which, in contrast to the goals advanced for RECOVER, is at least 2-3 years from entering a test phase.

    Recommendation: The Director, ACDA, should present the results of the assessment to IAEA and request its decision regarding acceptance of RECOVER for routine safeguards use. If IAEA, following its review of the ACDA assessment, does not commit itself to eventually accepting the RECOVER system that fulfills its criteria, the Director, ACDA, should terminate all further development of RECOVER for IAEA and examine the feasibility of alternative uses for it.

    Agency Affected: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The RECOVER project has been phased out and superseded by a POTAS-funded, interagency U.S. project on remote verification in general. IAEA is to be closely involved in the remote verification project which, in contrast to the goals advanced for RECOVER, is at least 2-3 years from entering a test phase.

    Recommendation: The Director, ACDA, should assess the RECOVER program, taking into account the following factors: (1) IAEA criteria; (2) results of any ongoing or completed facility studies and field tests; (3) the nature and importance of the RECOVER unquantifiable benefits at various facility types; (4) RECOVER cost-effectiveness as described by the revised Brookhaven study; (5) the number and significance of facilities at which RECOVER could provide quantifiable and unquantifiable benefits; (6) the suitability of RECOVER for worldwide, regional, and local applications; and (7) legal and political issues bearing on the international acceptance of RECOVER for routine safeguards use.

    Agency Affected: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The RECOVER project has been phased out and superseded by a POTAS-funded, interagency U.S. project on remote verification in general. IAEA is to be closely involved in the remote verification project which, in contrast to the goals advanced for RECOVER, is at least 2-3 years from entering a test phase.

    Recommendation: The Director, ACDA, should request IAEA to specify criteria for IAEA eventual acceptance of an operational RECOVER system.

    Agency Affected: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

  5. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: The RECOVER project has been phased out and superseded by a POTAS-funded, interagency U.S. project on remote verification in general. IAEA is to be closely involved in the remote verification project which, in contrast to the goals advanced for RECOVER, is at least 2-3 years from entering a test phase.

    Recommendation: The Director, ACDA, should develop more reliable and up-to-date cost estimates for RECOVER components and use these estimates to make cost projections for an operational RECOVER system.

    Agency Affected: United States Arms Control and Disarmament Agency

 

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