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10-14 February 2020
Europe/Vienna timezone

Nuclear Security Measures to Address Best Practices Associated with Nuclear/Radiological Threats for Major Public Events

Not scheduled
Paper MORC: Nuclear security as part of the security of major public events


Nadja Benson



The U.S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA), International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), U.S. Department of State (DOS), and the Panamanian Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) response teams unified and coordinated an approach that demonstrated best practices for nuclear security measures for Major Public Events (MPEs), as outlined in IAEA Nuclear Security Series 18 (NSS-18), at the World Youth Day 2019 in Panama City, Panama during January 22-27, 2019. This paper will outline the key factors which resulted in a successful safe and secure event with no radiological or nuclear incidents.

Major Public Events (MPEs) are challenging environments in which to conduct nuclear security measures. Many of these events are conducted at the national level and involve long lead time planning efforts and cooperation among a large number of local, state, and federal agencies. The country hosting the events works on national planning guidance specifically for these types of event. These events typically also have international interest whether through attendance by participants from many countries, including heads of state, to high profile television and media coverage. Examples of high profile MPEs include sporting events, such as the Olympic Games and World Cup Competitions, and political/economic events such as the G20 and ASEAN Summits. With extensive international media coverage, these high profile MPEs provide an attractive target for radiological/nuclear terrorism or criminal act. Although the radiological/nuclear threat risk at MPEs is typically low, the economic and political consequences of such an incident would be catastrophic.
World Youth Day 2019
Panama executed their new national concept for emergency preparedness and response associated with major public events by operationalizing an interagency team to manage CBRN prevention and response, and integrating specialists and equipment from DOE/NNSA, DOS, and IAEA. Panama’s response teams demonstrated best practices for interagency coordination and ensured advanced capabilities were in place to prevent, counter, and respond to nuclear/radiological terrorism threats. Their unified approach enhanced coordination between civilian and military organizations, and ensured the teams were prepared to meet the nuclear security requirements for the event.

The coordinated effort was organized under a nuclear security plan that addressed security for potential threats and the capability to respond to terrorist incidents or criminal acts. The Panamanian response team CBRN, coordinated its functions within the Task Force “San Miguel Arcángel (FTC-SMA)”, a group established by the country including all the security sections. With this mechanism, knowledge, technological resources exchanged, preparatory exercises were carried out to acquire the experience to face this highly complex event in the event of radiological incidents.

Response teams and security personnel conducted pre-event baseline surveys of the venues to ensure no radiological or nuclear materials were present. Once the venues were surveyed and deemed clear, they were locked down with strict access controls. Those attending the events were screened for radiological and nuclear materials at the pedestrian and vehicle security entrances. In addition, CBRN expert teams were on standby to rapidly respond in case of an incident.

CBRN security measures in the planning of an important public event is a complex task that requires a high degree of coordination and collaboration. The international community through the DOE/NNSA, IAEA, and DOS provided radiological/nuclear emergency response training to Panama radiation and security experts prior to the event. This training provided practical field operations using best practices and detection equipment to survey the venue facilities, parking areas, and roadways around the venue for radiological and nuclear materials. To enhance the CBRN team resources, additional radiation detection equipment was provided to ensure the nuclear security measures could be implemented at all of events and venues.


The Panamanian CBRN response teams along with U.S. DOE/NNSA, IAEA, and U.S. DOS formed a unified command organization and coordinated an approach for MPE best practices as outlined in NSS-18 at the World Youth Day in Panama City, Panama, January 22-27, 2019. The coordinated efforts and the implementation of national plans and best practices resulted in a safe and secure event with no radiological or nuclear incidents.

State Panama
Gender Male

Primary authors

Mr Steven Buntman (U.S. Department of Energy) Dr Richard Maurer (U. S. Department of Energy/National Nuclear Security Administration, Mission Support and Test Services, LLC, Remote Sensing Laboratory, ) Mrs Shaleen White (U.S. Department of State, Embassy Panama City)

Presentation Materials