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Nuclear Safeguards Education Portal
  

Introduction to Physical Protection Systems

 A close-up of the protection fence around the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant in the Czech Republic (Source: Vadim Mouchkin/IAEA).
A close-up of the protection fence around the Temelin Nuclear Power Plant in the Czech Republic (Source: Vadim Mouchkin/IAEA). 

A Physical Protection System (PPS), or security system, integrates people, procedures and/or equipment for the protection of assets or facilities against theft, sabotage, and other malevolent human acts. It can be applied to either facilities or transportation vehicles.

Much like safety systems that are installed to protect against natural disasters (such as earthquakes, tornadoes, hurricanes, or floods) and abnormal environments (such as fire or electrical faults), security, or Physical Protection, systems are designed to protect against malicious human actions. There is, however, an important distinction between the design of safety systems and that of security systems. Unlike human adversaries, safety events must obey certain laws and cannot reason. For example, a fire can only burn as long as there is fuel and oxygen.  If either of these elements is taken away, the fire is extinguished. The fire also cannot decide when or where it will ignite or how it will progress. Conversely, a human adversary has the ability to decide whether or not to attack and can adapt to, and possibly defeat, security system measures.

Because human adversaries can learn and adapt, it is imperative that the security system have the capability to compensate for and defeat new adversary capabilities or tactics. Currently, nuclear facilities use the concept of threat-informed security design, where the design of the PPS is dependent on characteristics of potential adversaries. As such, constant analysis of potential threats is integral to the design process of the PPS.

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