Ambassador Ayesha Riyaz, Resident Representative of Pakistan to the IAEA, deposits Pakistan’s instrument of ratification of the Amendment to the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) with Director General Yukiya Amano at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, Austria, on 24 March 2016.

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM), adopted in 1987, is the primary legal instrument that forms the basis of global nuclear security regime. The CPPNM along with its amendment that entered into force in 2016, are the only legally binding international instruments in the area of physical protection of nuclear material under the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Pakistan acceded to the original CPPNM in 2000 after streamlining necessary steps needed to comply with the convention’s commitments. In view of evolving nature of threat and renewed global emphasis on nuclear security with the Nuclear Security Summit process, Pakistan began the preparation for ratification of 2005 CPPNM amendment, and on February 24, 2016, the National Command Authority (NCA) of Pakistan approved ratifying the 2005 amendment to the CPPNM—becoming the 94th state to ratify. A little over one month later, following the ratification from Nicaragua on April 8, 2016, the amendment achieved the required number of 102 states and entered into force 30 days later.

The 2005 amendment’s entry into force put in place several new obligations on the member states to bring their physical protection measures in line with the international requirements. To ensure compliance, Pakistan had already initiated several measures in line with the requirements of the amended CPPNM. For instance, Pakistan has incorporated various recommendations of INFCIRC/225/Rev-5,1 which is considered to be an international standard for the physical protection of nuclear material, and has introduced physical protection measures at its nuclear power plants beyond the scope of the original CPPNM even before the ratification. The formal ratification of the 2005 CPPNM amendment obligated the state to implement additional technical, administrative, and legal measures in line with the amendment’s requirements.

This study will provide an assessment of physical protection system upgrades in Pakistan. It will identify the additional obligations under the amended CPPNM and assess how Pakistan has assimilated new requirements in its physical protection measures and what further steps they must take for enhanced compliance. 

Evolution of Physical Protection System in Pakistan

The evolution of physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities in Pakistan has coincided with the establishment of the country’s nuclear power program and the development of physical protection requirements at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). At the time of Pakistan’s civilian program’s initiation, the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission (PAEC) was tasked with managing the safety and security of the nuclear program. The IAEA’s document INFCIRC/225, “Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities,” was first published in 1975 and used as the basis for inspection and enforcement of physical protection measures. Pakistan acceded to the original CPPNM in 2000.2 To fulfill the convention’s requirements, an independent body—the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA)—was established in 2001 to ensure the physical protection measures for nuclear material during international transport as required by the original convention.

[Pakistan’s National Security Action Plan] project not only enhanced the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, but also developed systems for the security of radioactive sources, combatting illicit trafficking, emergency response, and training.

In the wake of September 11, 2001, as the global security dynamics changed, the risk of nuclear terrorism emerged as a new challenge to the nuclear security regime. Pakistan, like other countries, critically reviewed the existing systems and measures of its physical protection regime. Since the international cooperation and experience sharing in the area of nuclear security was not common, a mechanism was evolved on the basis of a gap analysis of existing physical security measures at the national level and in accordance with the IAEA’s definition of nuclear security.3 On the advice of the Government of Pakistan, the Pakistan Nuclear Regulatory Authority (PNRA) initiated the Nuclear Security Action Plan (NSAP) project in July 2006 with the assistance of the IAEA to cover the existing gaps in nuclear security such as security upgradation of the sites, border management, and emergency response. NSAP developed a sustainable system in nuclear security with the established response and recovery capabilities, integrated with national laws, regulations, and procedures. The NSAP project not only enhanced the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, but also developed systems for the security of radioactive sources, combatting illicit trafficking, emergency response, and training. Pakistan’s nuclear security measures were acknowledged and appreciated by the IAEA. The nuclear security summit process built a new momentum for the ratification and entry into force of the amended CPPNM.

At the 2014 Nuclear Security Summit, the Prime minister of Pakistan announced that it was considering ratifying the 2005 Amendment to the CPPNM and conducting a “review to meet its various requirements.” The relevant organizations within the National Command Authority reviewed the existing status of physical protection systems in place, assessed the need for additional measures, and chalked out a plan to fulfill those added requirements of the amended CPPNM. During those deliberations, it was observed that Pakistan was already fulfilling most of the technical requirements of the amendment. However, it was required to formalize the existing measures and review the regulatory framework to add the missing elements such as regulations and guides. 

Additional Requirements of the CPPNM Amendment

The original CPPNM covered the physical protection of nuclear material during international transport, whereas the amended CPPNM has a broader scope and coverage.4 Its role has expanded into the following three areas: 

  1. Scope: Physical protection requirements have expanded to include nuclear facilities and nuclear material in domestic use, storage, and transport.
  2. Offenses: With the expanded coverage of the convention, the scope of offenses has also expanded to cover the theft of nuclear material as well as the smuggling of nuclear material and the actual or threatened sabotage of nuclear facilities. It also requires the state to minimize the radiological impacts of sabotage and to prevent and combat related offenses.
  3. International Cooperation: The amended CPPNM requires the states to expand the scope of cooperation for locating and recovering stolen or smuggled nuclear material. It requires the states to exchange information with each other and the agency and other relevant organizations in case of theft, robbery, and unlawful seizure of nuclear material or credible threat thereof, aiming to recover and protect the material.

Pakistan under the amended CPPNM:

Pakistan has made significant progress in its nuclear security initiatives and has received positive feedback from the IAEA for its nuclear security measures. However, with the expansion of the civilian nuclear program and additional obligations from the amended CPPNM, Pakistan must further streamline its efforts to meet international requirements. This will also be helpful in dealing with evolving nature of design basis threats.

The additional requirements of the amended CPPNM broadly fall in the category of administrative, regulatory and legal measures, and international cooperation. To fulfill these requirements, various relevant entities, such as the operator, regulator, and law enforcement agencies, must undertake additional technical, legal, and administrative measures. The following sections will explain these requirements in relevance to Pakistan to determine how Islamabad is faring against the requirements of the amended CPPNM, and what additional measures it needs to undertake to fulfill these requirements in totality.

Administrative and Regulatory Framework

The amended CPPNM requires states to “establish, implement and maintain an appropriate physical protection regime” in the country. The regime would involve various organizations with defined roles and responsibilities. In that context, administrative measures are a prerequisite for identifying these roles and responsibilities in the physical protection process, such as those of the state, licensee, and the regulator.

In Pakistan, the National Command Authority is responsible for establishing a physical protection regime within the state. The PNRA, the national nuclear regulator, is the national contact point for the CPPNM and its amendment. It is responsible for developing the legislative and regulatory framework to ensure the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, whereas the Pakistan Atomic Energy Agency is responsible for implementing physical protection measures for nuclear materials and facilities.

The PNRA’s mandate is derived from its ordinance (III of 2001) and is declared as the national regulatory body responsible to ensure physical protection of nuclear material and facilities in Pakistan. The requirements of this section are covered in PNRA Regulations PAK/925 as objectives of the physical protection system (Clause 3, 24, 28). However, the PNRA’s relationship with other bodies responsible for overall nuclear security in the country needs to be clearly defined as required by the amended CPPNM. This is essential because the Fundamental Principle D of the amended CPPNM requires the designation of a competent authority which is responsible for the implementation of the legislative and regulatory framework, and is “provided with adequate authority, competence, financial and human resources to fulfill its assigned responsibilities.” While the PNRA is the competent authority for the regulatory framework, the competent authority(s) for other areas need to be designated clearly.

The amended CPPNM requires regular national threat assessment and development of Design Basis Threat (DBT). In Pakistan, the NCA with input from other relevant bodies is responsible for conducting the national threat assessment. The DBT is a regulatory tool for planning, designing, and evaluating a physical protection system. The roles and responsibilities of various organizations need to be clearly defined as outlined in the Nuclear Security Series No 13 para 3.35. Similarly, it is also important to set a defined timetable for the review of the DBT.

There is also a need to improve safety and security interface. The PNRA’s mandate is to regulate nuclear security from a safety perspective. It has adopted a systematic approach and methodology to deal with the interface of nuclear safety and nuclear security such as unified licensing process; conducting joint safety and security inspections; centralized emergency coordination; rotation policy for employees; transparency and confidentiality of information; modification management; human resource development; safety and security cultures assessment, etc. However, that interface needs to be improved. This is also important from a security culture point of view, which is an important requirement of the amended CPPNM. While PAK-925 covers security culture, there is no document outlining the importance and necessity of a safety and security culture interface.

Additionally, Pakistan focuses on nuclear material accounting and control (NMAC) only from a safeguards perspective, but the nuclear security series 13 (para 3.36) additionally stresses the importance of NMAC for nuclear security. This aspect could be included in the PNRA mandate from a physical security perspective. This aspect has been further emphasized in NNS NO 25-G on “Use of Nuclear Material Accounting and Control for Nuclear Security purposes at Facilities” as it underlines the importance of NMAC systems for nuclear security purposes, particularly against insider threats.

Legal Measures

The major development in the legal sphere is the issuance of long-pending regulation on “Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Installations—(PAK/925)” published on July 12, 2019, following the ratification of the CPPNM amendment. With the issuance of this primary technical regulation, major aspects of additional physical protection measures such as nuclear facilities, material in domestic transport, etc., have been covered. Many of the Fundamental Principles in the amended CPPNM, such as security culture, evaluation of threat, graded approach, defense in-depth, quality assurance, and contingency plans, are covered under the PAK/925. Thus, PAK/925 provides the legal basis for the IAEA’s “Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities (INFCIRC/225/Rev.5)” and the technical obligations of CPPNM.

Besides the issuance of relevant regulations, an important second step is the publication of associated regulatory guides that are now in the process of development. These regulatory guides serve as an operating procedure and help the operators to implement relevant regulations. Following the issuance of regulation PAK/925, PNRA has issued the regulatory guide on Format and Content of Physical Protection Plan for Radioactive Sources (PNRARG-926.01). The regulatory guide on Implementation of Access Control System (ACS) measures at Nuclear Installations is under process.

The major technical step resulting from these regulatory improvements was the upgradation of physical protection measures in and around existing and under-construction new nuclear power plants. PNRA’s future inspections and issuance/renewal of licenses will be based on compliance of the operators with the new regulations. On ground, these measures have resulted in various upgrades; e.g. physical protection upgrades at Karachi Nuclear Power Plant Unit 1 that were initiated in 2019, are now close to completion with the assistance of the IAEA. Updated physical security of the new K-series plants such as K-1 and K-2 were made part of the construction agreement with China. The C-series Nuclear Power Plants (i.e., C-1, C-2, C-3 & C-4) located at the Chashma site have inbuilt enhanced physical security features such as security by design which is based on additional safety features in the nuclear power plant identified through probabilistic safety assessments that can reduce the possibility of high radiological consequences. This, in turn, helps identify vital areas and their physical protection measures as an additional layer of protection e.g., double containment of the core is one such important feature that has been incorporated in the newly built nuclear power plants in Pakistan.

However, there is less clarity on the domestic transport of nuclear material for the K-1, which uses domestic natural uranium as a fuel. The NCA is responsible for developing a mechanism in coordination with the PNRA and licensees for the physical protection of nuclear materials during national transport. The scope of the PNRA ordinance covers the complete fuel cycle, but PAK-925 does not cover the entire fuel cycle and focuses on nuclear facilities only. There is a separate regulation on transport (PAK/916), but in its current form, it does address physical protection measures for domestic material during domestic transport. Nonetheless, since it is under revision, it is important to highlight that the revised regulation should cover this gap.

Most of the offenses added into the CPPNM (amended) such as theft and smuggling of nuclear material and the actual or threatened sabotage of nuclear facilities are covered by the NCA Act and PNRA ordinance. The PNRA Ordinance has a broader scope, and it applies to any person committing an offense, i.e. both the licensee and non-licensee as explained in Section 44 (Offences) of the ordinance. Pakistan, as required by the IAEA also needs to share information regarding laws and regulations adopted to implement the convention.

International Cooperation

The PNRA is the focal point for cooperation with the IAEA, regulatory bodies of other countries, and other international organizations for exchanging regulatory information related to nuclear safety and security. The amended CPPNM encourages the member states to exchange information with each other and the agency in case of theft, robbery, and unlawful seizure of nuclear material. This cooperation is anticipated in case of an event and decision about the nature and level of any cooperation will be decided and determined by the National Command Authority in Pakistan. The level of cooperation can be preventive and proactive and may range from information sharing among member states, border controls, joint investigations of the event, etc. Following the ratification of the amended CPPNM, Pakistan has joined the Nuclear Security Contact Group (NSCG) in 2019 that serves as a platform to develop a strong and sustainable comprehensive global nuclear security architecture. This platform can be used to strengthen and streamline international cooperation in case of a nuclear security incident.

Way Forward

Physical protection of nuclear material and nuclear facilities is one of the most important aspects of the overall nuclear security arrangement. It is, however, crucial to understand that nuclear security and physical protection is not a goal but a process that should continue to evolve incrementally. Therefore, it is critical to do regular analysis on the gaps in physical security and how any gaps are being addressed.

It is, however, crucial to understand that nuclear security and physical protection is not a goal but a process that should continue to evolve incrementally. Therefore, it is critical to do regular analysis on the gaps in physical security and how any gaps are being addressed.

Article 16.1 of the original and amended Conventions provided for a mandated review conference five years after it entered into force. There is also a provision for additional review conference (article 16.2) if majority states vote in favor. States may use the review conference platform to assess the conventions’ implementation and efficacy. The first and only review conference was held on September 29, 1992. That review conference did not decide in favor of additional review conferences. With the amendment, the clause of review conference has become active again after completing five years of its entry into force in 2020. The IAEA Secretariat has already held an informal meeting of CPPNM Parties in 2018 for a potential review conference in 2021.

To prepare for a potential review conference in 2021, Pakistan may prepare a report on its activities. Besides that, at the International Conference on Nuclear Security: Sustaining and Strengthening Efforts in February 2020, Pakistan announced its intention to host an International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS) Mission and accession to the International Convention on Suppression of Acts of Nuclear Terrorism (ICSANT). This is a major undertaking and would require additional work and commitments. A three-step approach may be followed to assess the gaps, cover them in a timely manner, and prepare for an international peer review.

  1. Selfappraisal: Firstly, Pakistan may have a dispassionate introspective analysis to find the gaps and potential vulnerabilities internally.
  2. Engaging IAEA through workshop or training course: As the next step, Pakistan may consider requesting the IAEA to offer a workshop or training course on International Physical Protection Advisory Service (IPPAS)to begin with. The workshop will help identify the IPPAS requirements and how to address them.
  3. Inviting an IPPAS mission: Inviting an IPPAS mission i.e. a group of technical experts assessing country’s physical protection compliance against international standards, will certainly give a boost to the level of confidence. Pakistan may start with a facility-level review and can assimilate those lessons in its other facilities as well.


Given the evolving nature of threats in the region and an expanding nuclear power program, Pakistan has paid great attention to ensuring that its nuclear program is fail-safe and meets the international standards of safety and security. Ratification of the amended CPPNM was a manifestation of the country’s undiminished focus on nuclear security objectives and desire to comply with international standards. The ratification enabled Pakistan to feature as the “most improved country” on the National Threat Initiative Nuclear Security Index report of 2020. However, the overall score requires further improvement through better information sharing and communication. Hosting an IPPAS mission, even at a facility level, as a next step will not only help bridge the gaps but tremendously boost international confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear security architecture.

Editor’s Note: This article is part of series of pieces published in partnership with CRDF Global. Articles for the series, written by recipients of the CRDF-SAV research grant in nuclear security, cover topics ranging from cyber security at civilian nuclear energy sites, regional and international cooperation in South Asia, to personnel protection at nuclear sites, and other topics related to nuclear security on the subcontinent.


Image 1: IAEA Image Bank via Flickr

Image 2: Samuel Kubani/AFP via Getty Images

  1. INFCIRC/225/Rev-5 is the IAEA publication that intends to assist the Member States in implementing their physical protection regime in line with all international commitments they have undertaken. It explains the basic elements of nuclear security and the recommended requirements to be implemented by the state.
  2. While acceding to the CPPNM, Pakistan put reservation on paragraph 2 of article 2 regarding domestic use and transport and paragraph 2 of article17 on dispute settlement. “Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Materials: Declaration/Reservations and Objections Hereto,” International Atomic Energy Agency, March 5, 2021, accessed October 6, 2021. http://www-legacy.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Conventions/cppnm_reserv.pdf.
  3. The IAEA defines nuclear security as “the prevention of, detection of, and response to, criminal or intentional unauthorized acts involving or directed at nuclear material, other radioactive material, associated facilities, or associated activities” For further definitions see: IAEA, “IAEA Nuclear Security Glossary: Terminology used in IAEA Nuclear Security Guidance,” August 2020, accessed October 6, 2021, https://www.iaea.org/sites/default/files/21/06/nuclear_security_glossary_august_2020.pdf.
  4. The amended CPPNM also includes twelve fundamental principles of physical protection which are part of the INFCIRC/225/Rev-5 and include the responsibility of the state, responsibilities during International transport, legislative and regulatory framework, competent authority, the responsibility of the license holders, security culture, threat, graded approach, defense in depth, quality assurance, contingency plans, and confidentiality.
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