What Does George Kuzmycz Center in Ukraine Do?

Nuclear safety and security issue has always been relevant for Ukraine. There are 15 operating power units in Ukraine, Chornobyl exclusion zone with a number of specific facilities, industry, medical sphere, research institutions, radioactive waste management facilities. All of them need the appropriate level of physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear and other radioactive materials.

Uatom.org Editorial Board discussed problems of our country in this area and ways of their solution with Viktor Havryliuk, head of the George Kuzmycz Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material.

Viktor Havryliuk, Head of the George Kuzmycz Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material


– Viktor, how did you start working in the George Kuzmycz Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material?

After completion of postgraduate studies in the Institute of Physics of the Academy of Sciences of the Ukrainian Soviet Republic in 1969, I worked at the Institute of Physics, then in the Institute for Nuclear Research. From 1974 to 1983, I worked at the Presidium of the National Academy of Sciences. In 1983, I returned to the Institute for Nuclear Research for the position of Deputy Scientific Director. When I turned 60, I decided to clear the way for young experts and headed the Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material. I have been working here for more than 19 years.

– Please tell us briefly the history of the Center? Why was it named after the representative of the US Department of Energy George Kuzmycz?

– When Ukraine gained independence in 1991, it inherited a significant amount of nuclear weapons and vehicles from the USSR. Of course, this worried the world community, which was seriously concerned that nuclear weapons or nuclear material may fall into the hands of criminal or terrorists.

In 1993, the United States of America and Ukraine signed the Agreement about assistance to Ukraine in elimination of strategic nuclear weapons. Within this Agreement, three implementation agreements were signed. The first agreement related to the elimination of nuclear weapons, the second agreement referred to the creation of the system of control, accounting and physical protection of nuclear materials and the third agreement related to the development of a state system for export control of nuclear materials.

According to the second implementation agreement, the USA started providing assistance to three organizations in Ukraine: Kharkiv Institute of Physics and Technology, Sevastopol National University of Nuclear Energy and Industry and Institute for Nuclear Research in Kyiv to create the systems of physical protection of nuclear materials and nuclear facilities of these institutions.

The Institute for Nuclear Research was the first to handle this task. It happened in 1997. Creating the system of physical protection revealed that there are no experts who can operate these systems in Ukraine. In 1997, Ukraine and the USA signed the Memorandum that the Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material will be created at the Institute for Nuclear Research of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine.

Our Center was opened on 08 October 1998. George Kuzmycz, representative of the US Department of Energy in Ukraine, made a significant contribution to its establishment. Unfortunately, he did not see the official opening of the Center, because he tragically died in a car accident in Ukraine.  

– Viktor, do you remember the first years of work and the main challenges?

– At that time, we faced many problems and challenges. First, we did not have lecturers. Second, the legislation on physical protection has just started to form.

First lectures were delivered to us by experts from the USA. Our lecturers worked under their guidance, which made it possible for us to take the initiative in our own hands in 2000.

On 11 September 2001, the United States suffered from major unprecedented terrorist acts. The attackers seized four flight passenger airlines, two of which crashed into the towers of the World Trade Center in New York. Another one was directed into the Pentagon building not far from Washington. The last one crashed to the field in Pennsylvania.

After the events of 11 September 2001, the world community recognized that:

  • there are forces in the world ready to commit a crime with any number of victims;
  • these forces use means of purely peaceful purpose as means of destruction;
  • these forces are ready to die to reach their malicious objectives.

Once it was believed that nuclear material with high level of radiation protects itself. After a series of terrorist attacks in the USA, the world community understood that this provision does not apply to suicide bombers. Since 2001, the world community uses not only the notion of physical protection, but also the notion of nuclear safety and security. Unfortunately, the latter notion has not been reflected in the regulatory framework of Ukraine.

According to world standards, physical protection is an integral part of nuclear safety and security. The purpose of physical protection is to protect nuclear material and nuclear facilities. The purpose of nuclear safety and security is to protect the public and the environment against those attacks that can be committed by criminals (terrorists) using nuclear materials.

In fact, this is very important thing. It is important to understand it. While the whole world trains experts on nuclear safety and security, we do not even train experts on physical protection. Previously, we trained some in Sevastopol, but we lost such an opportunity due to the annexation of the Crimea.

– Igor Sikorsky Kyiv Polytechnic Institute (KPI) promises to open a new specialization to train experts on physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear materials. Will it succeed?

– I hope so. The KPI makes everything possible: prepare books, train lecturers. The KPI plans to open the new specialization within Atomic Energy department.

At the same time, the KPI does not have material and technical means for training of experts in this specialization. However, we have them: polygon with appropriate infrastructure and up-to-date equipment, laboratories with relevant equipment. As a matter of fact, we have everything one needs to train students. If the specialization is opened, we will work together with the KPI to train experts.

– Tell us about the main activities of the Center.  

Given the fact that our Center is called the Training Center, it is not difficult to guess what we are doing. Who and what do we teach? That is the question.

We are the only Center in Ukraine that has the right to improve skills on physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear materials. The following experts appeal to us: four categories of NPP experts (from the top management to regular employees); experts of research nuclear facilities; experts radioactive waste management facilities; personnel of the National Guard of Ukraine who protect national nuclear facilities; licensees and civil servants (Ministry of Energy and Coal Industry of Ukraine, Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine, State Nuclear Regulatory Inspectorate of Ukraine and others).

Over the past few years, we have worked most fruitfully with the National Guard of Ukraine. A new training course I am working at is called “Psychological aspects of military service in the protection of nuclear power plants”. This is a very interesting course, one of the components of which is the problem of radiophobia in Ukraine.

Do you know that radiophobia is a disease? Its symptoms are very similar to the first stage of radiation sickness. Headache, fever, weight loss, drowsiness, vomiting.

I want to tell you one story of life here. Once I worked as Chief of Staff of the National Academy of Sciences in Chornobyl. One military man came to me and said that he felt bad. He had a fever and all other signs of the first stage of radiation sickness. It was evident that he did not simulate. However, when I asked him where exactly he worked, it turned out that it was impossible to reach such a radiation level that would lead to the first stage of exposure. It took me time to understand how this could have happened. Only with the experience I realized that he had a radiophobia. Today, about 11,000 of former military men who participated in the elimination of Chornobyl accident suffer from it.

– Who treats radiophobia?  

Only psychologists can treat radiophobia. That military man who came to me convinced himself that he was ill. As a result, he really began to have symptoms of radiation sickness.  

– Viktor, what other interesting courses are there in your Center?  

We do not have boring courses (joking – edit. note). The most popular are: those for experts of the National Guard right at nuclear facilities. One of the most popular courses is to exercise actions of the unit responsible for security in emergency and crisis situations. An emergency is the situation that can lead to death of a person or loss of health in case of, for example, earthquake, flooding, fire or explosion. A crisis is the situation related to malicious actions of people regarding a nuclear facility. This can be a terrorist attack, theft of nuclear material, taking of hostages by terrorists. There, we use all our equipment: combat vehicles, rifles, unmanned aerial vehicles. All this makes it possible to perceive situation much better than in lecture rooms. We plan to hold a course of such a format in April on site of South Ukraine NPP and in May on site of Khmelnitsky NPP.

– How many lecturers are there in the staff?   

11 people along with me work in the staff of the Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material.

– Shall one pay for your courses?


– Do you train experts from other countries?  

– Yes. Armenians, Georgians, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Lithuanians and Belarusians attended the skill improvement courses. Experts from Kazakhstan who were representatives of ministries, security structures and agencies, were trained in our Center in November 2017.

For 20 years, we have been cooperating with the national laboratories of the US Department of Energy.

– What does this collaboration means?  

– Together with these laboratories we develop some textbooks or manuals as we call them.

We consult with the customer of the training course, for example with the National Guard, before preparing a manual. We describe the plan and training program in details. The program is agreed with the National Guard and obligatory with the SNRIU. Then, it is approved by the academic council of the Institute for Nuclear Research. Only after that, we prepare a manual that is sent subsequently for the international review to the USA.

Once we received a very interesting comment from US experts: “We ask you to secret this manual, because it is a great training book for terrorists”.

– How many manuals have you already developed?

– About 40 over the entire period of activity. Currently, 25 manuals are in use. We also revise old manuals.

– I know that you cooperate with the IAEA and Swedish Radiation Safety Authority. What is your cooperation about?

– Lecturers of our Center within IAEA teams from time to time participate in training courses on the subject in Ukraine and abroad.

Every year we hold the All-Ukrainian Conference on Physical Protection, Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials with the Swedish Radiation Safety Authority and Norwegian Radiation Protection Authority. This year the Conference will have its fifteenth anniversary.

Previously, we developed training courses for the SNRIU together with the Swedish nuclear regulator. However, we do not cooperate in this direction over the last 2-3 years.

– Has the XV Ukrainian Conference on Physical Protection, Accounting and Control of Nuclear Material being organized?  

Yes, we work on its arrangement. In this context, I would like to state that our conference has a significant importance for Ukraine. Nobody holds events of such a level on physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear materials in Ukraine.

– Are there any problems with conference funding?  

In recent years, the conference is funded by the joint efforts of the Swedish and Norwegian nuclear regulators. Energoatom Company contributes a lot. Frankly speaking, today I am looking for additional sponsor for this year’s conference. This year the conference will have its anniversary and we would like to delight the participants with something special.

– Where will the conference take place this year?  

This year, Zaporizhzhya NPP will host the conference.  

– Viktor, besides training courses and branch events, what else do you do?  

We are the authors of the vocabulary on physical protection, accounting and control of nuclear materials. We prepared Ukrainian, Russian and English versions, which were then approved by SNRIU order.

Together with national nuclear regulator, we developed 28 regulations in the area. Currently, they are approved at the level of the Cabinet of Ministers of Ukraine, SNRIU orders, state administration authorities.

– Does the Training Center for Physical Protection, Control and Accounting of Nuclear Material have any problems on time? What are the solutions to them?

– The first problem is that we have little staff. Let us say, if we have 20 experts in our staff, it would be more comfortable to work.

The second issue is that the material and technical means of the Center are up-to-date. However, after some years the equipment will be outdated. We do not know, how to raise funds for new equipment.

The third issue is that the Center does not have money to participate in international forums and conferences. We improve skills of national experts. However, we do not have funds to raise our level of qualification.

The most painful problem of Ukraine is that nobody supports the Center in Ukraine.

– If a secret investor allocates 10 million dollars for the Center, what would you spend them for?

First, I would equip the Center with the most up-to-date laboratories and equipment.

Second, I would open a hotel for the Training Center, where the audience of our courses will be able to live in comfortable conditions.

Third, I would extend the staff.

Fourth, I would send Center experts for skill improvement to the best world institutions.

If a secret investor appears this year, I will issue a book dedicated to the 25th anniversary of the physical protection system in Ukraine.

Uatom.org Editorial Board