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Nuclear Safeguards Education Portal
Physical Protection Systems

Course Difficulty: Basic Course, some prior knowledge required

Course Category: Nuclear Security

Deployable delay barrier at a power plant.
Deployable delay barrier at a power plant.

Administrative Details

Module Description: This module covers the basics of the design and evaluation of physical protection systems.

Prerequisites: Students taking this module should have a working knowledge of basic algebra.

Learning Objectives: Students completing this module should develop an understanding of the performance-based methodology used to design and evaluate a physical protection system to protect nuclear material from theft or sabotage. Students should be able to describe the three main elements of a physical protection system (Detection, Delay, and Response), how they are evaluated, and how they are interdependent. The student should also understand how the design basis threat (DBT) is determined and used when evaluating the effectiveness of a physical security system.

Outline: This module consists of the following sections:

  1. Introduction
  2. Risk-Informed Security Design
  3. Design and Evaluation Process Outline
  4. Target Identification
  5. Threat Assessment
  6. Design Basis Threat
  7. Detection
  8. Delay
  9. Response
  10. Single Path Analysis
  11. Multi-Path Analysis
  12. Scenario Development
  13. Upgrade Analysis
  14. References

Each section contains reading material, videos, and reference materials. The reading material includes a brief discussion of the subject matter, and the videos explore the subject in further detail. The student should complete the reading material and then watch the videos if they wish to have additional information and a more in-depth explanation of the subject matter

This module is intended to help develop an understanding of physical protection systems design and evaluation and is only a short introduction into the number of topics that are covered. For anyone interested in further information on this subject we recommend the following books:

  • Biringer, Betty, et al. Security Risk Assessment and Management: A Professional Practice Guide for Protecting Buildings and Infrastructures. New Jersey: Wiley, 2007.
  • Garcia, Mary Lynn. The Design and Evaluation of Physical Protection Systems. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2008.
  • Garcia, Mary Lynn. Vulnerability Assessment of Physical Protection Systems. Amsterdam: Elsevier/Butterworth-Heinemann, 2006.

For more information on the threats of nuclear terrorism, see:

  • Ferguson, Charles D. and William C. Potter. The Four Faces of Nuclear Terrorism. The Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Monterey Institute of International Studies. Monterey, CA, 2004.
    (available at )

A special thanks to Chris Myers for his help in producing this module.

See a list of terminology for this module.

See general course instructions.

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