The Influence of Language on Nuclear Security Education and Training: An Exploratory Study

Zenobia Homan, Şebnem Udum

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In the civil nuclear industry sector emphasis has traditionally been placed on safety (protecting people and the environment against injury, damage, hazards and unintended incidents) rather than security (protecting nuclear materials, systems and facilities against adversaries). Security-related incidences have demonstrated that security culture is still far less embedded than safety culture amongst personnel at nuclear sites and has served to facilitate successful attacks by both internal and external adversaries. Consequently, there has been an upsurge in studies aimed at investigating how security culture can be strengthened, examining the influence of broader national and corporate cultures on individual employees and how to improve their attitudes and behaviours towards nuclear security. However, one aspect of this, which remains largely unexplored, is language. The following study seeks to examine the role language plays in the development of nuclear security culture and nuclear security regimes in different national contexts. It explores how people with different native languages understand the ideas of safety and security in the nuclear context, and what the obstacles to their understanding might be. This is in part an issue of semantics: people from differing backgrounds may see things dissimilarly because they have access to unique sets of words; there are differences between linguistic meaning and real-world concepts; and meaning does not necessarily transfer from one language to another. Utilising a series of focus-groups, participants will be asked to define ‘safety’, ‘risk’, ‘security’, ‘threat’ and other key nuclear security terminology, both in English, the official language of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and in their native language(s). We intend to find out whether word, meaning, or concept takes precedence, and why. How individuals internalise and distinguish between safety and security will also be explored. Finally, we will consider what this means for the design and delivery of nuclear security education and training programmes in different national contexts. Suggestions will be provided for how materials and approaches might be altered to imbue a deeper understanding of key nuclear security concepts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication60th International Nuclear Materials Management Annual Meeting
Number of pages10
Publication statusPublished - 16 Jul 2019


  • nuclear security

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