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Contact Us About International Programs

International Safeguards

As part of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the NRC participates in U.S. and international activities to account for and control nuclear material assigned to commercial and other peaceful purposes.

Although not required to do so under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, the U.S. voluntarily agreed “… to permit the Agency to apply safeguards, in accordance with the terms of this Agreement, on all source or special fissionable material in all facilities within the United States, excluding only those facilities associated with activities with direct national security significance to the United States…” to encourage participation of non-nuclear-weapon States in the Treaty. This attempt resulted in the signing of the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement exit icon in 1977. Since then over 200 facilities licensed by the NRC have been placed on the list of U.S. facilities eligible for IAEA safeguards reporting and inspections and four facilities selected by the IAEA are submitting accounting data to the IAEA.

Recently, an Additional Protocol to the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement was ratified by Congress and awaits final implementation. When the Additional Protocol enters into force all U.S eligible facilities will be subject to strengthened reporting requirements and expanded IAEA access rights. To learn more about the Additional Protocol, click here.

The NRC provides technical assistance to the IAEA and supports U.S. initiatives to extend and enhance international safeguards and verification programs.

The NRC participates in U.S. physical protection information exchanges with other countries. Teams of specialists visit facilities and hold discussions to ensure that special nuclear materials transferred between countries will be adequately protected in the recipient country. The NRC staff had a lead role in a September 2004 revision to the International Convention on the Physical Security of Nuclear Material.

Documents related to international safeguards may be found here exit icon, the Safeguards chapter of the IAEA Annual Report PDF Icon exit icon, and the U.S. Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System exit icon.

U.S-IAEA Safeguards Agreement

The U.S-IAEA Safeguards Agreement is a voluntary agreement between the United States and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the application of international safeguards on nuclear material in the U.S. In September 1976, the U.S.-IAEA agreement was submitted to the IAEA Board of Governors for the Board's approval and was submitted to the U.S. Senate on February 9, 1978. Its advice and consent to ratification was given unanimously, with understandings, on July 2, 1980. It
entered into force on December 9, 1980.

The U.S-IAEA Safeguards Agreement is called the “Voluntary Offer” for short since the United States was under no obligation to accept safeguards on its nuclear material under the NPT. This treaty was signed to demonstrate to non-nuclear weapon States that there was no economic disadvantage for implementing safeguards.

Under the voluntary agreement, the United States provides data on declared nuclear material to the IAEA for the verification and to determine whether nuclear material has been diverted for weapons development. Currently, an Additional Protocol to this agreement is being instated to further strengthen this agreement. Please see the page on the Additional Protocol to the U.S-IAEA Safeguards Agreement for further information.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between the Voluntary Offer and the Additional Protocol?
The principal differences between the Voluntary Offer and the Additional Protocol include the broader declaration requirements called for and the expanded access permitted in the Additional Protocol. There are also improved procedures for designating Agency inspectors, issuing inspector visas, and protection of safeguards information by the Agency

How is the NRC involved in the Voluntary Offer?
The NRC oversees and facilitates the application of IAEA safeguards at the NRC and Agreement State licensed facilities.  Licensee compliance with U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement commitments is required by the Code of Federal Regulations.  The NRC also assists in negotiating terms between NRC licensees and the IAEA, transmits accounting reports to the IAEA, and participates in the "Interagency Steering Group for International Safeguards" which deals with policy matters related to the implementation of IAEA safeguards in the U.S. and its two subgroups, the "Safeguards Agreement Working Group," which monitors implementation, and the "Negotiating Team," which negotiates the necessary subsidiary arrangements for implementing the agreement.

What does it mean to be on the eligible facilities list?
Article 1(b) of the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement states that “The United States shall, ..., provide the [IAEA] with a list of facilities within the United States not associated with activities with direct national security significance to the United States and may, ..., add facilities to or remove facilities from that list as it deems appropriate.” The U.S., since the inception of the 1980 voluntary agreement, has made more than 300 facilities eligible for IAEA selection for the implementation of safeguards.  The current list contains approximately 265 facilities, of which approximately 240 are NRC licensees. From this list, the IAEA may choose to inspect a facility based upon a need to verify information provided by the licensee.

What happens when a site is selected for an inspection by the IAEA?
Before IAEA inspections can commence at a facility the NRC will notify the facility that it has been selected by the IAEA to submit to IAEA safeguards. Following that, the facility operator, the NRC and the IAEA have a series of meetings during which they negotiate the terms and implementation activities for the upcoming IAEA inspections.  These negotiations are guided by the terms described in the NPT, the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement, and the Additional Protocol. 

Next, the facility operator fills in a design information questionnaire (DIQ) for the IAEA. The DIQ contains a detailed physical description of the facility and its material flow. The DIQ forms the basis for the practical implementation of IAEA safeguards at the facility and is confidential.  When all negotiations are concluded the IAEA creates a “Facility Attachment” which describes the safeguards arrangements for that particular facility.

Unless specifically approved as part of the safeguards approach, IAEA inspections are announced in advance of the IAEA visit.  To the extent possible, the NRC will notify the licensee in writing of the proposed visit as soon as possible after receiving the IAEA’s inspection notification from the U.S. Department of State.  Unless the licensee and the NRC agree otherwise, an NRC employee will, to the extent possible, accompany the IAEA inspector(s) during the visit.  The licensee, applicant, or certificate holder should inform the NRC immediately if the IAEA inspection cannot be accommodated on the specified date.  Typical IAEA inspections activities include, but are not limited to:

  • Examination of records
  • Inventory and material transaction verifications
  • Verification of the performance and calibration of operator instruments and equipment
  • Servicing of IAEA safeguards equipment installed at the facility
  • Independent measurements and environmental sampling
  • Samples taking

It is important to note that the voluntary agreement signed by the United States has a managed access clause which allows any activity, component, process or otherwise proprietary information deemed sensitive by the government to be concealed or excluded during the inspection visit. The licensee must, however, make a reasonable effort to allow for the collection of necessary data through other possible means.

Additional Protocol to the U.S-IAEA Safeguards Agreement

The Additional Protocol to the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards agreement is a treaty between the United States of America and the International Atomic Energy Agency for strengthened safeguards on U.S. nuclear material. This treaty was signed in 1998 by the U.S. Government and will enter into force after all involved regulatory agencies are prepared with the necessary changes to regulations and guidance documents.

The U.S Additional Protocol is based on the Model Additional Protocol PDF Icon exit icon with the exception of the National Security Exclusion.

When this treaty enters into force, additional information from NRC and Agreement State licensees will be required along with providing expanded access rights to the IAEA. The United States Government hopes that by agreeing to strengthened safeguards measures, it will provide an example for other nations to follow.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the Additional Protocol?
Discovery of the Iraqi clandestine nuclear weapons program in 1991, and subsequent discoveries involving other foreign nation’s nuclear programs, led to the recognition that the IAEA’s capability to detect undeclared nuclear activities needed to be strengthened.  At that time the focus of IAEA safeguards was to ensure the accuracy of a State’s nuclear material declarations through verification that the declared nuclear material was used only for peaceful nuclear activities.  Beginning in December 1991, the IAEA Board of Governors began considering how to strengthen the IAEA safeguards program.  New measures that the IAEA had authority to implement under the existing States’ safeguards agreements were adopted in 1995.  However, some new measures required the approval of new protocols to States’ safeguards agreements with the IAEA.  In May 1997, the IAEA Board of Governors approved the Model Protocol Additional to the Agreements between the States and the IAEA, and the IAEA Department of Safeguards immediately began negotiating “Additional Protocols” to the States’ safeguards agreements.

When did the U.S sign the Additional Protocol?
The U.S. Additional Protocol was signed by the United States Government on June 12, 1998 and the U.S. Senate provided its consent to ratification as a treaty on March 31, 2004.  The U.S. Congress passed and the President signed the U.S. Additional Protocol Implementation Act on December 16, 2006.  Next, the President issued Executive Order 13458 on February 4th, 2008 authorizing the Executive Branch agencies to issue regulations. The Additional Protocol will enter into force after the Federal agencies have promulgated regulations and completed all implementation

What is the difference between the Model Additional Protocol and the Additional Protocol signed by the U.S.?
The U.S. Additional Protocol is identical to the Model Additional Protocol which non-nuclear-weapon States are being asked to accept, excluding only those facilities associated with activities with direct national security significance to the United States (similar to the exclusion clause in the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement).

Why did the U.S sign the Additional Protocol?
“The United States, although under no obligation to do so as a nuclear-weapon state under Article I of the NPT, negotiated and signed an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, which incorporates the full text of the Protocol. This underscores U.S. commitment to combating the potential spread of nuclear weapons, and demonstrates that adherence to the Model Additional Protocol by other countries will not place them at a commercial disadvantage.”

What is required by the Additional Protocol?
Upon the treaty’s entry into force, the United States will be obligated to make declarations to the IAEA on peaceful nuclear activities in the United States and to provide the IAEA with sufficient access to resolve questions relating to the accuracy and completeness of the declarations.  To ensure U.S. Government compliance with the treaty, certain U.S. public and private entities will be required to report information to the government on the following activities:

  • Nuclear fuel cycle-related research and development
  • Activities on the sites of nuclear facilities
  • Manufacturing of nuclear fuel cycle-related equipment and materials
  • Mining and ore processing activities for uranium and thorium
  • Possession, import, and export of “impure” uranium and thorium materials
  • Location of nuclear material on which IAEA safeguards has been exempted or terminated
  • Import and export of nuclear fuel cycle-related equipment and materials.

Who is responsible for facilitating the collection of information required for the Additional Protocol?
When the IAEA requests access to a NRC licensee location, the NRC will facilitate the IAEA visit and support the implementation of Additional Protocol procedures. This participation is intended to protect proprietary, sensitive, or classified information at the location. When the IAEA requests access to a facility associated with U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) security interests, DOE will assume responsibility for implementing the Additional Protocol at the facility.

How is the required information for the Additional Protocol reported?
The Additional Protocol Reporting System is the United States’ national database for collecting information and making declarations to the IAEA under the Additional Protocol.  This system will be operated by the U.S. Department of Commerce (DOC) and will collect relevant information from the NRC, Department of Energy (DOE), Department of Defense (DOD), and DOC concerning their facilities.  The NRC and DOC will use common reporting forms and formats to ensure consistency between submitted information.  Additional Protocol reporting by NRC and Agreement State licensees to the NRC will be conducted using paper forms and submitted via U.S. Postal Service, hand delivery, courier or facsimile to the DOC, Treaty Compliance Division (BIS/NPTC/TCD).

Are there any other countries that have signed an Additional Protocol agreement?
According to current IAEA publications, over one hundred nations are signatories of an Additional Protocol agreement. These agreements may vary in their exact content however all of the agreements are based off of the Model Additional Protocol approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1997. It is the joint desire of the U.S Government and the IAEA that all recognized countries will eventually adopt an Additional Protocol agreement.

Where can I find more information about the Additional Protocol?
Additional information can be found at the following websites:

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Friday, July 25, 2008