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International Safeguards

As part of the global nuclear non-proliferation regime, the NRC participates in domestic and international activities to account for and control nuclear material assigned to commercial and other peaceful purposes. In order to comply with U.S. Government non-proliferation commitments, the NRC participates in many different activities such as implementing international safeguards treaties, reviewing import and export licenses, and collecting data through the national system of accounting for source and special nuclear materials (i.e., Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS)).

Treaties, most notably the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT); U.S. – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement; and Additional Protocol to the U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement (AP); place requirements on the U.S. Government that the NRC helps to implement. NRC Regulations in 10 CFR Part 75 and Part 110 contain requirements for NRC and Agreement State licensees, applicants, and certificate holders, to ensure that the United States meets its nuclear non-proliferation obligations under international safeguards treaties. These obligations can include providing information to the IAEA on the location of civilian nuclear facilities, information on the location of source and special nuclear materials, tracking and reporting of imports and exports involving source material, special nuclear material and certain dual-use items, and access to the civilian nuclear facilities to conduct inspections. These obligations are similar to the obligations accepted by other countries, however, as a nuclear weapons state under the NPT, the U.S. is not obligated to undergo international safeguards. The U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the U.S. Additional Protocol are both subject to a national security exclusion. In each case, the U.S. agreed to permit the application of the provisions of each Treaty excluding only instances where its application would result in access by the IAEA to activities with direct national security significance to the U.S. or to locations or information associated with such activities.

The overall purpose of IAEA safeguards is to provide credible assurance to the international community that nuclear material and other specified items are not diverted from peaceful nuclear uses. To fulfill this purpose, the IAEA utilizes the authorities granted by the United Nations, and the individual Safeguards Agreements signed by countries that are a party to the NPT. The technical measures used to provide credible assurance vary, however some practices are fairly commonplace such as nuclear material accountancy, containment (i.e., tamper indicating seals), surveillance, and inspections. Using all of the available expertise, equipment, and data, the IAEA generates and implements a safeguards approach at both the facility level, and the State level. At the end of the year, the IAEA will draw conclusions about a particular State, and publish these findings in its annual report.

In addition to treaty implementation, the NRC provides technical assistance to the IAEA and supports U.S. initiatives to enhance international safeguards and verification programs. Through U.S. Government groups such as the Subgroup on Safeguards Technical Support (SSTS), the NRC assists the IAEA in developing the technical capabilities to better meet verification challenges throughout the world. The NRC works with other U.S. agencies to promote strong global non-proliferation regimes and participates in various related interagency groups.

One current example of the U.S. Government's support for initiatives that strengthen the international non-proliferation regime is the Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration (DOE/NNSA) work associated with the concept of Safeguards By Design (SBD). This concept encourages designers and operators to consider incorporating nuclear safeguards measures in the planning and design of nuclear facilities. The SBD concept has two main objectives: (1) to avoid costly and time-consuming redesign work or retrofits of new nuclear fuel cycle facilities and (2) to make the implementation of international safeguards more effective and efficient at such facilities. DOE/NNSA has developed a series of facility-specific SBD guidance documents for designers and operators. The following documents are a product of the DOE/NNSA and are not guidance by the NRC; all questions should be directed to the appropriate contacts at DOE/NNSA.

DOE/NNSA Safeguards By Design Guidance Documents:

DOE/NNSA Safeguards By Design Webpage

Refer to Documents related to IAEA safeguards, in addition to the Safeguards chapter of the IAEA Annual Report , and the U.S. Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System

U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement

The U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement is a treaty between the United States and the IAEA for the application of international safeguards on eligible nuclear material in the U.S. Although not required to do so under the NPT, the U.S. voluntarily agreed to permit the IAEA “… 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 non-nuclear-weapon States to sign the Treaty. Therefore, the U.S. signed the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement in 1977. Since then over 265 facilities licensed by the NRC have been placed on the list of U.S. facilities eligible for IAEA safeguards reporting and inspections; four NRC licensed facilities are currently selected by the IAEA and are therefore submitting nuclear material accounting data to the IAEA.

The U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement is intended to demonstrate to non-nuclear weapon States that their nuclear facilities would not be at an economic disadvantage, compared to the U.S. nuclear facilities, due to the implementation of IAEA safeguards. Under the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement, the United States provides access to declared nuclear facilities and data on declared nuclear material to the IAEA. This transparency allows the IAEA to ensure that nuclear material, at a declared facility, remains within the scope of “peaceful uses.” The IAEA makes a determination using a number of methods including verification of design information, review of nuclear material accountancy reports, sample collection and analysis, surveillance measures, containment (i.e., tamper indicating seals), and inspections. However, the fundamental IAEA safeguards measure is detailed nuclear material accountancy. In other words, the IAEA tracks the material being processed or stored at a facility down to the gram, kilogram, and item level. Using all of the information available, the IAEA draws a conclusion on the State's nuclear program annually and reports its conclusions to the IAEA Board of Governors.

In order to comply with various provisions of the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement, and unlike non-nuclear weapon states, the United States maintains a list of facilities that are eligible for the application of IAEA safeguards. This list, called the Eligible Facilities List (EFL), is comprised of NRC and Department of Energy facilities or locations that have been reviewed and approved by the U.S. Government. The EFL is periodically updated and the most recent version can be found in the NRC's Agencywide Documents Access and Management System (ADAMS) as a publicly available document. Listed below are the ADAMS accession numbers for the most recent updates to the NRC portion of the U.S. EFL.

U.S. Facilities Eligible for the Application of IAEA Safeguards
Calendar Year Update ADAMS Accession Number
2007 ML072490527
2008 N/A
2009 ML110420394
2010 ML112640475
2011 ML12157A558
2012 ML13177A355

Frequently Asked Questions

How is the NRC involved in the U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement?
The NRC oversees and facilitates the application of IAEA safeguards at NRC and Agreement State licensed facilities. Licensee compliance with U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement commitments is required by the Code of Federal Regulations; specifically, 10 CFR Parts 75 and 110. The NRC also assists in negotiating terms between NRC licensees and the IAEA, transmits accounting reports to the IAEA, and participates in U.S Government groups such as the IAEA Steering Committee (ISC), the Subcommittee on International Safeguards and Monitoring (SISM), and the Subgroup on IAEA Safeguards in the U.S. (SISUS).

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 facilities present on the most recent version of the U.S. EFL are eligible to be selected by the IAEA for the application of international safeguards. The current list contains approximately 265 NRC and Agreement State licensed facilities.

What happens when a site is selected for an inspection by the IAEA?
The NRC will notify the facility that it has been selected by the IAEA for application of IAEA safeguards. Following that, the facility operator, the NRC and the IAEA have a series of meetings during which they negotiate the details of the facility-specific IAEA safeguards approach. These negotiations are guided by the provisions of the NPT, the U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement, and other relevant treaties or agreements.

The facility operator must also complete 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 tightly controlled by the IAEA Operations Division that handle safeguards implementation within the U.S. When all negotiations are concluded the IAEA creates a “Facility Attachment” which describes the IAEA's 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 IAEA's planned visit as soon as possible after receiving the IAEA's inspection notification from the U.S. Department of State. Due to a provision within the U.S. Additional Protocol, an NRC employee will always 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
  • Sampling for destructive analysis
  • Other measures requested by the IAEA and approved by the U.S. Government

It is important to note that the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement has a provision for limiting IAEA access which allows any activity, component, process or otherwise proprietary aspect or information deemed sensitive by the U.S. Government to be concealed or excluded during the inspection. The licensee must, however, make a reasonable effort to allow for the collection of necessary data through other means.

Are there any facilities in the U.S. that are currently being inspected by the IAEA?
Since the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement entered into force in 1980, there have been numerous facilities that underwent IAEA inspections. Currently, however, only one facility is being inspected by the IAEA. This facility, the K Area Material Storage Vault (KAMS) at Savannah River National Laboratory, is a Department of Energy facility and therefore is not regulated by the NRC. Any questions pertaining to the safeguards inspections at KAMS should be directed to appropriate personnel at the U.S. Department of Energy. Additionally, three NRC licensed nuclear fuel fabrication facilities and one NRC licensed gas centrifuge enrichment facility, while not under an IAEA inspection regime, are providing nuclear material accounting data under the Reporting Protocol of the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement. The three fuel fabrication facilities are AREVA NP Inc. in Richland, Washington; Westinghouse Electric Company, LLC in Columbia, South Carolina; and Global Nuclear Fuel – Americas, LLC in Wilmington, North Carolina.  The gas centrifuge enrichment facility is Louisiana Energy Services, also referred to as URENCO USA, in Eunice, New Mexico.

Additional Protocol to the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement

The U.S. supports efforts to strengthen safeguards agreements around the world. 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. The IAEA Board of Governors began considering how to strengthen the IAEA safeguards program to include techniques and provisions focused at detecting undeclared nuclear material and activities. 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 States' safeguards agreements.

The U.S. Additional Protocol is a treaty between the U.S. and the IAEA for enhanced safeguards within the U.S. This Treaty 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. The U.S. Additional Protocol officially entered into force on January 6, 2009. Due to the recent implementation of the U.S. Additional Protocol, certain U.S. facilities and companies are now subject to strengthened reporting requirements and expanded IAEA access rights.

Frequently Asked Questions

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 national security exclusion clause in the U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement).

What is the difference between the U.S. - IAEA Safeguards Agreement and the U.S. Additional Protocol?
The principal differences between the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement 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.

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.”

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, to some degree, 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.

What is required by the Additional Protocol?
The United States is 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 the U.S. Government's compliance with the treaty, certain public and private U.S. entities are required to report 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.

Commercial entities are required to make declarations, elaborating on the activities above, on a quarterly or annual basis to the U.S. Government. These declarations are compiled and reviewed by the U.S. Government and ultimately submitted for Congressional review. For quarterly export reports, the U.S. Government requires that the appropriate forms must be submitted to the Department of Commerce no later than fifteen days after the end of a quarter (i.e., January 15th for the preceding October through December timeframe, April 15th for the preceding January through March timeframe, and so forth). For the annual update, changes and additions or deletions are submitted to the IAEA no later than May 15th of each year for the preceding calendar year's information. Therefore, in order to meet this deadline, the appropriate forms must be submitted to the Department of Commerce no later than January 31st of each year. Please review the U.S. Additional Protocol to determine whether your company or facility is responsible for reporting on a quarterly or annual basis.

In addition to the reporting requirements, all facilities reporting under the U.S. AP are required to permit U.S. Government representatives and authorized IAEA inspectors access to the facility to conduct a complementary access. Complementary access is the term given in the U.S. AP for a short-notice visit in order to verify the information provided is correct and complete, or in some cases to resolve a question or inconsistency. When a NRC or Agreement State licensed facility is selected by the IAEA for a complementary access, the NRC will contact the POCs listed on the site or location's reporting forms to immediately begin coordination. During the complementary access a representative of the NRC, along with other U.S. Government personnel, will facilitate the access and assist in protecting classified and proprietary information. For any questions pertaining to the U.S. Additional Protocol, please contact the Office of Nuclear Materials Safety and Safeguards at the U.S. NRC.

Who is responsible for facilitating a complementary access under 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 a different U.S. Government Agency, that Agency will assume responsibility for implementing the U.S. 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) and DOC concerning their facilities. The NRC and DOC will use common reporting forms and formats to ensure consistency between submitted information. The up-to-date AP reporting forms are available on the U.S. Department of Commerce web site. 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 following address:

U.S. Department of Commerce
Treaty Compliance Division

1401 Constitution Avenue, NW
Room 4515
Washington, D.C. 20230
Attn: AP Reports

How do I know whether my facility is a location or a site?
Under the U.S. Additional Protocol, the term “site” has a very specific meaning. Any facility that has submitted a design information questionnaire (DIQ) to the IAEA under the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement, is considered a “site”. All other facilities are considered “locations” for reporting purposes.

Where can I find more information about the Additional Protocol?
The Department of Commerce maintains a webpage that is dedicated to the U.S. Additional Protocol and contains useful information such as the handbooks and forms for use when submitting information, and the treaty text of the U.S. Additional Protocol.

Additional information can be found at the following websites:

Page Last Reviewed/Updated Friday, October 17, 2014