Treaties and Conventions
Treaties and conventions place requirements on the U.S. Government that the NRC helps to implement to ensure compliance.
The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT): The NPT is an international treaty widely considered to be the cornerstone of the nonproliferation regime. It covers three mutually reinforcing pillars (disarmament, nonproliferation, and peaceful uses of nuclear energy). There are a total of 191 States that are Party to the Treaty, including the five declared nuclear-weapon States (China, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United States). The fundamental principle of the NPT considers that the recognized nuclear weapon States will move towards disarmament; non-nuclear weapon States will not acquire them; and all countries can access nuclear technology for peaceful (civilian) purposes. The NPT entered into force in 1970, and in 1995, the Parties voted to extend it indefinitely. The Parties gather every 5 years for a Review Conference to review accomplishments and challenges in implementing the NPT. Between Review Conferences, they participate in Preparatory Committee meetings.
The NRC has been an active participant in the NPT process. The agency's export licensing mandate ensures that countries in receipt of U.S.-origin nuclear material and components are in full compliance with their non-proliferation obligations, thus facilitating their access to peaceful uses. Through its regulatory assistance program, the NRC has also assisted countries wishing to avail themselves of the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear technology in ensuring they can do so safely and securely. NRC staff have also served on U.S. delegations to the Review Conference and Preparatory Committee meetings, participating in meetings associated with non-proliferation and the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. The NRC representatives provide regulatory perspectives and represent NRC equities in discussions on specific issues related to civil nuclear safety, security, safeguards and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, export controls expertise, and other regulatory assistance and cooperation activities.
United States-International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement ("Voluntary Offer") and Additional Protocol to the U.S. –IAEA Safeguards Agreement (AP): Through safeguards agreements with more than 180 countries, the IAEA verifies that governments are honoring their international legal obligations to use nuclear material and technology only for peaceful purposes. Under the voluntary offer safeguards agreement, select facilities in the United States report material accounting data on declared nuclear material to the IAEA, and, upon request, submit to IAEA inspections. For additional information, please see U.S. –IAEA Safeguards Agreement Website. The Additional Protocol (AP) is designed to augment and strengthen the current safeguards agreement between the United States and the IAEA. The AP provides for enhanced reporting and access requirements at locations and facilities within the United States. For additional information, please see Additional Protocol to the U.S. –IAEA Safeguards Agreement Website.
Additional Protocol to the U.S.-IAEA Safeguards Agreement (AP): This Agreement is designed to augment and strengthen the current safeguards agreement between the United States and the IAEA. The AP provides for enhanced reporting and access requirements at locations and facilities within the United States. For additional information, please see Additional Protocol to the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement Website.
Convention on Nuclear Safety (CNS): The CNS is a legally-binding international treaty under which 80 Contracting Parties commit to maintain a high level of safety at civilian, land-based nuclear power plants by setting international benchmarks to which the Contracting Parties subscribe. The obligations cover siting, design, construction, operation, financial and human resources, the assessment and verification of safety, quality assurance, and emergency preparedness. The CNS is an incentive instrument based on the Parties' common interest to achieve a high level of safety. The Parties participate in a peer review process, including the drafting and reviewing national reports, which are then discussed at meetings held every 3 years in Vienna, Austria, at the IAEA, which serves as the CNS Secretariat.
As the independent regulatory body tasked with overseeing nuclear safety and security at civilian nuclear facilities in the United States, the NRC plays a lead role in ensuring the U.S. Government meets its obligations under the CNS. It prepares a U.S. National Report every 3 years, focusing on U.S. nuclear safety regulatory compliance with each article of the Convention and providing specific examples of good practices and lessons learned. The NRC staff also reviews all of the other Parties' national reports, prepares written questions to facilitate a robust peer review process, and provides detailed written responses to questions other Parties pose about the U.S. report. The NRC sends experienced technical staff and managers to participate in the Review Meetings, with representatives in each of the country groups participating in peer review discussions.
Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and Convention on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency: Both the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency were adopted in 1986 following the accident at the Chernobyl Nuclear Power Plant. The Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident establishes a notification system for nuclear accidents that have the potential for international transboundary release that could be of radiological safety significance for another State. It requires States to report the accident's time, location, radiation releases, and other data essential for assessing the situation. Notification is to be made to the IAEA and affected States.
The Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency sets out an international framework for cooperation among States Parties and with the IAEA to facilitate prompt assistance and support in the event of nuclear accidents or radiological emergencies. It requires States to notify the IAEA of their available experts, equipment, and other materials for providing assistance. In case of a request, each State Party decides whether it can render the requested assistance as well as its scope and terms. The IAEA serves as the focal point for such cooperation by channeling information, supporting efforts, and providing its available services.
Under these Conventions, the NRC is obliged to report significant accidents to the IAEA and affected countries through the U.S. Department of State, which serves as the National Contact Point. The NRC also works closely with the U.S. Departments of State and Energy, as part of a broader U.S. Government response, to respond to requests for assistance in the event of foreign nuclear accidents or emergencies.
Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its Amendment (A/CPPNM): The CPPNM is the only legally-binding international agreement mandating standards of physical protection for civil nuclear materials. It entered into force in 1987, and more than 150 States are party to it. The CPPNM obligates States to enact measures for physical protection during international nuclear material transport, requires States to criminalize the malicious misuse of nuclear material, and sets standards for prosecution and extradition. The Amendment to the CPPNM, which was adopted in 2005 and entered into force on May 8, 2016, expands the scope to cover the physical protection of nuclear material in domestic use, storage and transport, as well as associated nuclear facilities used for peaceful purposes. It also expands the original scope of criminalization to include two new offenses: the smuggling of nuclear material and the sabotage of nuclear facilities. It commits States to cooperate for a more effective international response to nuclear events, including the loss or theft of materials, material trafficking, or sabotage. It also strengthens obligations for protecting the confidentiality of physical protection information received from other countries.
NRC submitted relevant sections of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended, as well as applicable regulations within Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations related to the implementation of the CPPNM Amendment. The NRC has been an active participant in activities related to the CPPNM and its Amendment and works closely with the U.S. Departments of State and Energy. NRC staff serve on U.S. delegations for the Technical Meeting of Representatives of the States Parties to the CPPNM and the CPPNM Amendment and participate in associated meetings.
Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management: The Joint Convention applies to spent fuel and radioactive waste resulting from civilian nuclear reactors and applications, and from military or defense programs if they are managed within exclusively civilian programs or declared as spent fuel or radioactive waste for purposes of the Convention. It also applies to planned and controlled releases into the environment of liquid or gaseous radioactive materials from regulated nuclear facilities. The Convention obligates Contracting Parties to have a legislative and regulatory framework for the safety of spent fuel and radioactive waste management and to ensure adequate protection against radiological and other hazards, among other things, by appropriate siting, design, and construction of facilities, as well as during operation and after closure. It imposes obligations related to the transboundary movement of spent fuel and radioactive waste based on the IAEA Code of Practice on the International Transboundary Movement of Radioactive Waste. Parties must also take appropriate steps to ensure that disused sealed sources are managed safely.
The U.S. Department of Energy is the lead agency for the Joint Convention and coordinates closely with the NRC, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, and the U.S. Department of State. Similar to the CNS, the Joint Convention includes a peer review process including review meetings every 3 years. The U.S. Department of Energy, with the support and cooperation other the other U.S. Government agencies, prepares the U.S. National Report. The NRC provides information about its waste and spent fuel management regulatory program and participates in the Joint Convention peer review meetings at each review meeting.
Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources: The NRC strongly supports efforts of the IAEA to promote global implementation of the Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (Code), its Supplementary Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources (Import-Export Guidance) and its Supplementary Guidance on the Management of Disused Sources (Disused Sources Guidance). With enactment of the Energy Policy Act of 2005, the United States adopted the Code and the Import-Export Guidance in their entirety and enhanced domestic licensing and export-import licensing controls for high activity radioactive sources. As of March 2020, 140 IAEA Member States, including the United States have made a political commitment to act in accordance with the Code, 122 States, including the United States, have made a political commitment to act in accordance with the Import-Export Guidance and 37 States, including the United States, have made a political commitment to act in accordance with the Disused Sources Guidance. The United States continues to maintain an active role in assisting and cooperating bilaterally and coordinating with the IAEA on matters related to the safe and secure use of radioactive sources. The United States continues to assist partner countries in the development and maintenance of national radioactive source registries. These efforts to improve accounting for radioactive sources have resulted in countries recovering abandoned or legacy radioactive sources.
For more information on the Treaties and Conventions above, please follow these links:
Treaties under IAEA Auspices
IAEA Documents and Conventions
IAEA Conventions and Codes
Nuclear Safety Conventions (CNS and Joint Convention)
Page Last Reviewed/Updated Wednesday, October 14, 2020