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International Safeguards

The NRC helps to promote the global nuclear non-proliferation regime through domestic and international activities to control and account for nuclear material possessed by licensees for commercial and other peaceful purposes. The NRC directly supports United States (U.S.) compliance with its non-proliferation commitments, through implementing international safeguards agreements, issuing import and export licenses, and collecting data through the national system of accounting for source and special nuclear materials (i.e., the Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS)).

The NRC has an important role in implementing international treaties that place requirements on the U.S. For international safeguards, these include, most notably, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT); the U.S. – International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) Safeguards Agreement (and Reporting Protocol thereto); the Additional Protocol to the U.S. – IAEA Safeguards Agreement (AP); and the U.S. – IAEA Caribbean Territories Safeguards Agreement and its modified Small Quantities Protocol (SQP). NRC Regulations in 10 CFR Part 75 and Part 110 contain specific 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 imports and exports involving source material, special nuclear material and certain dual-use items, and providing 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 required 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. has 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 U.S. – IAEA Caribbean Territories Safeguards Agreement and its modified SQP are not subject to a national security exclusion.

The overall purpose of IAEA safeguards is to provide credible assurance to the international community that countries do not divert nuclear material and other specified items from peaceful nuclear uses. The IAEA's authority is based on the authorities granted in the safeguards agreements signed and brought into force by Member States. The technical measures used to implement IAEA safeguards include observation, review of records and reports, nuclear material accounting, destructive and nondestructive measurements, containment and surveillance, and unattended monitoring. Using all safeguards-relevant information known about a country and available verification technologies, the IAEA implements safeguards measures at both the country and facility levels. The IAEA continually evaluates information from its verification activities and each year draws and publishes conclusions on the peaceful use of nuclear materials within each country.

Additional information on IAEA safeguards is available through the IAEA's Safeguards website. A summary of the safeguards activities during the past year is published in the Nuclear Verification chapter of the IAEA Annual Report.

Title 10 of the Code of Federal Regulations (10 CFR) Part 75 places requirements on licensees that ensure that the U.S. will be able to meet its nuclear non-proliferation obligations under these international agreements. These requirements include providing information on nuclear facilities which are not associated with activities of direct national security significance to the United States, information on nuclear fuel cycle-related activities, information on nuclear material inventories and on shipments and receipts, and access to nuclear fuel cycle locations to verify the declared information. Additional information on implementation of IAEA safeguards with respect to NRC licensees is available through the above Related Information links.

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Page Last Reviewed/Updated Thursday, February 14, 2019