Peaceful use of nuclear energy

The aim of international safeguards is to ensure that nuclear materials are not diverted from peaceful uses to nuclear explosive devices and that activities do not contribute to nuclear proliferation. It is based on the 1970 Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). 

International safeguards obligations

In 1971, Finland concluded a safeguards agreement with the IAEA under the NPT, the first of its kind. It has served as a model for later negotiated agreements between states and the IAEA. This agreement was replaced by the Safeguards Agreement between the non-nuclear weapon Member States of the European Union, the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC, Euratom) and the IAEA after Finland's accession to the European Union in 1995. The basic idea behind the treaty is that, once all peaceful material is under IAEA safeguards, there cannot be so much material left outside safeguards that a whole clandestine nuclear weapons programme could be built on it. States are obliged to declare all nuclear material under safeguards and the IAEA has the right to inspect the material at the locations declared by the state. 

Read more from the publication Finland and nuclear non-proliferation. Fifty years of implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (2020) (pdf). 

The revelation of Iraq's secret nuclear programme after the Gulf War in the 1990s launched an international project to extend the IAEA's safeguards powers so that the IAEA's monitoring system can also detect secret nuclear programmes. In practice, the extension of IAEA safeguards was implemented by an Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement, which entered into force in Finland and other non-nuclear-weapon EU countries on 30 April 2004. Under the Additional Protocol, the IAEA received more extensive information from states on their nuclear fuel cycle. In addition, the IAEA can collect data from open sources, use satellites and take environmental samples. In order to ensure the accuracy of the information provided by the state, the IAEA has greater access rights to inspect the declared activities. In addition, the IAEA can carry out verification visits at very short notice.

As a member of the EU, Finland is also a member of the European Atomic Energy Community, whose founding treaty (EAEC Treaty) of 1957 provides the basis for safeguards in the EU countries. Under the Treaty, the European Commission's safeguards authorities have the right to monitor that nuclear material is used for its declared purpose in the Member States. The requirements for the operators of the European Commission's safeguards activities are laid down in the Commission's Safeguards Regulation (No. 302/2005).

Safeguards as part of the design of nuclear installations

Safeguards, nuclear safety and security form the basis for the acceptable use of nuclear energy. Key issues in the implementation of safeguards are to increase knowledge of the safeguards aspects of the nuclear sector and to improve the effectiveness of the implementation itself. The Safeguards by Design principle is an effective tool to work on these key issues.

Safeguards by Design is an approach whereby international safeguards are integrated at an early stage into the design process for the construction, modification or decommissioning of a nuclear facility. Safeguards are elevated to an essential design feature of the plant, enabling informed design choices that optimally combine economic, operational and safety considerations with international safeguards. Safeguards considerations in the design can be achieved, for example, through physical separation and protection of safeguards equipment, lighting design for camera surveillance, and space design to minimise the number of nuclear material transfer routes.

Safeguards must be taken into account in the design of a nuclear installation throughout its life cycle, from design and construction to decommissioning and dismantling. The design of plant modifications should also include an assessment of how the modification will affect the safeguards implementation of the plant and whether the modification will enable more effective safeguards implementation.  

Taking safeguards needs into account in the design can help the licensee to avoid additional costs and difficulties in adapting safeguards measures and equipment at a later stage of construction, operation or decommissioning of the facility. If safeguards requirements are not included in the specification of the original plant bid, the additional costs of installing the equipment may be borne by the operator. Safeguards equipment allows authorities to reduce the presence of inspectors: for example, the comprehensive remote monitoring systems introduced at Finnish nuclear power plants have reduced the number of inspections at the sites.

The key to optimal implementation of safeguards in planning is early communication between the operator, the national supervisory authority and the IAEA. In Finland, this contact is initiated by the operator, who submits to STUK and the European Commission preliminary design information for a new installation within 60 days of the adoption of the decision in principle for that installation. The safeguards requirements and concepts to be included in the plant information will be formulated in negotiations between the operator, STUK, the European Commission and the IAEA.

Further information