History and Benefits of Implementing Safeguards

The Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) is the foundation for the nuclear nonproliferation regime and international safeguards. Under the terms of the NPT, non-nuclear weapons States agree not to "manufacture or otherwise acquire nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices" in exchange for assistance in the application of nuclear energy for peaceful uses. This assistance may come directly from the IAEA or from countries that export nuclear-related items. NPT Article III.2 requires all parties to not provide nuclear material, or equipment or material especially designed or prepared (EDP) for the processing, use, or production of special fissionable material, to any non-nuclear weapon state unless the nuclear material is subject to safeguards. The Zangger Committee developed a list of such EDP items, termed the "Trigger List" that triggers the application of IAEA safeguards. Most exporting countries, including all 45 members of the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG), export nuclear material and items especially designed or prepared for nuclear use only to countries with comprehensive safeguards, which means IAEA safeguards on all nuclear material in a State. Also included is technology associated with such material and items. Further, if intended for nuclear use NSG members will export dual-use items and associated technology only to facilities under IAEA safeguards.

Items that are especially designed or prepared for nuclear use are listed in NSG Guidelines, Part 1 (INFCIRC/254, part 1). Dual-use items can be used for either nuclear or non-nuclear use, and are listed in NSG Guidelines, Part 2 (INFCIRC/254, part 2).

The IAEA is responsible for verifying each State's compliance with its NPT Article III obligations, which include placing all nuclear material in the country under IAEA safeguards. Detailed safeguards obligations are found in agreements between the IAEA and States. Comprehensive safeguards agreements provide for independent IAEA verification of the accountancy of declared nuclear materials, primarily through inspection of nuclear facilities where such declared materials are located. The IAEA issues findings annually in its Safeguards Implementation Report.