The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) works with its member states and multiple partners worldwide to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy, and to inhibit its use in nuclear weapons. Safeguards are a set of technical measures that are applied by the IAEA on nuclear material and actives. The objective of the IAEA safeguards is to deter the spread of nuclear weapons by the early detection of the misuse of nuclear material or technology. Application of the safeguards provides credible assurances that states are honouring their legal obligations to only use nuclear material for peaceful purposes. Verification measures include on-site inspections, visits, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation. States accept these measures through the conclusion of Safeguards Agreements, which are legally binding treaties between the IAEA and each respective state.
IAEA safeguards were established nearly 60 years ago, prior to the adoption of the NPT. The scope and methods used have continued to evolve since the NPT entered into force in 1970, and the ‘model’ for the safeguards system – the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) (INFCIRC/153) – was approved by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1972. Note that the IAEA tailors the safeguards measures to each state, reflecting the state’s capabilities. In addition to CSAs with non-nuclear-weapon states, the IAEA today maintains ‘voluntary offer’ Safeguards Agreements in force with each of the five ‘nuclear-weapon states’ under the NPT (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, and the United States) and ‘item-specific agreements’ with three states not party to the NPT (India, Israel, and Pakistan).
A model IAEA Additional Protocol (AP) was approved by the Board in 1997,165 in response to threats arising from clandestine nuclear-weapon programmes. An AP concluded between a state and the IAEA provides the Agency with additional access to information, locations, and personnel over and above that provided in a CSA, providing much greater assurance on the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities.
The IAEA applies safeguards, ‘at the request of the parties, to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities in the field of atomic energy’. All of the five regional NWFZ Treaties obligate their states parties to conclude CSAs with the IAEA. The Central Asian NWFZ Treaty goes one step further than any other existing treaty and also requires that its states parties adopt an AP with the IAEA.
Under the NPT, a CSA is mandatory for all non-nuclear-weapon states parties, but not for the nuclear-weapon states. Under the TPNW, on the other hand, a CSA is mandatory for all states parties.
Under the TPNW, an AP is mandatory for all states parties that already had an AP in force upon the entry into force of the TPNW, and an AP (or an instrument of equivalent or higher standard) is also mandatory for all Article 4(1) and 4(2) states – i.e. the nuclear-armed states that eliminate their nuclear-weapons programme before joining the TPNW and the states that still possess nuclear weapons when they join. This means that under the TPNW, an AP will be mandatory for almost three quarters of the potential states parties. For the remaining non-nuclear-armed states parties to the TPNW, an AP will be voluntary. Under the NPT, however, it is not mandatory for any states parties to have an AP, it is a voluntary decision. Thus, the safeguards requirements in the TPNW are stronger than those in the NPT. See the figure below for details.
The Nuclear Weapons Ban Monitor calls on the First Meeting of States Parties to the TPNW to urge all states parties that have not yet done so to adopt and bring into force an AP with the IAEA, adopting a non- binding recommendation similar to that agreed on in the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan.
Status of IAEA Safeguards Agreements
As of December 2020, ten non-nuclear-weapon states parties to the NPT did not have a CSA in force with the IAEA. This is so, despite the fact that they already have a pre-existing legal obligation under that Treaty to have a CSA. Fifty-five of the 190 states parties to the had not yet brought an AP into force as at the end of 2020, although the 2010 NPT Review Conference Action Plan encourages them to do so.
Of the 55 outliers on the AP, more than half are already TPNW states parties or signatories, while the clear majority of the rest of the outliers are clear candidates for joining the TPNW.
The TPNW constitutes an additional forum where diplomats, civil society, and the IAEA can advocate for the last remaining states to bring CSAs and APs into force. The state profiles section of this website details which states have concluded and brought into force CSAs and APs, and which have yet to do so.