UN nuclear watchdog and European Union reach accord on safeguards

8 January 2010

The United Nations nuclear watchdog and the European Commission have reached agreement on arrangements to apply ‘integrated safeguards’ in all non-nuclear-weapon States of the European Union that have significant nuclear activities.

Olli Heinonen, Deputy Director General and head of the Safeguards Department at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), noted that once the Agency has sufficient confidence that a State’s nuclear activities are purely peaceful, it can apply safeguards measures in a “less prescriptive, more customized” manner.

“This reduces the inspection burden on the State and the inspection effort of the IAEA, while enabling the IAEA to maintain the conclusion that all nuclear material has remained in peaceful activities,” he stated in a news release.

By the terms of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), the Vienna-based IAEA is entrusted with verifying that nuclear material is not diverted to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices through the application of ‘safeguards.’

These safeguards include comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols that enable the IAEA to conclude that all nuclear material has remained in peaceful activities in a State.

“Integrated Safeguards” are the optimum combination of all safeguards measures available to the Agency under comprehensive safeguards agreements and additional protocols to achieve maximum effectiveness and efficiency in meeting the Agency’s safeguards obligations.

Andris Piebalgs, a member of the European Commission in charge of energy, called the agreement reached an “important milestone” resulting from the constructive common efforts of all parties concerned.

“It is a clear signal of the importance attributed by the EU and its Member States, as well as the IAEA, to the reinforcement of the nuclear non-proliferation regime,” said Mr. Piebalgs.

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