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Safeguarding nuclear materials

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Safeguarding nuclear materials


To establish a system of safeguards enabling the Commission to satisfy itself that source materials and nuclear products are used exclusively for the uses declared by their users.

2) ACT

Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 3227/76 of 19 October 1976 concerning the application of the provisions on Euratom safeguards [Official Journal L 363 of 31.12.1976].

Amended by the following acts:

Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 220/90 of 26 January 1990 [Official Journal L 22 of 27.01.1990];

Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 2130/93 of 27 July 1993 [Official Journal L 191 of 31.07.1993].



Chapter 7 of the Euratom Treaty establishes a safeguard system designed to ensure that civil nuclear materials are not diverted from the civil uses for which they are intended, as declared by operators of nuclear installations.

Pursuant to Article 81 of the Euratom Treaty, the Commission may send inspectors into the territories of Member States and, under Article 82, it also has the power to impose sanctions on operators who have infringed safeguard requirements.

The safeguard system must also ensure that Member States fulfil the undertakings concerning nuclear safeguards they have entered into within international organisations and with third countries. In particular, all Member States are signatories to the Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty signed in 1968, which allows the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to verify that civil nuclear materials are not diverted for the purpose of producing nuclear weapons or nuclear explosive devices. In this connection, nuclear safeguard agreements have been concluded between the Member States, the European Commission and the IAEA.

Following numerous changes in recent years, it has proved necessary to strengthen the system of safeguards applied by the IAEA. In 1998, the Member States signed additional protocols to the verification agreements concluded with the IAEA which widen the scope of those agreements.

The changes to these international undertakings have been incorporated into a new proposal for a safeguards regulation (COM(2002) 99 final), presented by the Commission to the Council.


Safeguards cover the entire nuclear fuel cycle, from the extraction of nuclear materials in the Member States, or their importation from third countries, to exportation outside the European Union.

A distinction should be drawn between Euratom safeguards, which involve only measures taken to control the use of nuclear materials, and nuclear safety, which concerns measures taken to limit the risk of accidents in the operation of nuclear installations.

Basic technical characteristics and particular safeguard provisions

It falls primarily to the person or undertaking setting up or operating an installation which uses nuclear materials for any purpose, such as production, storage, separation, research, etc, to declare the basic technical characteristics of the installation, as specified in the Regulation.

Operators of new installations must declare their technical characteristics at least 200 days before the first consignment of nuclear material is due to be received. They must specify:

  • the identification and the general arrangement of the installation and of the nuclear materials;
  • the accounting and control system for nuclear materials.

Moreover, a preliminary declaration is required 200 days before the installation is built.

Outline programme of activities

The persons responsible for an installation must draw up an outline programme of activities relating to each installation and forward it to the Commission department responsible for Euratom safeguards. It must contain the following information, to be provided at the intervals specified:

  • annually, an outline programme of activities;
  • at least 40 days before beginning the taking of a physical inventory, the programme for such work;
  • at least 40 days before starting to shut down a reactor for reloading, the programme for the shutdown.

The Commission may adopt particular safeguard provisions in respect of a specific installation, for instance concerning the frequency of, and procedures for, drawing up physical inventories.

Particular safeguard provisions

In the particular safeguard provisions, the Commission specifies the procedures by which the persons or undertakings concerned must meet the requirements imposed on them in relation to safeguards. These procedures are to include:

  • the designation of material balance areas (areas where the quantity of nuclear materials transferred may be determined upon entry and exit) and the selection of strategic points for determining the flow and stocks of nuclear materials;
  • the procedures for keeping records of nuclear materials;
  • the frequency of, and procedures for, drawing up physical inventories;
  • the type and content of the regular and special reports to be submitted to the Commission;
  • the information to be included in the documents presented for control measures.

Accounting for nuclear materials

A system of accounting for, and control of, nuclear materials which are stored and used at the installation must be established. Such a system must make it possible to establish and justify the declarations submitted to the Commission and to ensure that the nuclear materials currently in use or stored are subjected to close supervision.

Information on the nature, form and composition of these materials, their actual location and the relevant obligation and data relating to transfers are particularly important.

Under this system, those responsible for installations must submit regular reports to the Commission, including accounting reports, material balance reports describing changes in materials, inventory change reports and an annual summary of physical inventories (sum of all measured or calculated quantities of nuclear materials located in a material balance area at a given time).

Special reports are also provided for in special circumstances such as the loss of nuclear materials.

There are two distinct types of record:

  • the accounting record, which contains the following information:
  • the operating record is a category of documents which, for each material balance area, contains:

For each material balance area, the persons and undertakings operating an installation are to transmit to the Commission, no later than 15 days following the end of the month, inventory change reports for all nuclear materials held.

A special report must be made without delay following any unusual incident or circumstances or if the containment has unexpectedly changed from that specified in the particular safeguard provisions.

Ore producers are subject to a different accounting system. They must indicate, in particular, the quantity of ore extracted and its average uranium and thorium content, and the stock at the mine. These accounts must also contain details of shipments, stating the date, consignee, and quantity in each case.

Transfers between States

Exports of source materials and special fissile materials (principally plutonium 239, uranium 233 and uranium 235) to a third country and from a Member State which is not a nuclear weapon state to a Member State which is a nuclear weapon state, or vice versa, must be notified in advance to the Commission.

The same applies to installations which, within the same Member State, transfer materials the total quantity of which over a twelve-month period could exceed one effective kilogramme (an effective kilogramme is a special unit used for nuclear materials in the context of safeguards).

However, notification is not required if the quantity does not exceed one effective kilogramme. The same conditions apply to the importation and receipt of nuclear materials by Member States.

Each year, producers of ores must inform the Commission of the amounts of material dispatched from each mine during the previous year. Exporters of ores to third countries must inform the Commission of such exports no later than the date of dispatch.


The Commission must receive advance notification of most operations concerning the treatment of waste. In the case of transfers of nuclear waste which can no longer be used as nuclear materials, for instance waste embedded in cement (conditioned waste), the person responsible must notify the details to the Commission and submit an annual report on the location of the conditioned waste containing certain nuclear materials such as highly enriched uranium.

Specific provisions applicable to Member States which are nuclear weapon states

The Nuclear Weapons Non-Proliferation Treaty recognises two EU Member States as nuclear weapon states, namely France and the United Kingdom.

Euratom safeguards do not apply to nuclear installations or nuclear materials intended to serve the defence needs of France or the United Kingdom. Nuclear materials or installations declared by those countries to be materials or installations intended for civil uses, and those which could be used for defence purposes, are subject to certain controls, provided such controls do not constitute a threat to national security.

For further information, please visit the DG TREN site on nuclear energy:


Entry into force

Deadline for transposition in the Member States

Regulation (Euratom) No 3227/76



Regulation (Euratom) No 220/90



Regulation (Euratom) No 2130/93



4) implementing measures

5) follow-up work

Proposal of 23 March 2002 for a Council decisionapproving a Commission Regulation on the application of Euratom safeguards [COM(2002) 99 final - Official Journal C 227 E of 24.09.2002].

Since it entered into force twenty-five years ago, Regulation No 3227/76 has made it possible to apply Euratom safeguards. However, the new proposed regulation responds to the needs resulting from the new legal framework (the Additional Protocols), developments in the nuclear industry and the extensive possibilities offered by information technologies.

The main elements of the new regulation are as follows:

  • inclusion of articles and annexes concerning reporting under the Additional Protocols;
  • reporting of waste, including clear definitions of the categories of waste;
  • derogation from reporting in the case of installations holding material of lower strategic value;
  • new reporting format involving changes in the format and content of accounting reports;
  • use of the gram as the only unit of weight, and the requirement for electronic recording and reporting.

Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council - Operation of Euratom Safeguards in 2002 [COM(2003) 764 final - Not published in the Official Journal]

Commission Regulation (Euratom) No 302/2005 of 8 February 2005 on the application of Euratom safeguards - Council/Commission statement [Official Journal L 54 of 28.02.2005].

Last updated: 08.03.2005