Background to the Safeguards Agreements

As the voluntary safeguards agreements between the IAEA and the nuclear-weapon states are substantially similar, only one of these, that with the United Kingdom (INFCIRC/263), has been reproduced in this volume. Some of the differences between this and the other agreements are highlighted below.

The IAEA safeguards agreement with Japan (INFCIRC/255) is modeled on the IAEA/EURATOM agreement with the non-nuclear-weapon states of the European Community (INFCIRC/193), which, in turn, was based on the standard agreement between the IAEA and individual non-nuclear weapon states party to the NPT (INFCIRC/153). For reasons of space, this has not been reproduced.

The Agreement between Argentina, Brazil, the Brazilian-Argentine Agency for Accounting and Control of Nuclear Materials, and the IAEA is similar in many respects to INFCIRC/193 and has not been reproduced.


The safeguards agreement between the IAEA/EURATOM and the United Kingdom (INFCIRC/268) is an example of the contracts concluded under the offers by the five recognized’ nuclear-weapon states to accept IAEA safeguards on some or all of their civilian nuclear plants. To encourage the broadest possible acceptance of the NPT, the United States and the United Kingdom made such offers in the late 1960s. They included all civilian plants in their offers (‘subject to exclusions for national security reasons only’ regarding the United Kingdom’s offer). Since then, France, the Soviet Union, and, most recently, the People’s Republic of China have offered to accept safeguards on some civilian nuclear plants.

Since EURATOM applies safeguards on all the United Kingdom’s civilian plants, the agreement between IAEA, EURATOM, and the United Kingdom took as a model the agreement already concluded in 1973 between the IAEA, EURATOM, and the five non-nuclear weapon states that were then members of the European Community (INFCIRC/193).

France offered to accept safeguards on a more limited selection of its plants. With this difference, the agreement between IAEA/EURATOM and France (INFCIRC/290) is essentially the same as that with the United Kingdom.

The offers by the Soviet Union and the People’s Republic of China were each limited to certain specified reactors, and EURATOM was not involved in the negotiations of their agreements. Apart from the differences that result from these considerations, the structure of and procedures laid down in these agreements (INFCIRC/327 and INFCIRC/369) are also essentially similar to those of the arrangements with the United Kingdom and France.

The offer by the United States was similar in scope to that of the United Kingdom (in effect, all civilian plants were offered), but for historical reasons, sure of the procedures prescribed in the United States’ agreement M4F CIRC/288) are somewhat different from those in the United Kingdom’s, and EURATOM is not a party to the former.

It should be stressed that due to resource constraints and higher non-proliferation priorities, the IAEA applies its safeguards on only a tiny fraction of the plants that are made ‘eligible’ for safeguards as a result of the offers of the five nuclear-weapon states. There have, however, been proposals that IAEA safeguards should, in time, be extended to cover the entire fuel cycles of the nuclear-weapon states and thus eliminate one of the elements of discrimination that result from the fundamental differentiation in the NPT in the treatment of the five ‘recognized’ nuclear-weapon states and the c.180 non-nuclear-weapon states. Such an extension of IAEA safeguards would also make it possible to verify a cessation of producing fissile material for weapons (the so-called ‘cut-off’ or ‘freeze’) should such a cessation be agreed to. However, it would treble the size of the IAEA safeguards budget, which is currently about $68 million a year.


In late March 1995, the IAEA Board of Governors considered a set of proposals by the Agency’s Secretariat, known as ‘Programme 93+2’, for a strengthened and cost-effective safeguards system.

In June 1995, the L4 EA Secretariat submitted proposals on implementing Programme 93+2 to the Board of Governors. The proposals were considered in two parts: activities with which the Secretariat believed it had the authority to proceed (Part I) and those it felt needed additional sources (Part II). Part I activities included:

  • The collection of environmental samples at sites that the IAEA already had the right to access.
  • The acquisition of information for which it had not previously asked, including data on parts of the fuel cycle that precede the introduction of safeguarded material into a reactor or enrichment facility, such as mining, processing, and conversion plants, and information on past operations.

About Part II of the Programme, where the Secretariat sought an extension of existing access arrangements to locations and information, the Board asked the Secretariat to present for discussion at its December 1995 meeting model legal documents through which it might acquire the necessary additional authority. Activities for which the Secretariat considered it essential to obtain this other authority included:

  • Declarations of, and physical access to, locations where activities that are ‘functionally’ related to fuel cycle operations, such as heavy-water production, exist.
  • We are obtaining full access to sites, rather than just facilities, where a state has declared nuclear materials to be present to facilitate activities such as environmental sample collection and an expanded declaration giving a complete description of the nuclear fuel cycle.

On 21 April 1997, the IAEA’s Committee on Strengthening the Effectiveness and Improving the Efficiency of the Safeguards System agreed on the text of the Model Protocol to implement Part II of Programme 93+2. This was approved by the IAEA’s Board of Governors, meeting in special session, on 15 May 1997 (INFCIRC/540).