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Safeguards to avoid misuse

Nuclear safeguards ensure that nuclear material is used only for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear materials such as uranium and plutonium can be used for both peaceful and military purposes. Nuclear safeguards were established to guarantee that nuclear materials would not be diverted to purposes other than those for which they were originally declared.

Nuclear safeguards are measures that:

  • oblige users of nuclear material to keep a system of records and to make declarations about the nuclear material they hold and process to the European Commission
  • require the Commission to verify these declarations with regard to their correctness and completeness in order to assure citizens, supplier states, and the international community that the nuclear material remains in use only for peaceful purposes.

Reporting and verification

Users and holders of nuclear material (uranium, plutonium, and thorium) in the EU have to keep records documenting flows, processes, and stocks.

Every month they must declare all flows of nuclear materials in and out of their installation to the European Commission. Once a year they must inventory all stocks of nuclear material they hold.

The Commission:

  • collects and analyses the information provided by the operators of nuclear installations regarding quantities, location, and use of all nuclear materials
  • verifies the monthly declarations and checks them against previous declarations by the same operator
  • compares declarations made by different users, in particular those that ship nuclear material to or receive nuclear material from each other
  • verifies declarations by performing onsite inspections of nuclear installations
  • employs approximately 160 nuclear inspectors who travel to all major nuclear installations
  • publishes an annual report on its nuclear safeguard activities
  • submits an annual report to non‑EU countries that supply nuclear materials to the EU on the stocks held and the purposes for which they have been used.

The Commission's inspectors:

  • make measurements to ensure that declarations concern the correct type and quantities of nuclear materials
  • use video surveillance systems to confirm declarations of receipts or shipments of nuclear materials
  • apply seals to freeze nuclear materials that will not be used immediately
  • conduct annual verifications of inventories made at nuclear installations.