Implementing IAEA Safeguards

The NRC regulates and oversees domestic and international activities to account for and control nuclear material assigned to commercial nuclear facilities and in other non-DOE installations. The Atomic Energy Act of 19541, the Energy Reorganization Act of 1974, and Executive Orders assign NRC responsibility for implementing international safeguards arrangements at NRC-licensed facilities. The responsibilities, with respect to the U.S. –IAEA Safeguards Agreement2,the U.S. Additional Protocol3, and the U.S. –IAEA Caribbean Territories Safeguards Agreement and its modified Small Quantities Protocol (SQP), are implemented through the regulations of 10 CFR Part 75 (Implementation of the U.S. –IAEA Agreement), and conforming references in other parts of 10 CFR.

All current NRC-licensed facilities that have not been designated as having activities of direct national security significance have been placed on the U.S. list of facilities eligible for selection by the IAEA for reporting and inspections (Eligible Facilities List). After an entity submits a license application to construct a new facility to the NRC, the NRC nominates that future facility for placement on the Eligible Facilities List. The Federal agencies assess the facility to determine if the facility is "associated with activities of direct national security significance to the United States". If the facility is not of national security significance, it is added to the list and the updated Eligible Facilities List is submitted by the U.S. department of State to Congress for review. If Congress has no objections to the list, the Department of State submits it to the IAEA.

The IAEA has historically selected only a small number of facilities from the U.S. Eligible Facilities List. The IAEA typically selects facilities involved in international commerce, those at which safeguards implementation will permit the IAEA to strengthen its safeguards implementation capabilities in other countries, or those for which the U.S. Government has asked for IAEA safeguards to promote a national non-proliferation objective. Since 1980, the IAEA has conducted inspections at 12 NRC-licensed facilities; however, none have been selected for inspection since 2010. The IAEA also selects U.S. facilities for material accounting reporting only. This reporting improves IAEA's knowledge of transfers of nuclear materials into other countries. At present, four NRC-licensed facilities are selected for reporting only.

Before a U.S. facility is selected by the IAEA, discussions are held between the IAEA and U.S. Government so that the IAEA can verify that selection of a facility can accomplish the goal for making the selection. This typically requires submittal of preliminary information on the facility to the IAEA. When the decision to select is made, the U.S. Government is required to submit specific design information on the facility within 45 days. After the NRC notifies the licensee of selection, the licensee and the NRC collaborate to ensure that the required "design information questionnaire" is appropriately completed. Information classified by the U.S. Government as Restricted Data or National Security Information is not to be included in the questionnaire. Proprietary and other sensitive information of the licensee that is needed by the IAEA to determine how safeguards can be effectively and efficiently implemented is assessed by the relevant Federal agencies, on a case-by-case basis, to determine how it can be securely provided to the IAEA.  The IAEA may request to visit the facility to clarify or verify information contained in the design information questionnaire.

The U.S. is also required to submit an initial inventory of nuclear material at the facility within 30 days after the end of the month in which selection occurs. This submittal, and future material accounting information submittals, must be in the international format and content specified in the U.S. Subsidiary Arrangements to the U.S.–IAEA Safeguards Agreement. Just as with domestic reporting, the international reporting is made through submittals to the U.S. Nuclear Materials Management and Safeguards System (NMMSS).

The selected facility also becomes subject to reporting site information under the Additional Protocol to the U.S. –IAEA Safeguards Agreement. This reporting also must be made using forms with the format and content specified by the IAEA. The IAEA may request to visit the facility to clarify or verify information contained in the additional protocol information.

If the facility has been selected by the IAEA for inspections, the IAEA uses the information in the design information questionnaire and facility visits to propose a safeguards approach for the facility. This safeguards approach would be similar to ones implemented by the IAEA at similar facilities in other countries and may require a different material balance structure than currently in place to meet NRC's material control and accounting requirements. The specifics of the safeguards approach are discussed by the IAEA and the U.S. Government, in collaboration with the facility operator, to minimize impacts on the facility. During the discussions, a location for office space and storage cabinets to be used by the IAEA during inspections as well as locations for installation of IAEA equipment is determined.

While the equipment and systems needed by the IAEA safeguards approach are being installed and tested, IAEA safeguards inspections will be implemented under "ad hoc" arrangements. After the safeguards approach is approved and tested, the IAEA and U.S. Government will sign a Facility Attachment to the U.S. –Subsidiary Arrangements that specifies the arrangements for conducting safeguards at the facility.

For each IAEA visit or inspection, the IAEA notifies the U.S. Government in advance of the activity and the names of the IAEA inspectors to be performing the activity. The NRC immediately notifies the licensee of the proposed inspection or visit and provides the licensee with information and instructions. NRC staff are present to oversee and facilitate the IAEA activities. The licensee is responsible for providing security and safety escorts and for providing records, reports, and other information requested by the IAEA inspectors. Each visit or inspection has an opening meeting in which the IAEA states the activities it wishes to perform and the facility provides information on the status of the facility. Each visit typically has a closing meeting to review the conduct of the inspection.

1 Section 122 of the Atomic Energy Act of 1954 (as amended).
2 INFCIRC/288 (1981).
3 INFCIRC/288/Add. 1 (2009)

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