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Fulfilling safeguards obligations with IAEA assistance

Yoshiko Yamada

The ISSAS mission in Bangladesh was the first to use a new self-assessment component. (Photo: IAEA)

The IAEA provides assistance to support States in meeting their nuclear safeguards obligations. This assistance includes training, peer review missions, online learning and an encrypted portal to securely submit safeguards declarations and communicate with the IAEA.

Many of these activities support the effectiveness of State or regional authorities responsible for safeguards implementation (SRAs) and their respective State or regional systems of accounting for and control of nuclear material (SSAC or RSAC). The performance of national safeguards authorities and their SSACs has a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of IAEA safeguards implementation. Under a comprehensive safeguards agreement (CSA), the State is required to establish an SSAC, which forms the basis of a State’s reporting to the IAEA of its nuclear material.

“The existence of a strong partnership between the State and the IAEA is key to the successful implementation of safeguards,” said Rafael Mariano Grossi, IAEA Director General. “Under the assistance that the IAEA offers to States, it is inspiring to see the many and diverse activities successfully delivered to address States’ SSAC-related needs.”


In September 2020, the IAEA launched the IAEA Comprehensive Capacity-Building Initiative for SSACs and SRAs, known as COMPASS. The initiative further enhances the Agency’s support to States in their effort to strengthen and sustain their SSACs and SRAs. COMPASS uses a tailored approach to provide multidisciplinary assistance designed to address a State’s specific needs, whether in legal, administrative or technical areas. Building on the IAEA’s existing safeguards support to States, COMPASS assistance is delivered in the forms of outreach among stakeholders; procurement of equipment; expertise sharing; IT support; fellowships and scientific visits; training and coaching; and assistance in developing safeguards legal and regulatory frameworks. COMPASS brings these activities together into a single, streamlined and multifaceted mechanism for increased effectiveness and coordination.

During the two-year pilot period, seven recipient States have worked with the IAEA, with the support of 14 States and the European Commission, in COMPASS implementation: Guatemala, Jordan, Malaysia, Rwanda, Saudi Arabia, Türkiye and Uzbekistan.  

In COMPASS’s next phase, the Agency will conduct an IAEA Safeguards and SSAC Advisory Service (ISSAS) mission for each COMPASS-supported State.

Advisory services and review missions

Upon request, the IAEA conducts an ISSAS mission to advise on establishing and strengthening SSACs or RSACs. ISSAS provides a peer review to understand needs and develops an agreed action plan to enhance the technical capabilities and effectiveness of SSACs and RSACs. ISSAS enables in-depth discussions between representatives of the State, a team of IAEA staff and external experts. From these discussions, recommendations and suggestions are compiled in a confidential report to the State and provide the basis for setting national goals to enhance the performance of the SSAC.

In 2021, the ISSAS guidelines — IAEA Service Series No. 13 (Rev.1) — were updated to include criteria for countries to conduct a self-assessment. This allows countries to be more proactive in assessing their SSAC in preparation for the advisory service mission. The first mission using this self-assessment approach was conducted in Bangladesh in 2022.


IAEA safeguards training courses are provided at the national, regional and interregional level. In 2021, the IAEA hosted 16 training courses (in person and virtual) for over 200 experts from 50 States. Training courses can range from targeted webinars to address a specific activity, to two-week international training courses hosted by a partner State. At these two-week courses, all aspects of safeguards implementation are covered. For example, States will learn about their legal obligations, the verification activities that the IAEA undertakes and the types of information that the State is required to provide to the IAEA. The training is specifically designed to ensure more effective implementation of safeguards by the SRA and SSAC.

The IAEA hosts an annual Safeguards Traineeship Programme for young graduates and junior professionals from developing countries. Nominated to participate by their government, participants gain technical skills and competences with hands-on training, mentoring, workshops and nuclear facility-based learning. For the first time, in 2022, the IAEA also offered an additional two-week course, ‘Introduction to the IAEA and Safeguards’, for young professionals from countries with limited or no nuclear fuel cycle. The course provided a broad understanding of IAEA safeguards, other areas of the Agency’s work, and related initiatives that the IAEA offers to support States.

Integrated Nuclear Infrastructure Review (INIR) missions are designed to assist countries in evaluating the status of their national infrastructure for the introduction of a nuclear power programme. These missions cover 19 infrastructure topics, one of which is safeguards. Safeguards assistance to these and other embarking countries include strengthening the SSAC to accommodate the safeguards requirements associated with the operation of nuclear power plants.

Web-based resources

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the IAEA has expanded its outreach and training through its dedicated online portal, the Cyber Learning Platform for Network Education and Training (CLP4NET). The portal, which has over 1000 registered users, provides access to a variety of learning opportunities, including five recent webinar recordings, four self-study courses and 19 virtual classrooms on safeguards related topics, as well as downloadable instructional materials and guidance documents.

The IAEA also continues to expand and promote the State Declarations Portal (SDP), a web portal for the submission of safeguards declarations and reports. SDP provides efficient and modern information exchange that saves time and effort for both the States that use it and the IAEA. SDP uses multiple security layers to guarantee the confidentiality and security of data and offers a digital historical log of all communication exchanges.

“The IAEA Department of Safeguards offers many outreach and capacity building programmes to countries, and has a vision for expanding efforts,” said Rebecca Stevens, Team Leader for Member State Training at the IAEA. “We’re focused on the future for further cooperation with authorities and always welcome their input on how we can support them.”

October, 2022
Vol. 63-3

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