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Amount of Nuclear Material under IAEA Safeguards Continues to Increase: Safeguards Statement 2018

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IAEA Safeguards inspectors in training for verification activities. The Safeguards Statement for 2018 showed an increase in the number of in-field verification activities across the globe. (Photo: D. Calma/IAEA)

Last year saw an increase in the amount of nuclear material subject to IAEA safeguards, continuing a trend from previous years, according to the Safeguards Statement for 2018, published last week.

The IAEA seeks to verify that States around the world use nuclear material solely for peaceful purposes. It does this by applying technical measures, known as safeguards. Each year, the IAEA reports to its Board of Governors on its findings and conclusions through the Safeguards Implementation Report. This forms the basis of the Safeguards Statement. In 2018 the IAEA conducted 3,011 in-field verifications across the globe, up from 2,843 in 2017. These in-field verifications included 183 complementary accesses, up from 140 in 2017. Complementary access provides the IAEA with entry to a location within 24 hours and, in some cases, with as little as two hours’ notice.

The year also saw an increase of the number of nuclear facilities and locations outside facilities at which safeguards inspectors conduct verification activities, reaching a total of 1,314 worldwide.

“Since 2010, the amount of nuclear material under safeguards has increased by 24%,” said Massimo Aparo, Deputy Director General and Head of the Department of Safeguards at the IAEA. “It is only with the extensive verification activities, carried out by the IAEA and outlined in the Safeguards Implementation Report, that we continue to meet the challenge of providing the international community with credible safeguards conclusions.”

The latest Safeguards Implementation Report showed that in 2018, safeguards were applied for 182 States, including 174 with comprehensive safeguards agreements, three with item-specific agreements and five with voluntary offer agreements. The type of conclusion that the IAEA draws with respect to each State varies according to the type of safeguards agreement the State has in place with the IAEA.

In 2018, of the 174 States with a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force, 129 also had an additional protocol in force. By providing access to additional information, sites and locations, the additional protocol enables the IAEA to provide assurances regarding the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities, in addition to assurances on the non-diversion of declared nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities.

Of those States with a comprehensive safeguards agreement in force, the IAEA was able to conclude that for 70 States, “all nuclear material remained in peaceful activities” and for the other 104 States that “declared nuclear material remained in peaceful activities”.

For the three States with item-specific safeguards agreements in force (India, Israel and Pakistan), the IAEA concluded that “nuclear material, facilities or other items to which safeguards had been applied remained in peaceful activities”.

For the five States with voluntary offer agreements in force (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States), the IAEA concluded that “nuclear material in selected facilities to which safeguards had been applied remained in peaceful activities or had been withdrawn from safeguards as provided for in the agreements”.

“Drawing conclusions is at the core of safeguards,” said Aparo. “After the evaluation of all safeguards-relevant information, including that gathered during in-field inspection and analysis carried out at our headquarters, the Safeguards Implementation Report communicates our findings to our Member States.”

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