Nuclear material regulation

Safeguarding nuclear materials, i.e. regulatory oversight aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, ensures that nuclear materials and other nuclear products remain in peaceful use, in accordance with licences and declarations, and that nuclear facilities and nuclear technology are used only for peaceful purposes.

Nuclear material regulation is based on the international Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. STUK maintains and develops the national nuclear material regulation system, with the aim of seeing to the fulfilment of the obligations of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in Finland.

Nuclear material safeguards are based on the accounting and reporting of nuclear materials. Operators and STUK must always be aware of the location and use of all nuclear materials.

The Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority inspects nuclear materials and materials (fresh and spent fuel) in nuclear power plants at least every four months, other major users of nuclear commodities and materials annually, and small operators at least every two years as a general rule. In addition, the IAEA makes unannounced inspections or additional inspection visits to Finnish locations where nuclear material is used a few times per year. In addition to these inspections, STUK, the IAEA and the European Commission conduct a thorough inventory verification of all nuclear power plant fuel once a year. The IAEA and EU inspectors do not move alone in the inspection areas in Finland, rather, STUK has a legal obligation to always take part in such inspections as an independent inspector and observer.

In safeguards, different verification methods are used in order to ensure that the information provided by operators  (e.g. a nuclear power plant) on nuclear materials is correct and complete. In addition to inventory controls, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority also conducts inspections of nuclear material control systems and non-destructive measurements of nuclear materials. These measurements can be used to show that the material has not been changed or replaced from the outside with false bundles that appear similar. The measurements are part of the national control of nuclear material carried out by STUK, and they are conducted in accordance with the national control plan.

International obligations

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

The aim of international safeguards is to make sure that nuclear materials are not transferred from peaceful use to nuclear explosive devices and that the operations do not promote the proliferation of nuclear weapons in any other way. Safeguards are based on the 1970 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.

Safeguards agreement and its additional protocol

Finland signed a safeguards agreement pursuant to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons with the IAEA in 1971. The agreement between Finland and the IAEA was the first agreement that a state signed with the IAEA, and it has subsequently served as a template for agreement negotiations between states and the IAEA. When Finland joined the European Union in 1995, this agreement was replaced by a safeguards agreement between the European Union's non-nuclear weapon member states, the European Atomic Energy Community (EAEC), and the IAEA.

The basic idea of the safeguards agreement is that, when all peaceful material is under the IAEA's supervision, there will not be enough material outside the agreement in order to build a whole secret nuclear weapons programme. States have an obligation to report all monitored nuclear material, and the IAEA has the right to inspect the reported materials in locations reported by the state.

Iraq’s secret nuclear programme, which was uncovered after the Gulf War in the 1990s, launched an international project to extend the monitoring rights of the IAEA in such a way that the IAEA control system is able to detect also secret nuclear programmes. In practice, the extension of the IAEA’s monitoring was implemented in an additional protocol to the safeguards agreement. Based on the additional protocol, the IAEA receives more extensive information from states regarding the state’s nuclear fuel cycle, including research and development projects. In addition, the IAEA may collect data from open sources, use satellites and take environmental samples. In order to ensure the accuracy of the data reported by the states, the IAEA has more extensive access rights to inspect the reported functions. In addition, the IAEA may carry out visits at very short notice. The additional protocol to the safeguards agreement entered into force in Finland and other EU countries on 30 April 2004.

Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community the Commission (Euratom) Safeguards Regulation

With membership in the EU, Finland also belongs to the European Atomic Energy Community. The European Atomic Energy Community Treaty from 1957 provides a basis for safeguarding nuclear materials in EU countries. According to the European Atomic Energy Community Treaty, the European Commission's safeguards authorities are entitled to ensure that the member states’ nuclear materials are used for the stated purpose. Requirements for nuclear material safeguards by the European Commission are stated in detail in the Commission’s safeguard regulation (Euratom).

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