Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and STUK’s role in monitoring

Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and STUK’s role in monitoring

The Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (the Non-Proliferation Treaty, NPT) entered into force in 1970. Under the NPT, the five recognized nuclear-weapon states (the United States, Russia, France, China and the United Kingdom) have agreed not to provide non-nuclear-weapon states with nuclear weapons or explosives or to assist them in obtaining them. The non-nuclear weapon signatories to the treaty have undertaken not to receive or otherwise obtain nuclear weapons and explosives. The non-nuclear-weapon states have also accepted international regulatory control and agreed on the related arrangements with the International Atomic Energy Agency, IAEA. At the time of its 50th anniversary in 2020, the NPT has been ratified by 191 countries.

The NPT consists of three pillars that mutually support the goals of the treaty: non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament and promoting the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy.

Three pillars that support the goals of the treaty: non-proliferation of nuclear weapons, nuclear disarmament and promoting the peaceful and safe use of nuclear energy.

The events of the early 1990s, including the Iraqi arms programme and the dissolution of the Soviet Union, Finland’s neighbor, caused increasing concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons. As a result of these developments, it was decided that the regulatory role of the IAEA should be strengthened. This was achieved through a system known as the 93 + 2 programmme (year 1993 + 2 years), later retitled as the Strengthened Safeguards System (SSS). In practice, strengthened regulatory control was established under the Additional Protocol, which was signed by the EU Members States in autumn 1998 and entered into force in all EU Member States simultaneously on 30 April 2004. With the Additional Protocol, the IAEA was given access to more detailed information on the nuclear activities of signatories as well as the authority to carry out inspections. Along with the EU, the Additional Protocol has been signed by 136 other countries (2019).

Under the NPT, a signatory state signs an agreement with the IAEA authorizing it to exercise safeguards for the control of nuclear materials. These agreements include the Small Quantities Protocol (SQP), the Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement (CSA) and the Additional Protocol (AP). The purpose of IAEA regulatory control is to ensure that nuclear materials remain exclusively in peaceful use and that signatory states do not undertake any unreported activities or use of materials related to the nuclear fuel cycle. In Finland, STUK serves as the national authority indicated in the NPT and is responsible for submitting the regulatory information to the IAEA and participating in IAEA inspections.

Finland was the first country to sign the CSA with the IAEA in February 1972. Following Finland’s accession to the EU in 1995, the bilateral CSA between Finland and the IAEA was replaced by the trilateral CSA, signed by the non-nuclear weapon member states of the EU, the IAEA and the European Atomic Energy Community, EURATOM.

STUK monitors compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty

Finnish users of nuclear energy hold the primary responsibility for the necessary control measures to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons. STUK maintains Finland’s national nuclear materials control system, the purpose of which is to oversee that such control measures are in place and to ensure compliance with international nuclear energy treaties to which Finland is a signatory.

STUK also contributed to the development of national and international nuclear materials safeguards through numerous international initiatives and task forces (including INMM, IPNDV, GICNT, ESARDA). Furthermore, STUK supports the IAEA’s international nuclear materials and nuclear weapon control, serves as a national information centre for the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty (CTBT) and provides technical support for international collaborative bodies, such as the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

On a practical level, nuclear materials control takes place through inspections carried out at nuclear facilities and through documentation. The verification of nuclear materials requires high-level technical expertise.

STUK has developed a number of measuring techniques and processes for international use and trained several IAEA inspectors from as early as the 1980s. The methods developed in Finland include the Passive Gamma Emissions Tomography (PGET) instrumentation used for detecting spent nuclear fuel and the Safeguards-by-Design approach implemented in the monitoring of new and new types of nuclear facilities. In the 2020s, great expectations have been placed on the utilization of blockchain technology in nuclear material accounting, also currently under development at STUK.

Press release 10 March 2020:

Posiva submitted an application for a construction licence concerning an encapsulation and final disposal facility for spent nuclear fuel to the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment at the end of 2012. STUK gave its statement on the application at the beginning of 2015. The permit is granted by the Government at the proposal of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment:

NPT monitoring requires seamless collaboration between authorities and operators

The NPT and the implementation of nuclear materials control is of high practical significance to any country using nuclear energy, as being party to the treaty is in reality a precondition for sourcing nuclear technology and fuels from international suppliers.

The treaty system also encourages deep national collaboration as the signatory states are ultimately responsible for compliance with the treaties.  Therefore, any sanctions arising from failures to comply with nuclear material safeguards concern all businesses and organizations operating within a given state. Subsequently, all nuclear energy operators in, for example, Finland and the Finnish authorities have a shared interest in developing national safeguards for nuclear materials.

Alongside STUK, the bodies involved in the safeguarding of nuclear materials in Finland are the Ministry for Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment and companies in possession of nuclear materials. In the following, we have briefly described the roles of each organization in the implementation of the NPT:

Under section 54 of the Nuclear Energy Act, the overall management and regulation of the nuclear energy field falls under the jurisdiction of the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Employment (TEM). TEM serves as the competent authority for EURATOM, unless otherwise provided in the law.

The Ministry for Foreign Affairs is responsible for the international dimension of the non-proliferation of nuclear materials on the policy level. The most visible part of this work is export control, which the ministry exercises under export control legislation. The regulatory control focuses on the export of dual-use commodities and technologies. The purpose of export control is to promote the responsible export of Finnish technology and to prevent the use of Finnish technology in the development of WMDs, undesirable military activities, any use that is contrary to Finland’s best interests or that violates human rights. STUK serves as a technical advisory body in export control.

According to section 55 of the Nuclear Energy Act, supervising the safe use of nuclear energy falls under the remit of the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority, STUK. In addition, STUK is responsible for attending to the oversight of security and emergency arrangements and for the necessary control of the use of nuclear energy as part of non-proliferation measures as well as for research and development essential for successful control operations and for participating in international cooperation in the field.

To carry out these duties, STUK has extensive statutory rights to inspect and supervise nuclear facilities. STUK also maintains the national nuclear materials control system as provided in section 118 of the Nuclear Energy Decree and ensures that operators in the nuclear energy field have the necessary expertise and readiness to arrange for supervision. STUK also serves as the permit authority under the Nuclear Energy Decree and offers professional assistance to other authorities and issues proposals and statements based on its inspection activities in support of the ongoing improvement of nuclear safety. STUK is also responsible for submitting the regulatory information to the IAEA as required of Finland by the non-proliferation treaties.

The ultimate responsibility for nuclear materials lies with the operators in possession of the materials. Operators have a statutory responsibility for their nuclear materials in compliance with the obligations under the Nuclear Energy Act and the European Commission Regulation 302/2005. Operators are required to submit to STUK and the Commission the necessary control information and they must ensure that the authorities have real access to carry out supervision, inspections and measurements at nuclear facilities at all times.