Nuclear material regulation
Nuclear material regulation
Safeguarding nuclear materials, i.e. surveillance aimed at preventing the proliferation of nuclear weapons, assures that nuclear materials and other nuclear products remain in peaceful use, in accordance with permits 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.
The general requirements for the safeguards of nuclear materials are set out in the Nuclear Energy Act and the Nuclear Energy Decree to fulfil the applicable international obligations and national objectives. The detailed requirements are presented in the Guide YVL D.1 issued by STUK. The requirements are binding for all users of nuclear energy, e.g., nuclear facility operators and other stakeholders contributing to the nuclear related research and development activities. Nuclear material regulation is 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, including in particular fresh and spent fuel, and other nuclear and dual-use items in nuclear power plants usually three times a year, other major users of nuclear commodities and materials annually, and operators with small amounts of nuclear material every two years or less often. In addition to conducting its own inspections, STUK participates as an independent inspector and observer in all the inspections conducted in Finland by the IAEA and the European Commission. The IAEA makes unannounced inspections or complementary accesses to Finnish locations with nuclear activities few times per year. In addition to inspecting nuclear use items, the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority also conducts regular audits of the nuclear safeguards systems of the operators, including the accounting and reporting procedures and the operations and guidelines of the organization.
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 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 items 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.
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. 2020 was the 50th anniversary of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. The implementation of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons and safeguards in Finland over the first 50 years are described in a report commissioned by the Radiation and Nuclear Safety Authority “Finland and Nuclear Non-Proliferation : Fifty years of implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty”.
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 agreements negotiated 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, Euratom), 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. 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. The Additional Protocol grants IAEA more extensive information from states regarding the state’s nuclear fuel cycle. The most significant extensions of the reporting obligation include nuclear facility site declarations instead of only reporting nuclear materials as well as reporting research and development activities, the manufacturing of equipment and exports related to the nuclear fuel cycle. 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 that do not have nuclear weapons on 30 April 2004.
Treaty establishing the European Atomic Energy Community and the Commission’s Safeguards Regulation With membership in the EU, Finland also belongs to the European Atomic Energy Community, whose establishing Treaty from 1957 provides a basis for safeguarding nuclear materials in EU countries.
According to the 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 safeguards regulation No 302/2005, which is binding on operators