Implementing certain international instruments to secure nuclear and other radioactive material

Nuclear weapons and material

The 1968 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)

The NPT entered into force on 5 March 1970 and  has 190 States Parties.

The treaty does not have a secretariat. However, the treaty tasks the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) with verifying compliance. The treaty depositaries are the governments of the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom and the United States.

Article III.1 of the treaty requires States to accept nuclear safeguards. A range of legislative measures are often necessary to ensure appropriate national implementation of:

  • the Structure and Content of Agreements between the Agency and States required in connection with the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (Safeguards Agreements) and
  • the Model Protocol Additional to the Agreement(s) between State(s) and the International Atomic Energy Agency for the Application of Safeguards (Additional Protocol).

The 1980 Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM)

The CPPNM was signed on 3 March 1980 and entered into force on 8 February 1987. 

The treaty has 152 States Parties. The treaty depositary is the Director General of the IAEA. 

If a State has ratified or acceded to the treaty, the Convention calls for a set of rules to be implemented in its legal system. For instance:

  • Article 7 defines a number of acts or attempted acts, which should be criminalized;
  • Article 8 requires a State to establish jurisdiction over the offences listed in Article 7, which should, among other things, give its courts the authority to try individuals suspected of committing prohibited acts; and
  • Articles 10 and 11 set out criteria for the expediency of trials and extraditions and Article 13 calls for international assistance in connection with criminal proceedings (for instance by facilitating the transfer of evidence between States).

A diplomatic conference, in July 2005, adopted an amendment to the CPPNM. The amendment will only enter into force when it has been ratified by two-thirds of the States Parties to the CPPNM. When it enters into force, it will add the concepts of protection of ‘nuclear facilities’ and ‘sabotage’ of nuclear facilities and material to the CPPNM. The amendment would replace Article 5 in the CPPNM, and add the IAEA to those notified about theft, robbery or other unlawful taking of nuclear material. It would also expand the scope of co-operation to include threatened or actual acts of sabotage of nuclear facilities or material.

Other radioactive material


Code of Conduct on the Safety and Security of Radioactive Sources (Code of Conduct)

The IAEA Board of Governors adopted the Code of Conduct in September 2003. The Code of Conduct is not legally binding; however, over 120 States have indicated to the Director General that they fully support and endorse the IAEA’s efforts to enhance the safety and security of radioactive sources, and that they are working towards following the guidance contained in the Code.

Paragraph 18 of the Code of Conduct recommends that States enact laws and regulations to: (a) prescribe and assign governmental responsibilities to assure the safety and security of radioactive sources; (b) provide for the effective control of radioactive sources; (c) specify the requirements for protection against exposure to ionizing radiation; and (d) specify the requirements for the safety and security of radioactive sources and of the devices in which sources are incorporated. Paragraph 19 gives more specific recommendations for national laws and regulations. 

Further to paragraphs 23 to 29 of the Code of Conduct, on imports and exports of radioactive sources, a non-legally binding Guidance on the Import and Export of Radioactive Sources was developed by the IAEA’s Member States in 2005. The Guidance covers the imports and exports of Category 1 sources (the most dangerous radioactive sources according to Annex I in the Code of Conduct) and Category 2 sources.