EU Science Hub

Nuclear safeguards

Research and development activities are performed at the JRC to provide efficient and effective technologies to ensure that current and future nuclear fuel systems can be properly safeguarded and the EU obligations under non-proliferation treaties are met. The JRC contributes to the development of advanced methodological approaches, including safeguards by design, verification of absence of undeclared activities and/or facilities by trace/particle analysis (with a link to nuclear forensics), providing metrological and in-field tools for the investigative inspector.

The JRC’s activities support virtually all aspects of nuclear safeguards. It provides enabling research, technology, instruments, technical services and training for nuclear safeguards, non proliferation and nuclear security, including the verification of treaties and agreements. Research activities include development of analytical techniques and nuclear material measurements, of accurate methods and standards for non destructive, destructive and ultra-trace analysis (including particle analyses), as well as reference materials and interlaboratory comparisons. Activities range from nuclear non-destructive analysis and process monitoring (modelling/data authentication/remote control) to containment and surveillance, verification and detection technologies, including the proliferation assessment of new reactor systems, border monitoring and the specialist analysis of open-source information and satellite imagery.

The JRC performs highly sensitive trace analysis for the detection of clandestine nuclear activities and for the identification of seized materials from illicit trafficking. The JRC operates also the on-site laboratories at reprocessing plants in the nuclear sites of Sellafield (UK) and La Hague (France), providing nuclear inspectors with near-real time analytical results. The JRC's reference materials provide the necessary quality control tools for fissile material control of irradiated nuclear fuel at the on-site laboratories. The throughput of these two plants represents 80% of the world's reprocessed spent nuclear fuel, which is verified by European Commission inspectors supported by JRC scientists in these facilities, to assure compliance with nuclear safeguards.

Related topics


3D Verification Technologies for Nuclear Safeguards

The JRC carries out research and system development supporting nuclear safeguards inspectors during their in-field verification activities.

Metrological tools for safeguard activities

The JRC organises interlaboratory comparisons for conformity assessment for the IAEA Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL) and other laboratories in the field.