We are doing science for policy
The Joint Research Centre (JRC) is the European Commission's science and knowledge service which employs scientists to carry out research in order to provide independent scientific advice and support to EU policy.
Nuclear safeguards are measures to verify that states do not use nuclear materials to develop weapons and that they respect their obligations under international non-proliferation treaties. The development and implementation of safeguards and other nuclear security technologies is a priority of EU policy. There is a constant need for research and development (R&D) to adapt methodologies and develop new tools to prevent, detect and deter misuse of nuclear material. Particular attention has to be attributed to areas where sensitive nuclear technologies (such as enrichment and reprocessing) are applied, to high throughput nuclear facilities and to advanced fuel cycle technologies.
The EU has set up a system of nuclear safeguards under the Euratom Treaty. This is managed by the European Commission’s Directorate-General for Energy. These measures ensure that in Europe, nuclear material is not diverted from its intended use and that EU countries comply with their safeguards obligations under the non-proliferation treaty. At the international level, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) guards this treaty.
The JRC supports the Commission’s work on nuclear safeguards and security (led respectively by the Commission’s Directorates-General for Energy and Home Affairs) by developing efficient and effective systems for the safeguards and proliferation resistance of current and future nuclear fuel cycle systems and for the security of nuclear and radioactive materials. It tackles R&D challenges in the areas of nuclear materials measurements, containment and surveillance, and process monitoring. The JRC implements training and testing schemes for detection of radionuclide materials and its scientists play a crucial role in the follow-up of incidents involving the seizure of nuclear material. For 30 years the JRC has been providing scientific and technical support to European and international safeguards authorities through dedicated R&D and providing operational support. The JRC also works for the Commission’s Directorate-General for Trade and for the IAEA in the area of export control and trade analysis. For the Commission’s Directorate-General for Development and Cooperation - EuropeAid and the European External Action Service (EEAS), the JRC executes a large number of projects on capacity building in nuclear safeguards and security outside the EU.
JRC research on nuclear safeguards includes technical services and training for nuclear safeguards, non proliferation and nuclear security, as well as the verification of treaties and agreements.
JRC carries out analysis of proliferation concerns by combining nuclear fuel cycle expertise with export control and trade analysis.
JRC carries out a significant amount of research, and provides the EU with support in the area of illicit trafficking of nuclear including prevention, detection and response actions to illicit trafficking.
Combating illicit trafficking
Within the international security context, the prevention and mitigation of Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRN) hazards has become an important area of activity. The EU is making significant contributions to the international effort to mitigate the threat and risks associated with these materials. The JRC is implementing several RN actions of the EU CBRN Action Plan in the areas of detection technologies, forensics, response and training.
Verification and detection in safeguarding nuclear material, conformity of information on materials and processes in nuclear forensics, as well as response in nuclear security are based on reliable measurement results with appropriate quality control tools as prerequisite. JRC provides nuclear material measurement standards, nuclear reference measurements and conformity assessment tools to safeguards authorities, industry and the international measurement community. This support includes the development of new reference materials, measurement services as well as development of reference measurement methods and their implementation.
Reference materials for nuclear safeguards, safety and security
The JRC organises interlaboratory comparisons for conformity assessment for the IAEA Network of Analytical Laboratories (NWAL) and other laboratories in the field. These quality control programmes are under the accredited aim at the analysis of uranium and plutonium containing materials and nuclear signatures in the environment.
Metrological tools for safeguards activities