Office for Nuclear Regulation

International Safety Standards (IAEA)

The IAEA's International Safety Standards

While regulating safety is a national responsibility, international standards and harmonized approaches to safety promote consistency and help to provide assurance that nuclear and radiation related technologies are used safely. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is required by Statute to promote international cooperation.

For over 50 years the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has had a safety standards programme. More than 200 safety standards have been published which reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment.

The IAEA safety standards are a cornerstone of the global nuclear safety regime. The standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements and guidance to ensure safety. They are applicable, as relevant, throughout the entire lifetime of facilities and activities.

The principle users of the safety standards are regulatory bodies and organisations that design, manufacture and operate nuclear facilities.

The Safety Standards are not binding on states and are used in different ways in different countries.

"Within the UK, the Safety Standards were used to benchmark the recent review of SAPs, Safety Assessment Principles for Nuclear Facilities and in the continuing review of the TAGs, Technical Assessment Guides (TAGs). Also the Safety Standards were used in deriving the WENRA reference levels (

Safety Standards framework

The hierarchy of the IAEA Safety Standards are as follows:

Safety Fundamentals

As the primary publication in the Safety Standards Series, Fundamental Safety Principles (unified in 2006) establishes the fundamental safety objective and principles of protection and safety. Principles cover thematic areas and facilities and activities.

Safety Requirements

An integrated and consistent set of Safety Requirements publications establish the requirements that must be met to ensure the protection of people and the environment. The requirements are governed by the objectives and principles of the Safety Fundamentals. If they are not met, measures must be taken to reach or restore the required level of safety.

They use the word 'shall'.

Safety Guides

Safety Guides provide recommendations and guidance on how to comply with the Safety Requirements, and reflect a consensus that it is necessary to take the measures recommended (or equivalent alternative measures). The Safety Guides present international good practices and increasingly they reflect best practices to help users striving to achieve high levels of safety.

They use the word 'should'.

A status list provides information on published safety standards and those under development.

Development process for the Safety Standards and how you can get involved

The Safety Standards are developed through an open and transparent process for gathering, integrating and sharing knowledge and experience. There are four Safety Standards Committees which are overseen by the Commission on Safety Standards (CSS):

Each Member State nominates a senior expert, typically from the regulatory body to represent the Member State at Safety Standard Committee meetings and present a national position on IAEA safety standards.

Member States, via the representatives are integral in setting the Safety Standards, are consulted during the drafting stages and are responsible for developing national standards.

Representatives are required to attend committee meetings, contribute actively and disseminate draft Safety Standards in their respective States to seek comments from their potential users and raise awareness.

Industry and the public are encouraged to review and comment on the development of new/revised IAEA Safety Standards at the stage when formal comments are requested from Member States. HSE collates comments on behalf of the UK. If you would like further information, or wish to review and comment on the Safety Standards please contact us at

If you wish to comment please do so by accessing the comment form on the IAEA website.Comments must be received by ONR a month before the stipulated deadline (found on the first page of the draft SS), so that they can be collated before being sent to IAEA. As draft SS appears periodically, it is not possible to list the dates when they will appear. Please send any comment forms to in an email entitled 'IAEA Safety standards comments'.