Office for Nuclear Regulation

International Safety Standards (IAEA)

The IAEA's International Safety Standards

While regulating safety is a national responsibility, international standards and harmonised approaches to safety promote consistency and help to provide assurance that nuclear and radiation related technologies are used safely. The IAEA is required by statute to promote international cooperation.

For over 50 years the 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 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 Technical Assessment Guides (TAGs). Also, the Safety Standards were used in deriving the WENRA Safety 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 five Safety Standards Committees which are overseen by the Commission on Safety Standards (CSS):

Each Member State nominates senior experts, typically from regulatory bodies, 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, and are consulted during the drafting stages.

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. We collate 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.

If you wish to comment, please do so by accessing the comment form on the IAEA website. The form may also be found on our website. Comments must be received by us at least five weeks before the IAEA’s specified deadline (which may be found at the IAEA Safety Standard section “Draft Standards posted for official comment by member states”). This is so that they can be collated before being sent to the IAEA.

As draft Safety Standards are consulted on periodically, it is not possible to list the dates when they will appear. Please email any comment forms to with the subject:  'IAEA Safety Standards comments'.