Office for Nuclear Regulation

IAEA safeguards

Voluntary Offer Agreement

The five nuclear-weapon states defined by the Non-Proliferation Treaty (i.e. the United Kingdom, the United States of America, China, France and the Russian Federation) have voluntary offer safeguards agreements (VOAs) in force covering some or all of their peaceful nuclear activities.

A VOA is an agreement concluded between the IAEA and a nuclear weapon State which, under the NPT, is not required to accept safeguards but which has voluntarily offered to do so to allay concerns that the application of IAEA safeguards could lead to commercial disadvantages for the nuclear industries of non-nuclear weapon States. Under the UK VOA the UK offers nuclear material and facilities in its civil nuclear fuel cycle for selection by the IAEA for the application of safeguards.

ONR submits nuclear material accounting reports and basic design information for all facilities offered to the IAEA for the application of safeguards.

The Voluntary Offer Agreement also allows the UK to remove facilities or withdraw material from the scope of the agreement for reasons for national security.

Details of withdrawals are available here:

Additional Protocol

The UK has also agreed an Additional Protocol with the IAEA, supplementing the Voluntary Offer Agreement. These extend the reporting required beyond nuclear material accountancy to areas such as research and development, specified imports and exports, and provides access to the IAEA to verify this reporting.

The UK’s Additional Protocol came into force on 31 December 2020.  It is implemented under the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2000.  The accompanying Nuclear Safeguards (Notifications) Regulations 2004 implement certain provisions of the act.

Frequently asked questions on implementation of the UK Additional Protocol

Why are Regulations necessary?

The Government is likely to be aware of certain parties who will provide information to satisfy its obligations under the additional protocol. However, there may be others that the Government is unaware of. The regulations require that such people make themselves known, so that they can provide the relevant information to be passed to the IAEA.

Who is affected by the Regulations?

People who are:

  • Conducting research and development activities that are specifically related to any process or system development aspect of:
    • the enrichment of nuclear material;
    • the reprocessing of nuclear fuel; or
    • the processing of intermediate or high level waste containing plutonium, high enriched uranium (HEU), or uranium-233

that are carried out in co-operation with, or are otherwise relevant to, a non-nuclear weapon State (i.e. any state other than China, France, Russia, the UK or USA), and that are not funded, specifically authorised or controlled by, or carried out on behalf of Her Majestys Government. Such activities, including computer and paper-based studies, need to be declared whether or not they involve nuclear material.

Carrying out the following activities:

  • the manufacture of centrifuge rotor tubes or the assembly of gas centrifuges;
  • the manufacture of diffusion barriers;
  • the manufacture or assembly of laser-based systems;
  • the manufacture or assembly of electromagnetic isotope separators;
  • the manufacture or assembly of columns or extraction equipment;
  • the manufacture of aerodynamic separation nozzles or vortex tubes;
  • the manufacture or assembly of uranium plasma generation systems;
  • the manufacture of zirconium tubes;
  • the manufacture or upgrading of heavy water or deuterium;
  • the manufacture of nuclear grade graphite;
  • the manufacture of flasks for irradiated fuel;
  • the manufacture of reactor control rods;
  • the manufacture of criticality safe tanks and vessels;
  • the manufacture of irradiated fuel element chopping machines;
  • the construction of hot cells.

What do people affected by the Regulations need to do?

Contact us by writing to ONR Safeguards, 4N3 Redgrave Court, Merton Road, Bootle, L20 7HS or emailing with the following information:

  • name
  • address (or in the case of a company the address of its principal or registered office);
  • activity referred to in the Regulations that they are carrying out; and
  • address of each place at or from which the activity has been carried out.

When do these details need to be provided?

By no later than 15 January in the year following the start of the activity.

Unless your details change, they need only be provided once.

What will ONR Safeguards do with the details?

ONR will write to request the provision of information on each activity. The request will specify the format in which the information should be provided and the date by which it should be provided.

Why does ONR Safeguards need this information?

The information will be declared to the IAEA in order to satisfy the UK's international nuclear non-proliferation obligations under the Additional Protocol to its safeguards agreement with Euratom and the IAEA.

How will confidential information be protected?

Only information that is necessary for the purposes of the Additional Protocol will be sought, and in most cases it is expected that such information will not be confidential.

Nonetheless, the Nuclear Safeguards Act 2000 makes the unauthorised disclosure in the UK of information obtained under the Act (and hence the Regulations) a criminal offence, with exceptions in certain clearly defined circumstances. The Additional Protocol requires the IAEA to maintain a stringent regime to ensure effective protection against disclosure of any confidential information that comes to its knowledge.