One of the statutory functions of the IAEA is to establish or adopt standards of safety for the protection of health, life and property in the development and application of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes, and to provide for the application of these standards to its own operations as well as to assisted operations and, at the request of the parties, to operations under any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or, at the request of a State, to any of that State’s activities in the field of nuclear energy.

The following bodies oversee the development of safety standards: the Commission on Safety Standards (CSS); the Nuclear Safety Standards Committee (NUSSC); the Radiation Safety Standards Committee (RASSC); the Transport Safety Standards Committee (TRANSSC); and the Waste Safety Standards Committee (WASSC). Member States are widely represented on these committees.

In order to ensure the broadest international consensus, safety standards are also submitted to all Member States for comment before approval by the IAEA Board of Governors (for Safety Fundamentals and Safety Requirements) or, on behalf of the Director General, by the Publications Committee (for Safety Guides).

The IAEA’s safety standards are not legally binding on Member States but may be adopted by them, at their own discretion, for use in national regulations in respect of their own activities. The standards are binding on the IAEA in relation to its own operations and on States in relation to operations assisted by the IAEA. Any State wishing to enter into an agreement with the IAEA for its assistance in connection with the siting, design, construction, commissioning, operation or decommissioning of a nuclear facility or any other activities will be required to follow those parts of the safety standards that pertain to the activities to be covered by the agreement. However, it should be recalled that the final decisions and legal responsibilities in any licensing procedures rest with the States.

Although the safety standards establish an essential basis for safety, the incorporation of more detailed requirements, in accordance with national practice, may also be necessary. Moreover, there will generally be special aspects that need to be assessed on a case by case basis.

The physical protection of fissile and radioactive materials and of nuclear power plants as a whole is mentioned where appropriate but is not treated in detail; obligations of States in this respect should be addressed on the basis of the relevant instruments and publications developed under the auspices of the IAEA. Non-radiological aspects of industrial safety and environmental protection are also not explicitly considered; it is recognized that States should fulfil their international undertakings and obligations in relation to these.

The requirements and recommendations set forth in the IAEA safety standards might not be fully satisfied by some facilities built to earlier standards. Decisions on the way in which the safety standards are applied to such facilities will be taken by individual States.

The attention of States is drawn to the fact that the safety standards of the IAEA, while not legally binding, are developed with the aim of ensuring that the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and of radioactive materials are undertaken in a manner that enables States to meet their obligations under generally accepted principles of international law and rules such as those relating to environmental protection. According to one such general principle, the territory of a State must not be used in such a way as to cause damage in another State. States thus have an obligation of diligence and standard of care.

Civil nuclear activities conducted within the jurisdiction of States are, as any other activities, subject to obligations to which States may subscribe under international conventions, in addition to generally accepted principles of international law. States are expected to adopt within their national legal systems such legislation (including regulations) and other standards and measures as may be necessary to fulfil all of their international obligations effectively.


An appendix, when included, is considered to form an integral part of the standard and to have the same status as the main text. Annexes, footnotes and bibliographies, if included, are used to provide additional information or practical examples that might be helpful to the user.

The safety standards use the form ‘shall’ in making statements about requirements, responsibilities and obligations. Use of the form ‘should’ denotes recommendations of a desired option.

The English version of the text is the authoritative version.

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