The Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a 48-country group (as of June 2016) comprising nuclear supplier nations who want to ensure that nuclear supplies and weapons don’t proliferate in the market. In other words, the group’s objective is to make sure nuclear technology and material don’t fall into the hands of the wrong people, and that nuclear energy gets used for peaceful objectives and not to make weapons. The group accomplishes this by putting up specific guidelines relating to nuclear and nuclear-related exports.

Countries that import nuclear power and technology from NSG member(s) or any other country shouldn’t use the same for making nuclear weapons. Importing countries must also have sufficient security measures to prevent unauthorized use or theft of imports, and also the nuclear information and materials shouldn’t be transferred to another party sans the original exporter’s explicit permission. Also, destinations that receive the material should have International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards established.

NSG member countries may not necessarily adhere to NSG guidelines if a trade is politically beneficial. For example, in January 2001, Russia sent nuclear fuel (energy) to India despite being in violation of its own NSG commitments. Members who have denied nuclear exports to potential proliferators are expected to keep other NSG members in the know about the denial so that the country or state denied the export doesn’t approach other NSG members or gets denied by them as well.

Two-Part Guidelines

As aforementioned, the group puts down trade guidelines pertaining to two types of materials. The first part lists down technology and materials specifically designed for nuclear usage. Those comprise nuclear equipment and reactors, fissile materials, and enrichment and reprocessing equipment. Part two recognizes goods with dual purposes. These are non-nuclear goods that have genuine civilian applications and which could also be used for making weapons. For example, lasers and machine tools are dual-purpose items.

Origin, Formation and Members

Dr. Henry Kissinger at a Ford Centennial event in New York City. Image credit: Flickr
Dr. Henry Kissinger at a Ford Centennial event in New York City. Image credit: Flickr

NSG was established in the wake of India’s 1974 peaceful Pokhran nuclear bomb test. Henry Kissinger, American political scientist and diplomat, reluctantly played a key role in setting up NSG during the mid-1970s. The founding members of NSG believed countries could utilize nuclear technologies and materials original devised for peaceful objectives to make weapons.

The first set of member countries that includes the United States of America, West Germany, Canada, Japan, Soviet Union, and France met for the first time as NSG members in November, 1975 in London. A chain of similar meetings happened between 1975 and 1978. As a result, the group was initially called London Suppliers Group, London Group, or London Club. The group saw several countries getting added to the fray later on. The next meeting happened more than a decade later in 1991.

The group (as of June 2016) comprises Argentina, Australia, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, China, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, United Kingdom, and United States.

Group Membership Benefits and Entry

NSG members benefit from easy transfer of raw materials and technology among themselves.  

To enter the group, member countries’ consensus is needed. Generally, NSG is quite receptive to new applicants. However, it requires countries wanting membership should also endorse (a key requirement, but not mandatory) non-proliferation endeavors and comply with Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) or Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) rules.