Key Terms and Names of Important Groups associated with Nuclear Trade

Trigger List

Trigger list in its most general meaning refers to a list whose items are used to initiate (“trigger”) certain actions. The Zangger Committee and the Nuclear Suppliers Group maintain lists of items that may contribute to nuclear proliferation. The Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty forbids its members to export such items to non-treaty members. These items are said to trigger the countries’ responsibilities under the NPT, hence the name.


London Club

A series of meetings in London from 1975 to 1978 resulted in agreements on the guidelines for export of nuclear materials, equipment and technology. From these series of meetings in London, the name of the “London Club” emerged. It has also been referred to as the London Group, or the London Suppliers Group.


 Zangger Committee

The Zangger Committee, also known as the Nuclear Exporters Committee, sprang from Article III.2 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) which entered into force on March 5, 1970. Under the terms of Article III.2 International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards must be applied to nuclear exports.

Between 1971 and 1974, a group of 15 nuclear supplier states held a series of informal meetings in Vienna chaired by Professor Claude Zangger of Switzerland. The group’s objective was to reach a common understanding on:

  1. the definition of “equipment or material especially designed or prepared for the processing, use or production of special fissionable material;” and
  2. the conditions and procedures that would govern exports of such equipment or material in order to meet the obligations of Article III.2 on the basis of fair commercial competition.

The Zangger Committee is an informal group and its decisions are not legally binding upon its members.

The Committee maintains and updates a list of equipment that may only be exported if safeguards are applied to the recipient facility (called the Zangger “Trigger List” because such exports trigger the requirement for safeguards); and (b) allows members to coordinate on nuclear export issues.

There are 39 Members States in the Zangger Committee.The People’s Republic of China is a member of the Zangger Committee. The European Commission is permanent observer.

The UK Mission to the United Nations in Vienna acts as Secretariat.

The The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) uses the Zangger Trigger List as a reference document.

Nuclear Suppliers Group

Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seek to prevent nuclear proliferation by controlling the export of nuclear materials, equipment and technology (both dual-use and specially designed and prepared) that can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons.

The NSG was founded in response to the Indian nuclear test (code-named Smiling Buddha) in May 1974. The test demonstrated that certain non-weapons specific nuclear technology could be readily turned to weapons development. Nations already signatories of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) saw the need to further limit the export of nuclear equipment, materials or technology.

The founder members of NSG first met in November 1975.

A series of meetings in London from 1975 to 1978 resulted in agreements on the guidelines for export. A “Trigger List” was also published by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). Listed items could only be exported to non-nuclear states if certain IAEA safeguards were agreed to or if exceptional circumstances relating to safety existed.

The NSG Guidelines are published by the IAEA in its Information Circular series. INFCIRC/254 Part 1 contains the Guidelines for Nuclear Transfers, and INFCIRC/254 Part 2 contains the Guidelines for Transfers of Nuclear-Related Dual-Use Equipment, Material and Related Technology.

As of 2016, the NSG has 48 members. The European Commission and the Zangger Committee Chair participate as observers. The NSG Chair for 2015-2016 is Argentina.

Admitting a new member to the NSG requires a unanimous consensus of all current members.

India is not yet a member of NSG. However, during a state visit to India in November 2010, US president Barack Obama announced US support for India’s bid for permanent membership to UN Security Council as well as India’s entry to Nuclear Suppliers Group, Wassenaar Arrangement, Australia Group and Missile Technology Control Regime.


Also read: India’s quest for NSG membership.