Skip to main content

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)

THE INTERNATIONAL ATOMIC
ENERGY AGENCY
(IAEA)

BACKGROUND:

The UN came into existence at the beginning of the atomic age. Human beings' success in harnessing atomic energy has made the UN's objectives not only important but even indispensable. The primary purpose of the UN is to prevent war. A major war involving the use of atomic weapons would be not simply catastrophic but very probably suicidal. The second objective of the UN is to promote the economic and social welfare of peoples throughout the world. Atomic energy promises to contribute greatly to worldwide prosperity. Although "atoms for peace" has been a continuing concern of the UN itself, and although a number of organizations of the UN family, such as FAO and WHO, have been concerned with specific aspects of peaceful uses of atomic energy, it was not until 1957 that a special organization, the International Atomic Energy Agency, came into being for the express purpose of accelerating and enlarging the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health, and prosperity throughout the world.

CREATION

Addressing the UN General Assembly in December 1953, US president Dwight D. Eisenhower called for the establishment of an international atomic energy organization to "serve the peaceful pursuits of mankind." The president said that he hoped the atomic powers, through such an organization, would dedicate "some of their strength to serve the needs rather than the fears of mankind."

President Eisenhower stated that the USSR "must, of course, be one" of the countries principally involved in the proposed organization. Accordingly, as a first step, the US State Department in the spring and summer of 1954 submitted a series of memoranda to the USSR suggesting the principles that should be incorporated in the statute of such an agency. It was, however, impossible for the two powers to reach agreement at that time. The USSR maintained that the issues of disarmament and peaceful uses of atomic energy were inseparable and that agreement on a general prohibition of nuclear weapons would have to precede the creation of the agency. The United States countered with the argument that effective international control of nuclear weapons would have to precede their prohibition, and it announced that it was prepared to go ahead with international negotiations even without the participation of the USSR.

In the summer of 1954, the United States issued invitations to seven other countries, including both "atomic powers" and important uranium-producing statesAustralia, Belgium, Canada, France, Portugal, South Africa, and the United Kingdomto meet with it in Washington, D.C., to prepare a draft statute for the proposed agency. In September, the USSR reversed its previous position. It announced its willingness to separate the issues of disarmament and peaceful uses of atomic energy and to accept the eight-power draft statute as a basis for further negotiations and guidance.

In December 1954, the General Assembly unanimously adopted an "Atoms for Peace" resolution expressing the hope that the International Atomic Energy Agency would be established "without delay" in order to assist "in lifting the burdens of hunger, poverty and disease." An international conference on the statute was convened at UN headquarters in New York on 20 September 1956, with the participation of 81 nations, including some, such as the Federal Republic of Germany, that were not yet members of the UN itself. After adopting a number of amendments, proposed for the most part by the atomic "have-not" powers, the conference unanimously adopted the statute as a whole on 26 October 1956.

On 29 July 1957, the statute came into force after 26 states had deposited instruments of ratification, and the International Atomic Energy Agency officially came into existence. The first General Conference of the IAEA was held in Vienna in October 1957, at which time it was decided to make Vienna the permanent headquarters site of the agency. The address of the IAEA is Wagramer Strasse 5, P.O. Box 100, A-1400 Vienna, Austria.

Additionally, the IAEA maintains field and liaison offices in Canada, Geneva, New York, and Tokyo; operates laboratories in Austria and Monaco; and supports a research center in Trieste, Italy, which is administered by the United Nations Educational and Scientific Organization (UNESCO).

The IAEA and its Director General Mohamed El Baradei were jointly awarded the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize for "their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way."

PURPOSES

According to the statute of the IAEA, the agency "shall seek to accelerate and enlarge the contribution of atomic energy to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. It shall ensure, so far as it is able, that assistance provided by it or at its request or under its supervision and control is not used in such a way as to further any military purpose."

The IAEA acts as a clearinghouse for the pooling and coordination of experience and research in the peaceful uses of nuclear power. It helps its member countries acquire the necessary skills and materials to share in the benefits of the atomic age. In practice, the IAEA has been particularly concerned with bringing the advantages of atomic energy to underdeveloped regions.

The IAEA is obliged under its statute to "ensure, so far as it is able," that all the activities in which it takes part are directed exclusively to civilian uses. A second important task of the IAEA, then, is to establish a system of supervision and control to make certain that none of the assistance programs that it fosters and none of the materials whose distribution it supervises are used for military purposes. This aspect of the work assumed significance far beyond its primary objective when the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons came into force in March 1970, since the IAEA is the body responsible for the necessary control system under that treaty.

MEMBERSHIP

Any member of the UN or of any of the specialized agencies that signed the statute within 90 days after 26 October 1956 thereby became a charter member of the IAEA upon ratification of the statute. Other countries, even if not members of the UN or any of the specialized agencies, may be admitted by the General Conference of the IAEA upon recommendation of the Board of Governors.

As of November 2005, the IAEA had 139 members.

STRUCTURE

The three organs of the IAEA are the General Conference, the Board of Governors, and the secretariat, headed by a Director-General.

General Conference

The General Conference consists of all members, each having one vote. It meets once a year at IAEA headquarters in Vienna. Special sessions may be convened by the director-general at the request of the Board of Governors or a majority of the IAEA members. The General Conference elects 22 of the 35 members of the Board of Governors for a period of two years. It considers the board's annual report and approves reports for submission to the UN and agreements with the UN and other organizations. It approves the budget recommended by the board and the appointment of the director-general. The General Conference may discuss any matter concerning the IAEA and may make recommendations to the Board of Governors or to any of the member states.

Board of Governors

The 35-member Board of Governors is the body actually vested with "the authority to carry out the functions of the Agency in accordance with (the) Statute." The board generally meets five times each year. It is composed as follows: the outgoing Board of Governors designates for membership on the board the 13 members most advanced in the technology of atomic energy and the production of source materials and the member most advanced in the technology of atomic energy and the production of source materials in two of the following areas in which none of the aforesaid 13 is locatedNorth America, Latin America, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the Far East.

The General Conference also elects to membership of the Board of Governors the following: (1) 20 members, with due regard to geographical representation, so that the board at all times will include in this category 5 representatives of Latin America, 4 representatives of Western Europe, 3 representatives of Eastern Europe, 4 representatives of Africa, 2 representatives of the Middle East and South Asia, 1 representative of Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and 1 representative of the Far East; (2) in addition, 1 further member from among the members of the following areas: the Middle East and South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Pacific, and the Far East; (3) and 1 further member from among the members in the following areas: Africa, the Middle East and South Asia, and Southeast Asia and the Pacific.

Member States represented on the Board of Governors for 2005-2006 were: Algeria, Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Belarus, Belgium, Canada, China, Colombia, Cuba, Ecuador, Egypt, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Japan, Republic of Korea, Libya, Norway, Portugal, Russian Federation, Singapore, Slovakia, Slovenia, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Sweden, Syria, United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, United States of America, Venezuela, and Yemen.

Director-General and Secretariat

The staff of the IAEA is headed by a director-general, appointed by the Board of Governors with the approval of the General Conference for a term of four years. The statute describes the director-general as "the chief administrative officer of the Agency," but it closely limits his independent powers by providing that he "shall be under the authority and subject to the control of the Board of Governors." The director-general is responsible for "the appointment, organization, and functioning of the staff."

The first director-general, who held the post from 1957 to 1961, was Sterling Cole of the United States, a former congressman. Dr. Sigvard Eklund, a Swedish physicist and administrator, served as director-general from 1961 to 1981. He was succeeded by Dr. Hans Blix of Sweden, a former foreign minister, who was reappointed in 1993 for a fourth four-year term. On 1 December 1997, Blix was succeeded by Dr. Mohamed El-Baradei (of Egypt) as Director General. El-Baradei has been a senior member of the Secretariat since 1984. He heads a staff of about 2,200 from some 95 countries.

Position in the UN System

The IAEA is an autonomous international organization occupying its own position in the UN family of organizations. Under the relationship agreement between the UN and the IAEA, the IAEA is recognized as being "responsible for international activities concerned with the peaceful uses of atomic energy." One of the statutory objectives of the IAEA is to ensure that none of the assistance it gives to member states is "used in such a way as to further any military purpose," and the IAEA has a staff of inspectors to report violations of this rule. In case of noncompliance, the agency's Board of Governors reports to the Security Council and the General Assembly of the UN.

IAEA has established strong cooperation arrangements with many of the key UN development agencies in order to advance the contribution of nuclear science and technology in the fields of agriculture, human health, industry, environmental protection, and other sectors. Principal partners in are the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). The agency also develops cooperative arrangements with multilateral development banks, bilateral donors, and non-governmental organizations and institutes such as the Inter-American Nuclear Energy Commission, the Agency for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, the League of Arab States, the African Union, the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD, and the European Atomic Energy Community. Finally, the IAEA maintains contact with a number of nongovernmental organizations having consultative status with it.

BUDGET

The IAEA is financed by regular and voluntary contributions from member states. For 2006, the IAEA General Conference approved a regular budget of 273.6 million (on the basis of an exchange rate of us$1.00 to 1.00). The target for voluntary contributions to finance the IAEA program of technical cooperation was about us$77.5 million for 2006.

ACTIVITIES

A. Assistance to Member States

The initial program of the IAEA, unanimously adopted by the 1957 General Conference, emphasized activities that could be undertaken while the IAEA's experience and resources were still relatively limited. High priority was given "to those activities which will give the maximum possible benefit from the peaceful applications of atomic energy in improving the conditions and raising the standard of living of the peoples in the underdeveloped areas."

In the light of these considerations, two of the IAEA's major objectives are to help member states prepare for the eventual use of nuclear power and to encourage them in the wider use of radioisotopes. Although it cannot undertake actual programs of development for its members, it can assist them in initiating and carrying out such programs. By the 1990s IAEA was active in assisting its developing members in an impressive number of fields:

Basic human needs

  • water resources development
  • agriculture (mutation breeding, fertilizer and soil nutrition, pest control, use of agrochemicals)
  • livestock (reproduction, health, nutrition)
  • health care (radiation therapy, nuclear medicine and diagnostics)

Industrial applications

  • nondestructive testing
  • hydrology (silt movements, geothermal studies)
  • radiation processing (surface coating, radiation sterilization, food preservation, sterilization of medical products)
  • isotopic tracers for industry
  • nuclear gauging for industry (paper, steel, food processing, mining industries)
  • radioisotope and radiopharmaceutical production
  • research reactor design and use

Electricity generation

  • geology, mining and processing of nuclear raw materials
  • fuel element fabrication
  • metallurgy and materials testing
  • power reactor design
  • reactor electronics instrumentation and control
  • reactor engineering and quality assurance
  • electricity system planning

Support activities

  • nuclear centers and laboratories
  • nuclear safety (regulation, safety standards, radiation protection, waste management, safety assessment)
  • physics (atomic, nuclear, high-energy and solid-state physics)
  • chemistry (nuclear, radio, radiation, and nuclear analytical chemistry)
Technical Cooperation

The IAEA has been providing technical assistance to developing member countries since 1959, in the form of expert services, equipment, and training, with the objective of facilitating technology transfer in various fields related to nuclear energy. The major fields in which assistance is provided are nuclear safety, the application of isotopes and radiation in agriculture, and nuclear engineering and technology. Other important areas for assistance are general atomic energy development, nuclear physics and chemistry, prospecting for and mining and processing of nuclear materials, and the application of isotopes and radiation in industry and hydrology, in medicine, and in biology.

Financial support for the IAEA's technical cooperation programs comes mainly from its own voluntary technical assistance and cooperation fund; other sources are extrabudgetary donations and contributions in kind from member states and UNDP. In 2006, technical allocations increased to us$ 78.5 million from us$ 59.1 million in 2000.

Provision of Materials

Under the IAEA statute, any member desiring to set up an atomic energy project for peaceful purposes "may request the assistance of the Agency in securing special fissionable and other materials." The IAEA acts, on request, as an intermediary in arranging the supply of reactor fuel and specialized equipment from one member state to another. Argentina, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Finland, Japan, Mexico, Norway, Pakistan, and Uruguay, among other countries, have been beneficiaries of such arrangements. Small quantities of special fissionable materials have also been supplied to a number of countries for research purposes.

Training of Technical Personnel

The IAEA's training program has retained its importance, not only because the need for trained staff is pressing but also because less elaborate preparations are required for assistance of this kind than for technical assistance operations involving the provision of expert services and demonstration equipment.

To meet the shortage of scientific and technical workers, the IAEA has initiated a fivefold program:

  1. Fellowships. Fellowships are awarded in all subjects involving the peaceful uses of atomic energy, such as nuclear physics; the production, handling, and application of isotopes in agriculture, industry, medicine, biology, and hydrology; nuclear chemistry; the planning, construction, and operation of research and power reactors; health physics; and radiological protection.
  2. Assignment of experts and consultants. The program provides for scientists and engineers to give advice and in-service training to developing countries on various subjects.
  3. Survey of available facilities in member states. The IAEA collects detailed information from its member states about their training and research programs, training facilities, and the experts that they are prepared to make available to the IAEA. It is thus in a position to act as an international clearinghouse for training in atomic energy and to promote technical cooperation among developing countries.
  4. Training courses. Regional and interregional courses have been organized on such subjects as the application of isotopes and radiation in medicine, nuclear instrumentation for laboratory technicians, the use and maintenance of nuclear and related electronic equipment, radiological and safety protection, physics, the utilization of research reactors, nuclear-power projects and other high-technology subjects, the preparation and control of radiopharmaceuticals, and uranium prospecting and ore analysis.
  5. Expanded training programs. A number of developing countries, faced with the need to introduce nuclear power, require special assistance in the training of their key staff; the agency has therefore initiated an expanded training program on nuclear-power project planning, implementation, and operation. Special training courses contribute to the development of efficient legal and organizational infrastructures for nuclear-power programs, including instruction in quality assurance and safety aspects. In addition, on-the-job training is arranged on subjects for which no formal courses are available.

B. Exchange of Information

While its assistance programs are directed primarily to the needs of economically developing areas, the IAEA's program of conferences and exchange of information is designed to benefit all of its memberseven the most technically advanced.

The International Nuclear Information System (INIS), set up by the agency in 1970, provides worldwide coverage of the literature dealing with all aspects of peaceful uses of atomic energy and is the first fully decentralized computer-based information system. Countries and organizations participating in the INIS collect and process all the relevant literature within their geographic areas and send it to the IAEA. In Vienna, the information is checked, merged, and further processed, and the resulting output is distributed to individuals and organizations around the world. The major products of the system are the magnetic tape service, the INIS Atomindex, and the direct availability of the INIS data base on-line from the IAEA computer in Vienna. The magnetic tapes and the on-line service, available to member states and participating organizations only, contain bibliographic descriptions, subject indexing, and abstracts and are utilized for current selective dissemination of information and retrospective searching. The INIS Atomindex, an international nuclear abstract journal, is published twice a month and is available to the public on a subscription basis. An additional service is the provision on microfiche of texts of all nonconventional literature submitted to the system. In 2006, INIS membership included over 100 countries and some 20 international organizations; it reported on over 2.5 million documents. Beginning in 1992 the INIS data base was made available to INIS member states on CD-ROM disks.

The IAEA also cooperates with FAO in the provision of a similar information system for agriculture, known as AGRIS.

A second important information service of the IAEA concerns nuclear datanumerical and associated information on neutron cross-sections, related fission, capture, and scattering parameters of neutron-induced reactions, as well as other nuclear physical constants. The IAEA maintains an efficient system for collection of these data and, together with three other regional centers, in France, the Russian Federation, and the United States, issues CINDA, an index to the literature on microscopic neutron data. It also compiles WRENDA, the world request list for nuclear-data measurements needed both for the development of fission and fusion reactors and for nuclear-material safeguards.

The IAEA plays a leading role in promoting the dissemination of scientific and technical information by organizing each year 15 to 20 conferences, symposia, and seminars and a large number of smaller technical meetings. The IAEA has organized major international meetings dealing with specific aspects of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy. For example, some important 2000 meetings included: International Conference on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management (Córdoba, Spain); International Symposium on the Uranium Production Cycle and the Environment, (Vienna); 18th IAEA Fusion Energy Conference (Sorrento, Italy); International Symposium on Nuclear Techniques in Integrated Plant Nutrient, Water, and Soil Management (Vienna); International Symposium on Radiation Technology in Emerging Industrial Applications (Beijing); International Conference of National Regulatory Authorities with Competence in the Safety of Radiation Sources and the Security of Radioactive Materials (Buenos Aires); Seminar on Nuclear Science and Technology for Diplomats (Vienna); Seminar on Nuclear Law; and Latin America International Seminar on Implementation of Systems to Prevent and Detect Unauthorized Uses of Nuclear and Radioactive Materials (Vienna).

C. Research

The International Center for Theoretical Physics, in Trieste, set up by the IAEA in 1964, brings together specialists from developing and developed countries to carry out research and to enable scientists from developing countries to keep abreast of progress without having to leave their own countries permanently or for long periods. Fellowships are awarded to candidates from developing countries for training and research, and an international forum is provided for personal contacts. Associate memberships are awarded by election to enable distinguished physicists to spend one to three months every year at the center. Senior and junior positions are offered by invitation, and a federation scheme is designed to forge a partnership with institutions in developing countries. Assistance has been given by Italy and by the university and city of Trieste. Further aid has come from the Ford Foundation and from UNESCO, which in 1970 undertook joint management of the center.

The IAEA has three laboratories: a small one at its headquarters in Vienna, the main laboratory at Seibersdorf (20 miles from Vienna), and one at Monaco for research on the effects of radioactivity in the sea. The laboratories undertake work in agriculture, hydrology, medicine, physics, chemistry, low-level radioactivity, and environment.

A research contract program has been established with various institutions in member states. The subjects include nuclear power and reactors; physics and chemistry; radioisotope and radiation applications in agriculture, food technology, industry, and medicine; water resources development; protection of humans against ionizing radiation; radiation biology; medical and biological radiation dosimetry; health physics and radiation protection; environmental contamination; and waste treatment and disposal.

To keep abreast of scientific developments, members of the IAEA's scientific staff visit institutions in member states and conduct various studies. The IAEA has made a survey of research trends in the sterilization of food and drugs by ionizing radiation, a problem of considerable interest to both developed and developing countries.

D. Nuclear Power

Nuclear power is already an important source of electrical generation, particularly in industrialized countries, and technically and economically ripe for an even larger application worldwide. As of April 2006, there were 443 nuclear power plants in operation worldwide and 27 additional plants under construction.

In response to the interest of developing countries in nuclear power, the IAEA has played an increasing role in objective nuclear-power planning studies for individual member states. Energy planning methodologies have been developed and made available. The IAEA has cooperated with interested member states in applying these methodologies to specific country cases and in assessing the economic role of nuclear power in meeting increasing requirements for electricity. IAEA efforts to help strengthen infrastructures for the planning, implementation, and operation of nuclear-power projects take the form of inter-regional and national training courses; technical assistance projects, often in cooperation with the World Bank; advisory missions to interested countries; and the publication of guidebooks.

The IAEA started to collect operating experience data from nuclear-power plants in the late 1960s and has now established a Power Reactor Information System (PRIS), which monitors the performance of the nuclear-power plants in operation in the world. In addition to performance indices and data on energy production, the system contains information about full and partial plant out-ages affecting plant operation and about power-reactor operating experience in the world. Periodic publications by the IAEA make this information available to planners and operators in member states. In 1995, a new version, called PRIS-PC, was made available online for direct access through the public telephone network. Internet access became available at the end of 1996.

As an increasing number of countries are interested in the use of nuclear plants for heat-only production and cogeneration (for example, desalination combined with electricity generation), the IAEA periodically reviews progress in this area. In addition, scientific meetings on nuclear power are organized to discuss such matters as economic competitiveness of nuclear power, integration of nuclear-power plants in electric grids, operating experience, introduction of small and medium power reactors, development of fast-breeder and high-temperature reactors, and fusion technology.

In 2000, in response to the IAEA member states' requests under two resolutions at that year's General Conference, the IAEA initiated "International Projects on Innovative Nuclear Reactors and Fuel Cycles (INPRO)." The project complements the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Generation IV International Forum (GIF), in its focus on future nuclear technologies. The activities of INPRO focus on developing long-term user requirements for future nuclear technologies from the point of view of safety, non-proliferation, environment, nuclear wastes, and economic competitiveness. The IAEA held an International Conference on Innovative Nuclear Technologies in 2003. Some of the symposia and conferences held by the IAEA in 2006 were: on effective nuclear regulatory systems; on management of spent fuel from nuclear power reactors; on verification challenges; on quality assurance and new techniques in radiation medicine; and on the decommissioning of nuclear facilities.

E. Nuclear Safety

Although each state is responsible for nuclear safety with regard to nuclear activities within its own territory, nuclear safety is a field in which international cooperation can be very helpful, particularly in developing safety standards and providing assistance. The IAEA's activities in the field of nuclear safety include plant siting and design, the transport of radioactive waste, emergency planning and preparedness, and decommissioning. The IAEA also began work on an historic Nuclear Safety Convention in 1991, the text of which was finalized at a major international conference held in Vienna in June 1994. (See Nuclear Law below.)

The IAEA maintains a 24-hour Emergency Response System (ERS) staffed by 30 emergency duty officers. In 1992 the system underwent its second comprehensive exercise to test procedures developed in support of the conventions on early nuclear accidents signed as a result of the 1986 Chernobyl incident (see below). In addition to periodic comprehensive tests, the communication systems used for notifications and requests for assistance are tested at least once a day.

Regulations for the safe transport of nuclear material were developed by the IAEA in 1961. These were followed by Basic Safety Standards for Radiation Protection, which have been extensively revised in accordance with the new system of dose limitation recommended by the International Commission on Radiological Protection. The revised safety standards, carried out jointly with the ILO, WHO, and the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD, mark an important milestone in establishing international standards for radiation protection. In 1992 IAEA published the first in a series of radioactive waste management research abstracts.

The IAEA's Nuclear Safety Standards program provides member states with internationally acceptable safety codes and guides on the many aspects of safety associated with nuclear-power plants. The program, which deals with protection against the harmful effects of ionizing radiations, is based on experience in safety practices gained by countries advanced in nuclear technology. Two types of safety documentscodes of practice and safety guidesare being developed in the areas of government organization, siting, design, operation, and quality assurance of nuclear-power plants. For each area there is a code of practice and a number of related safety guides. The codes outline basic objectives and minimum requirements that must be fulfilled to provide an adequate safety level. The safety guides recommend procedures and acceptable technical solutions to implement the requirements and achieve the objectives of the codes.

In recognition of the increasing emphasis on operational safety, the IAEA initiated the Operational Safety Review Team (OSART) program in 1983 to assist regulatory authorities in the review of operating nuclear-power plants. The program provides an opportunity for member states to benefit from outside expertise and experience. An Operational Safety Review Team is composed of about 10 experts, including IAEA staff, to cover subject areas common to all reactor types, and consultants to cover those areas that are reactor-specific. Experts from developing countries have frequently been included. The reviews, which take up to three weeks, help provide an international frame of reference for regulatory and operating personnel and also provide the IAEA with valuable insights in regard to updating its regular and technical assistance programs.

Additional highlights of IAEA safety activities are: work on the management of severe accidents and on emergency response; the man-machine interface; probabilistic safety assessment; and advanced safety technology. There is also a nuclear incident reporting system and an International Nuclear Event Scale Information Service (INES). There is also a program called the Assessment of Safety Significant Events Teams (ASSET), which complements OSART. ASSET missions assess, upon invitation, safety significant events involving nuclear power plants. In recent years, there has been a greater emphasis on evaluation and assistance to improve the safe operation of Eastern European nuclear reactors.

As the number of reactor years of operation increases, the feedback of experience is becoming a valuable means of enhancing safety and reliability. Systematic reporting and evaluation of safety-related events can make it possible to identify necessary plant modifications and develop improved plant procedures. To facilitate the exchange of experience, both the Nuclear Energy Agency of the OECD and the IAEA have established incident reporting systems to collect and examine details of events submitted by national organizations. National coordinators screen accounts of all events, passing on to the OECD and the IAEA the most important data.

Response of the IAEA to the Chernobyl Accident

In response to the accident that occurred in the fourth unit of the Chernobyl nuclear-power station in the USSR on 26 April 1986, resulting in loss of life, injuries, and considerable radioactive releases, the IAEA's Board of Governors met to elaborate proposals for expanded international cooperation in nuclear safety and radiological protection. Through a group of experts who convened in JulyAugust 1986, it prepared draft s of two international conventions on nuclear accidents; at a post-accident review meeting convened by the IAEA in late August, about 600 experts from 62 countries and 21 international organizations discussed a comprehensive report presented by the USSR delegation. In September 1986, a special session of the IAEA's General Conference, attended by delegates from 94 countries and 27 national and international organizations, adopted the two draft conventions: the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency. The two conventions were immediately signed by more than 50 countries. By 17 January 2006, the Early Notification Convention had 98 parties. The Accident Assistance Convention had 96 parties as of 27 January 2006. In 1989, the IAEA and many other sister organizations embarked on the International Chernobyl Project, to assess the measures taken to enable people to live safely in areas affected by radioactive contamination. It involved more than 200 experts from 23 countries and marked the beginning of ongoing cooperation between intergovernmental organizations regarding nuclear safety.

In March 1994, an international expert safety assessment team examined the safety situation at Chernobyl, at the invitation of the Ukrainian government. It concluded that there were numerous safety deficiencies in the two units of the plant that remain operational, noting that the shelter enclosing the destroyed reactor was experiencing deterioration. The IAEA recommended that the government of Ukraine hold a meeting on the situation at the Chernobyl reactor. At that meeting, the Ukrainian government pleaded severe economic hardship and an impending shortage of energy as a reason to delay closing the damaged plant. It asserted that, with international financial assistance, safety conditions at the plant could be improved. The government also asserted that the output of the Chernobyl station was a least-cost alternative for energy supply in the immediate future. In 1994, five new nuclear plants were planned or under construction; as of 2000, two had received sufficient funding to be completed, by 2004 and 2006; construction on the other three had been suspended indefinitely. In 2000, representatives of the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) concluded that significant safety improvements had been achieved in the fourteen nuclear power plants in Ukraine since 1994.

In March 2001, the Ukrainian government selected a design for a new shelter to be build around the Chernobyl "sarcophagus." The EBRD agreed to the design, which would allow for the work to begin.

F. Radioactive Waste Management

Safe management of radioactive wastes produced in all the stages of the nuclear fuel cycle is essential for the growth of nuclear power. The IAEA has been active since its establishment in all aspects of this field, including the publication of Safety Series and Technical Reports, which give guidelines and recommendations; the holding of seminars, symposia, and conferences; and the arranging of study tours for the benefit of member states. Major areas currently being studied by the IAEA are underground disposal,

Afghanistan Dominican Republic Kyrgyzstan Romania
Albania Ecuador Lebanon Russian Federation
Algeria Egypt Liberia Saudi Arabia
Angola El Salvador Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Senegal
Argentina Eritrea Liechtenstein Seychelles
Armenia Estonia Lithuania Sierra Leone
Australia Ethiopia Luxembourg Singapore
Austria Finland Madagascar Slovakia
Azerbaijan France Malaysia Slovenia
Bangladesh Gabon Mali South Africa
Belarus Georgia Malta Spain
Belgium Germany Marshall Islands Sri Lanka
Benin Ghana Mauritania Sudan
Bolivia Greece Mauritius Sweden
Bosnia and Herzegovina Guatemala Mexico Switzerland
Botswana Haiti Moldova, Republic of Syrian Arab Republic
Brazil Holy See (Vatican) Monaco Tajikistan
Bulgaria Honduras Mongolia Thailand
Burkina Faso Hungary Morocco The Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
Cambodia Iceland Myanmar
Cameroon India Namibia Togo
Canada Indonesia Netherlands Tunisia
Central African Republic Iran New Zealand Turkey
Chad Iraq Nicaragua Uganda
Chile Ireland Niger Ukraine
China Israel Nigeria United Arab Emirates
Colombia Italy Norway United Kingdom
Congo, Democratic Republic of the Jamaica Pakistan United Republic of Tanzania
Costa Rica Japan Panama United States
Côte d'Ivoire Jordan Paraguay Uruguay
Croatia Kazakhstan Peru Uzbekistan
Cuba Kenya Philippines Venezuela
Cyprus Korea, Republic of Poland Vietnam
Czech Republic Kuwait Portugal
Denmark Latvia Qatar

waste handling and treatment, and environmental aspects of waste disposal.

Safety standards and codes of practice have been prepared on the management of wastes produced by users of radioactive materials; the management of wastes from the mining and milling of uranium and thorium ores; the disposal of wastes in shallow ground, rock cavities, and deep geological formations; and criteria for underground disposal of wastes.

G. Nuclear Law

From its inception, the IAEA has been faced with the need for international coordination and harmonization of the principles governing third-party liability in the event of nuclear damage. The absence of special legislation might leave injured victims without redress. Great difficulties might arise if different nations were to incorporate different principles and procedures in their legislation concerning third-party liability.

Some steps toward worldwide harmonization of compensation for damage arising from nuclear operations were taken through the adoption of two international conventions: the Brussels Convention on the Liability of Operators of Nuclear Ships (1962) and the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (1963). These two conventions set the minimum standards concerning the liability of the operator of a nuclear installation or a nuclear ship in the event of accidents occurring during the international transport of nuclear materials.

Another convention was adopted in 1971: the Convention on Civil Liability in the Field of Maritime Carriage of Nuclear Matter, which came into force on 15 July 1975. This convention exonerates shipowners from liability under international maritime law in the case of nuclear damage falling within the purview of the Paris Convention on Third Party Liability in the Field of Nuclear Energy (1960), which came into force in 1968, or the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage (1963), which came into force in 1977, whenever the carriage of nuclear material is involved; it thus eliminates what was previously a serious impediment to sea transport of such material. A joint protocol relating to the application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Conventions entered into force on 27 April 1992.

The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material was adopted on 26 October 1979 at a meeting of governmental representatives held at IAEA headquarters. The convention, which came into force on 9 February 1987, is designed to ensure that the prescribed levels of physical protection are applied to potentially hazardous nuclear materials during international transport.

As already noted, two conventions on nuclear accidents were adopted at a special session of the IAEA's General Conference in September 1986, in the aftermath of the Chernobyl accident in April of that year: the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, which came into force on 27 October 1986; and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, which came into force on 27 February 1987.

In 1991, in recognition of the interdependence of nations in the nuclear fuel cycle, the General Conference supported the idea of an international nuclear safety convention. A draft convention elaborated by legal and technical experts from more than 50 countries was submitted to the General Conference at that time. In June 1994, delegations from 83 member states and four international organizations met in Vienna to consider and adopt the final text of the International Nuclear Safety Convention. The main features of the convention are the establishment of a reporting system on the implementation by contracting states of the obligations of the convention; the assurance of a proper legislative and regulatory framework to govern the safety of nuclear installations; general safety considerations to reinforce the priority of safety; sufficient financial and human resources; quality assurance; radiation protection, and emergency preparedness. The Nuclear Safety Convention came into force on 24 October 1996. The first review meeting was held in April 1999 in Vienna; it was attended by 45 of the 50 states that had by then ratified the convention.

In conjunction with the increasing number of states embarking on nuclear programs, there has also been a growing awareness of the necessity for establishing both a proper legislative framework and specialized regulations for the licensing and control of nuclear installations. The IAEA has provided advisory services to several developing countries in the framing of statutory and regulatory provisions in such areas as the establishment of competent bodies on atomic energy; radiation and environmental protection; transport of radioactive materials; licensing of nuclear installations; nuclear liability; and nuclear merchant ships.

H. Safeguards

The basic science and technology of nuclear energy are the same for both peaceful and military purposes. Therefore, the IAEA statute requires the agency "to establish and administer safeguards" to ensure that materials, services, equipment, facilities, and information that the IAEA makes available are not used "in such a way as to further any military purpose." Such safeguards may also be applied, "at the request of the parties, to any bilateral or multilateral arrangement, or, at the request of a state, to any of that state's activities in the field of atomic energy."

Under the IAEA safeguards system, which was first developed by the Board of Governors on the basis of these statutory provisions in 1961 and has been continuously revised to cover all major aspects of the fuel cycle, the IAEA exercises its control either over assistance provided directly by it or under its auspices, or over items placed voluntarily under IAEA safeguards by any state or group of statesfor instance, over reactors, their fuel, and fuel-reprocessing plants.

A major development greatly affecting the significance of the IAEA's work was the coming into force in 1970 of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), under which states without nuclear weapons and party thereto agreed to accept IAEA safeguards on all their peaceful nuclear activities.

The objective of safeguards applied under agreements concluded in connection with the NPT is the timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities for the manufacture of nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices or for purposes unknown, and the deterrence of such diversion by the risk of early detection. This objective is achieved by the independent verification of the findings of the national system of accountancy and control of nuclear materials, which a state without nuclear weapons must establish and maintain under the agreement. IAEA verification is accomplished by material accountancy, containment, and surveillance, including inspections, whose number, intensity, and duration must be kept to the minimum consistent with the effective implementation of safeguards.

The NPT was made permanent in 1995. As of 1 May 2006, it had 188 state parties (including the withdrawal of the Democratic People's Republic of Korea in 2003). With several complementary regional treaties (including the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America, also called the Treaty of Tlatelolco; and the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone, or Rarotonga Treaty), the NPT provides the foundations of legally binding non-proliferation commitments by countries around the world.

The (1991) discovery of a clandestine nuclear weapons development program in Iraq after the Gulf War, however, demonstrated the limitations of the IAEA safeguards system to detect possible undeclared nuclear activities. This discoveryalong with the emergence of new countries with new security perceptions at the end of the Cold War, and the 1996 report that the Democratic People's Republic of Korea was not in compliance with its obligations under the NPT safeguards agreementwas viewed as a call to action by IAEA member states. By mid-1997 a strengthened safeguards system was put in place to provide the international community with early warning about the possible diversion or clandestine production of nuclear materials that could be used for weapons purposes. At that time, the IAEA stated that the strength of the safeguards system depended on three interrelated elements: the extent to which the IAEA is aware of the nature and locations of nuclear and nuclear-related activities; the extent to which IAEA inspectors have physical access to relevant locations for the purpose of providing independent verification of the exclusively peaceful intent of a state's nuclear program; and the will of the international community, through IAEA access to the United Nations Security Council, to take action against States that are not complying with their non-proliferation commitments.

The IAEA also applies safeguards to some of the peaceful nuclear activities in five nuclear-weapon statesChina, France, the Russian Federation, the United Kingdom, and the United Statesunder voluntary offer agreements. India and Pakistan, both nuclear-weapons states as of 1998, are not parties to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty and have not accepted "comprehensive" IAEA safeguards. Nor has Israel, with a well-developed nuclear program and the technological capability to build nuclear explosive devices.

In the aftermath of the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks on the U.S., the IAEA Board of Governors approved a plan designed to upgrade world-wide protection against acts of terrorism involving nuclear and other radioactive materials, including those that could be used to make "dirty bombs." The Board acknowledged that strong physical protection of nuclear facilities and materials is needed.

In October 2002, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (DPRK) announced that it had underway an uranium-enrichment program, in violation of its 1994 "Agreed Framework" with the U.S. In January 2003, North Korea gave notice of its withdrawal from the NPT, which became effective that April. North Korea thus became the first state ever to withdraw from the treaty. In February 2005, the DPRK announced it possessed nuclear weapons, and pulled out of six-party talks with the Republic of Korea, China, Russia, the United States, and Japan. However, later that year it indicated it would agree to a preliminary accord by which it would renounce its weapons program, with conditions.

In 2006, Iran, a party to the NPT, announced it had resumed activity of a uranium enrichment program, ostensibly for civilian purposes. The United States and the European Union accused Iran of reactivating this program to covertly develop a nuclear weapons program, in violation of the NPT. In February 2006, the Board of Governors of the IAEA voted to report Iran to the UN Security Council.

Cite this article
Pick a style below, and copy the text for your bibliography.

  • MLA
  • Chicago
  • APA

"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Encyclopedia.com. 17 Nov. 2018 <https://www.encyclopedia.com>.

"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Encyclopedia.com. (November 17, 2018). https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/international-atomic-energy-agency-iaea

"The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)." Worldmark Encyclopedia of Nations. . Retrieved November 17, 2018 from Encyclopedia.com: https://www.encyclopedia.com/history/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/international-atomic-energy-agency-iaea

Learn more about citation styles

Citation styles

Encyclopedia.com gives you the ability to cite reference entries and articles according to common styles from the Modern Language Association (MLA), The Chicago Manual of Style, and the American Psychological Association (APA).

Within the “Cite this article” tool, pick a style to see how all available information looks when formatted according to that style. Then, copy and paste the text into your bibliography or works cited list.

Because each style has its own formatting nuances that evolve over time and not all information is available for every reference entry or article, Encyclopedia.com cannot guarantee each citation it generates. Therefore, it’s best to use Encyclopedia.com citations as a starting point before checking the style against your school or publication’s requirements and the most-recent information available at these sites:

Modern Language Association

http://www.mla.org/style

The Chicago Manual of Style

http://www.chicagomanualofstyle.org/tools_citationguide.html

American Psychological Association

http://apastyle.apa.org/

Notes:
  • Most online reference entries and articles do not have page numbers. Therefore, that information is unavailable for most Encyclopedia.com content. However, the date of retrieval is often important. Refer to each style’s convention regarding the best way to format page numbers and retrieval dates.
  • In addition to the MLA, Chicago, and APA styles, your school, university, publication, or institution may have its own requirements for citations. Therefore, be sure to refer to those guidelines when editing your bibliography or works cited list.