IAEA (International Atomic Energy Agency)

The IAEA is the world´s center of cooperation in the nuclear field. It was set up as the world´s "Atoms for Peace" organization in 1957 within the United Nations family. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.

Organizational Profile

The IAEA Secretariat is headquartered at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria. Operational liaison and regional offices are located in Geneva, Switzerland; New York, USA; Toronto, Canada; and Tokyo, Japan. The IAEA runs or supports research centers and scientific laboratories in Vienna and Seibersdorf, Austria; Monaco; and Trieste, Italy. See Offices and Contacts.

The IAEA Secretariat is a team of 2200 multi-disciplinary professional and support staff from more than 90 countries. The Agency is led by Director General Mohamed ElBaradei and six Deputy Directors General who head the major departments. See IAEA Staff.

IAEA programmes and budgets are set through decisions of its policymaking bodies - the 35-member Board of Governors and the General Conference of all Member States. Reports on IAEA activities are submitted periodically or as cases warrant to the UN Security Council and UN General Assembly. See Policy Bodies.

IAEA financial resources include the regular budget and voluntary contributions. The Regular Budget for 2007 amounts to Euro 283 611 000. The target for voluntary contributions to the Technical Co-operation Fund for 2007 is $80 million.

History of the IAEA

The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations resulting from the discovery of nuclear energy. Its fortunes are uniquely geared to this controversial technology that can be used either as a weapon or as a practical and useful tool.

The Agency's genesis was US President Eisenhower's "Atoms for Peace" address to the General Assembly of the United Nations on 8 December 1953. These ideas helped to shape the IAEA Statute, which 81 nations unanimously approved in October 1956. The Statute outlines the three pillars of the Agency's work - nuclear verification and security, safety and technology transfer.

In the years following the Agency's creation, the political and technical climate had changed so much that by 1958 it had become politically impracticable for the IAEA to begin work on some of the main tasks foreseen in its Statute. But in the aftermath of the 1962 Cuban missile crisis, the USA and the USSR began seeking common ground in nuclear arms control.

In 1961 the IAEA opened its Laboratory in Seibersdorf, Austria, creating a channel for cooperative global nuclear research. That year the Agency signed a trilateral agreement with Monaco and the Oceanographic Institute headed by Jacques Cousteau for research on the effects of radioactivity in the sea, an action that eventually lead to the creation of the IAEA's Marine Environment Laboratory.

As more countries mastered nuclear technology, concern deepened that they would sooner or later acquire nuclear weapons, particularly since two additional nations had "joined the club", France in 1960 and China in 1964. The safeguards prescribed in the IAEA's Statute, designed chiefly to cover individual nuclear plants or supplies of fuel, were clearly inadequate to deter proliferation. There was growing support for international, legally binding, commitments and comprehensive safeguards to stop the further spread of nuclear weapons and to work towards their eventual elimination.

This found regional expression in 1968, with the approval of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). The NPT essentially freezes the number of declared nuclear weapon States at five (USA, Russia, UK, France and China). Other States are required to forswear the nuclear weapons option and to conclude comprehensive safeguards agreements with the IAEA on their nuclear materials.

The 1970s showed that the NPT would be accepted by almost all of the key industrial countries and by the vast majority of developing countries. At the same time the prospects for nuclear power improved dramatically. The technology had matured and was commercially available, and the oil crisis of 1973 enhanced the attraction of the nuclear energy option. The IAEA's functions became distinctly more important. But the pendulum was soon to swing back. The first surge of worldwide enthusiasm for nuclear power lasted barely two decades. By the early 1980s, the demand for new nuclear power plants had declined sharply in most Western countries, and it shrank nearly to zero in these countries after the 1986 Chernobyl accident.

In 1988 the IAEA and UN Food and Agricultural Organization joined forces with other agencies to eradicate New World Screwworm - which spreads a deadly livestock disease. The radiation-based technology to eradicate the worm was developed at the Agency's Seibersdorf Laboratory.

In 1991, the discovery of Iraq's clandestine weapon programme sowed doubts about the adequacy of IAEA safeguards, but also led to steps to strengthen them, some of which were put to the test when the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) became the second country that was discovered violating its NPT safeguards agreement. The Three Mile Island accident and especially the Chernobyl disaster persuaded governments to strengthen the IAEA’s role in enhancing nuclear safety.

In the early 1990s, the end of the Cold War and the consequent improvement in international security virtually eliminated the danger of a global nuclear conflict. Broad adherence to regional treaties underscored the nuclear weapon free status of Latin America, Africa and South East Asia, as well as the South Pacific. The threat of proliferation in some successor States of the former Soviet Union was averted; in Iraq and the DPRK the threat was contained.

In 1995, the NPT was made permanent and in 1996 the UN General Assembly approved and opened for signature a comprehensive test ban treaty. While military nuclear activities were beyond the IAEA's statutory scope, it was now accepted that the Agency might properly deal with some of the problems bequeathed by the nuclear arms race - verification of the peaceful use or storage of nuclear material from dismantled weapons and surplus military stocks of fissile material, determining the risks posed by the nuclear wastes of nuclear warships dumped in the Arctic, and verifying the safety of former nuclear test sites in Central Asia and the Pacific.

In recent years, the Agency's work has taken on some urgent added dimensions. Among them are countermeasures against the threat of nuclear terrorism, the focus of a new multi-faceted Agency action plan.