International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) : History, Member, Secretariat, Function & Issues | UPSC Notes

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International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) : History, Member, Secretariat, Function & Issues | UPSC Notes

• The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is a group of governments that works to support the peaceful use of nuclear energy and stop it from being used for military purposes, including making nuclear weapons.

It was founded in 1957 as an independent organisation within the United Nations system. It is governed by its own founding treaty, but it reports to both the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations. Its headquarters are at the UN Office in Vienna, Austria.

History and the Origins

• The IAEA was created because more and more people around the world were worried about nuclear weapons, especially as tensions rose between the two biggest nuclear powers, the US and the USSR.

• U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, in which he called for the creation of an international organisation to keep an eye on the spread of nuclear resources and technology around the world, is thought to have been the spark that led to the creation of the IAEA. The U.S. ratified the treaty that created the IAEA on July 29, 1957.

• The IAEA serves as an intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation on the peaceful use of nuclear technology and nuclear power worldwide. • It maintains several programs that encourage the development of peaceful applications of nuclear energy, science, and technology; provide international safeguards against misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials; and promote and implement nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards.

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• The organization also conducts research in nuclear science and provides technical support and training in nuclear technology to countries worldwide, particularly in the developing world.

• Following the ratification of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons in 1968, all non-nuclear powers are required to negotiate a safeguards agreement with the IAEA, which is given the authority to monitor nuclear programs and to inspect nuclear facilities.

• In 2005, the IAEA and its administrative head, Director General Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the “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”.


Most people say that the IAEA has three main goals:

• Promoting peaceful uses of nuclear energy by its member states.

• Implementing safeguards to make sure nuclear energy isn’t used for war purposes.

• Promoting high standards for nuclear safety.

IAEA Governance

The IAEA has two groups that decide what to do. These are:

1. Meeting of all countries

2. The Board of Trustees

General Conference

It is made up of all the countries that are part of the IAEA. It meets every year. The annual general meeting usually happens in September.

Board of Trustees

• The Board of Governors is one of the two groups in the IAEA that make decisions about policy.

The Board is made up of 22 member states chosen by the General Conference and at least 10 member states chosen by the former Board. The Board usually meets five times a year.

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• It looks at the IAEA’s programme, financial records, and budget. It then makes suggestions to the IAEA’s General Conference.

• The Board looks at requests to join the IAEA, accepts safeguards agreements, and makes sure that the IAEA’s safety standards are published.

• With the approval of the General Conference, it also chooses the Director-General of the IAEA.


The IAEA also has a group of skilled and general service staff called the Secretariat.

• The Director-General is in charge of it.


• It’s pretty easy to become a member of the IAEA. Usually, a State would tell the Director General that it wanted to join, and the Director would send the application to the Board for review.

If the Board suggests approval and the General Conference approves the application for membership, the State must then send its instrument of acceptance of the IAEA Statute to the United States, which acts as the depositary Government for the IAEA Statute.

When the State’s acceptance letter is sent in, it becomes a member.

The US then tells the IAEA, which then tells the other IAEA Member States.

• Joining the IAEA does not require signing and ratifying the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).

• 176 countries are members of the IAEA.

The IAEA is made up of most UN countries and the Holy See (See of Rome).

• India was one of the first people to join the IAEA.

As of 2019, India has given the IAEA control over 26 reactors.

Also, in January 2020, India joined the IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET).

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RANET is a group of countries that help each other out during nuclear or radiological situations.