Widely known as the world’s “Atoms for Peace and Development” organization within the United Nations family, the IAEA is the international center for cooperation in the nuclear field. The Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies.
In 1953, the President of the United States, Dwight D. Eisenhower, proposed the creation of an international body to both regulate and promote the peaceful use of atomic power (nuclear power), in his Atoms for Peace address to the UN General Assembly. In September 1954, the United States proposed to the General Assembly the creation of an international agency to take control of fissile material, which could be used either for nuclear power or for nuclear weapons.
In October 1957, a Conference on the IAEA Statute was held at the Headquarters of the United Nations to approve the founding document for the IAEA, which was negotiated in 1955–1957 by a group of twelve countries. The Statute of the IAEA was approved on 23 October 1956 and came into force on 29 July 1957.
The IAEA exists to pursue the “safe, secure and peaceful uses of nuclear sciences and technology” (Pillars 2005). The IAEA executes this mission with three main functions: the inspection of existing nuclear facilities to ensure their peaceful use, providing information and developing standards to ensure the safety and security of nuclear facilities, and as a hub for the various fields of science involved in the peaceful applications of nuclear technology.
The IAEA’s mission is guided by the interests and needs of the Member States, strategic plans and the vision embodied in the IAEA Statute (see below). Three main pillars – or areas of work – underpin the IAEA’s mission: Safety and Security; Science and Technology; and Safeguards and Verification.
REGIONAL AGREEMENTS AND AFFILIATIONS
There are four regional cooperative areas within IAEA that share information, and organize conferences within their regions:
- AFRA: The African Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development
and Training Related to Nuclear Science and Technology.
- ARASIA: Cooperative Agreement for the Arab States in Asia for Research,
Development and Training are related to Nuclear Science and Technology.
- RCA: Regional Cooperative Agreement for Research, Development, and Training
Related to Nuclear Science and Technology for Asia and the Pacific.
- ARCAL: Cooperation Agreement for the Promotion of Nuclear Science and
Technology in Latin America and the Caribbean (ARCAL).
A meeting was held in Vienna this month, attended by some 70 international experts under the aegis of IAEA, connecting plasma physics and engineering aspects in innovative technology design and fusion machine operation. This was a part of the agency’s efforts to promote and enable fusion research.
IAEA has started several programs in countries like Bangladesh and Venezuela to provide and apply technologies enabled by nuclear technology and radiation physics. Moreover, they have funded research into several medical uses of nuclear energy to promote the concept of Atoms for Peace.
Russian nuclear accident specialist Iouli Andreev is critical of the response to Fukushima and says that the IAEA did not learn from the 1986 Chernobyl disaster. He has accused the IAEA and corporations of “willfully ignoring lessons from the world’s worst nuclear accident 25 years ago to protect the industry’s expansion”.
The journal Nature has reported that the IAEA response to the 2011 Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear disaster in Japan was “sluggish and sometimes confusing”, drawing calls for the agency to “take a more proactive role in nuclear safety”. Moreover, nuclear experts say that the agency’s complicated mandate and the constraints imposed by its member states mean that reforms will not happen quickly or easily.
The process of joining the IAEA is straightforward. Normally, a State would notify the Director General of its desire to join, and the Director would submit the application to the Board for consideration. If the Board recommends approval, and the General Conference approves the application for membership, the State must then submit its instrument of acceptance of the IAEA Statute to the United States, which functions as the depositary Government for the IAEA Statute. The State is considered a member when its acceptance letter is deposited. The United States then informs the IAEA, which notifies other IAEA.