• The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an intergovernmental organization that seeks to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inhibit its use for any military purpose, including nuclear weapons.
  • It was established in 1957 as an autonomous organization within the United Nations system; though governed by its own founding treaty, the organization reports to both the General Assembly and the Security Council of the United Nations, and is headquartered at the UN Office at Vienna, Austria.

History and Origins

  • The IAEA was created in response to growing international concern toward nuclear weapons, especially amid rising tensions between the foremost nuclear powers, the United States and the Soviet Union.
  • U.S. President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s “Atoms for Peace” speech, which called for the creation of an international organization to monitor the global proliferation of nuclear resources and technology, is credited with catalyzing the formation of the IAEA, whose treaty came into force on 29 July 1957 upon U.S. ratification.
  • 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.
  • 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”.


The IAEA is generally described as having three main missions:

  • Peaceful uses: Promoting the peaceful uses of nuclear energy by its member states,
  • Safeguards: Implementing safeguards to verify that nuclear energy is not used for military purposes, and
  • Nuclear safety: Promoting high standards for nuclear safety.

IAEA Governance

The IAEA has two policymaking bodies. They are:

  1. General Conference
  2. Board of Governors

General Conference

  • It consists of all the member countries of the IAEA.
  • It meets in a regular annual session.
  • The annual general conference usually takes place in September.

Board of Governors

  • The Board of Governors is one of two policy-making bodies of the IAEA.
    • The Board consists of 22 member states elected by the General Conference, and at least 10 member states nominated by the outgoing Board.
  • The Board generally meets five times a year.
  • It examines and makes recommendations to the IAEA’s General Conference on the organisation’s programme, financial statements and budget. 
  • The Board considers membership applications, approves safeguards agreements and the publication of the safety standards of the IAEA. 
  • It also appoints the Director-General of the IAEA, with the approval of the General Conference. 


  • The IAEA also has a Secretariat which comprises the organisation’s professional and general service staff.
  • It is headed by the Director-General.


  • The process of joining the IAEA is fairly simple. 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 Member States.
  • Signature and ratification of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) are not preconditions for membership in the IAEA.
  • The IAEA has 176 member states.
    • Most UN members and the Holy See (See of Rome) are Member States of the IAEA.
  • India is a founding member of the IAEA.
    • As of 2019, India has put 26 reactors under IAEA safeguards.
    • Also, India joined the IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET) in January 2020.
      • RANET is a group of countries that provide assistance to reduce the consequences of nuclear or radiological emergencies.

The IAEA is an autonomous organisation within the United Nations system.

No, it is considered to be a ‘related organization’ by the United Nations. It is not a specialised agency because of the political nature of the work done by it.

The IAEA is funded by contributions from member states and donations from non-members.

India is a founding member of the IAEA.

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