The purpose of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is to promote and accelerate the contribution atomic energy makes to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. At the same time, the Agency is charged with ensuring that the assistance it provides is not used to further states' military objectives, and that nuclear material is not diverted to non-peaceful activities.
The IAEA Statute entered into force in 1957, making it an independent inter-governmental organisation under the aegis of the UN rather than a specialised agency.
The Agency is charged with drawing up and implementing the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) safeguards provisions, as well as those of the Treaty of Tlatelolco (the Latin American Nuclear Weapon Free Zone), the Treaty of Pelindaba (the African Nuclear Weapon Free Zone), the Treaty of Bangkok (the ASEAN Nuclear Weapon Free Zone), the Treaty of Rarotonga (the South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone) and the Central Asian Nuclear-Weapon Free Zone (CANWFZ) Treaty.
These safeguard activities are a relatively new concept in international law and form one of the most important aspects of the IAEA's role and functions. The aim of the safeguards is to assist states in demonstrating their compliance with international obligations in the interest of preventing the further proliferation of nuclear weapons.
There were 1173 nuclear installations under IAEA safeguards, with 367 inspectors conducting 2162 inspections by the end of 2010. The IAEA's role in nuclear safety has increased as nuclear power programmes have grown and public attention has focused on the issue. In the security area, the focus is on helping states prevent, detect and respond to terrorist or other malicious acts, such as illegal possession, use, transfer and trafficking of nuclear materials, and to protect nuclear installations and transport against sabotage.
Although the IAEA is not a regulatory body, its recommendations have been used by many countries as a basis for national standards and rules. The Agency also has important functions under international conventions related to emergency response and preparedness in the event of a nuclear accident. These conventions (with party numbers as of May 2011) are: the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, which entered into force on 27 October 1986 (109 parties); and the Convention on Assistance in the Case of a Nuclear Accident or Radiological Emergency, which entered into force on 26 February 1987 (105 parties). In 1994, an IAEA Diplomatic Conference adopted the Convention on Nuclear Safety. It entered into force on 24 October 1996 (72 parties).
Other conventions adopted under the auspices of the IAEA (with numbers as of May 2011) are:
The Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material, which entered into force on 8 February 1987 (145 parties). An amendment to this Convention was adopted on 8 July 2005 but has not yet entered into force (46 contracting states)
The Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste Management, which entered into force on 18 June 2001 (57 parties)
The Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, which entered into force on 12 November 1977 (38 parties)
The Joint Protocol relating to the Application of the Vienna Convention and the Paris Convention, which entered into force on 27 April 1992 (26 parties)
The Protocol to Amend the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, which entered into force on 4 October 2003 (nine parties)
The Optional Protocol concerning the Compulsory Settlement of Disputes to the Vienna Convention on Civil Liability for Nuclear Damage, which entered into force on 13 May 1999 (two parties)
The Convention on Supplementary Compensation for Nuclear Damage, which was adopted on 12 September 1997 but which has not yet entered into force (four parties).
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