The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world’s leading international platform for scientific and technological collaboration in nuclear energy’s peaceful applications. What are the functions of IAEA? What is the conflict between Iran and the IAEA? Read more about IAEA here.
What is International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)?
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is an international organisation dedicated to promoting the peaceful use of nuclear energy and prohibiting its use for military purposes, including the development of nuclear weapons.
On July 29, 1957, the IAEA became an independent entity. The IAEA reports to both the UN General Assembly and Security Council, despite being founded independently of the UN by its own international treaty, the IAEA Statute.
The IAEA’s programmes promote nuclear energy, science, and technology for peaceful purposes, provide international safeguards against the misuse of nuclear technology and nuclear materials,
Its mandate includes promoting nuclear safety (including radiation protection) and nuclear security standards and their implementation.
The IAEA’s three chief areas of work are: Safety and Security, Science and Technology and Safeguards, and verification
IAEA, headquartered in Vienna, contributes to peace and security in the world and also towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).
IAEA History and Origins
- The U.S. Ratification of the Statute by President Eisenhower, on 29 July 1957, marks the official birth of the International Atomic Energy Agency.
- ‘Atoms for Peace’ was the organisation’s first name when it was formally established in 1957.
- The primary mandate of the organisation was and continues to be promoting safe, secure and peaceful nuclear technologies.
- India became a member in 1957.
- The IAEA is entrusted with the task of upholding the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970.
- The IAEA, along with its former Director-General Mohamed ElBaradei, was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005.
- The headquarters of the IAEA is in Vienna, Austria.
- The IAEA has regional offices in Geneva, New York, Toronto and Tokyo; and research laboratories in Austria, Italy and Monaco.
- Currently, it has 175 members. The latest members are Saint Kitts and Nevis; and Tonga, which joined the IAEA in 2022.
- The current Director-General of the organisation is Rafael Mariano Grossi.
Functions of International Atomic Energy Agency
1. Works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide for Promoting and assisting the research, development and practical applications of peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.
2. Establishing and administering safety guards to ensure that such research/development, etc., by the IAEA is not used for military purposes.
3. Applying, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international treaties, mandatory comprehensive safeguards in non-nuclear-weapon states (NNWS) parties to such treaties.
The IAEA has two policymaking bodies. They are- the General Conference and Board of Governors.
1. General Conference of IAEA: It is made up of each of the IAEA’s member nations, and it convenes annually for its regular session. The yearly regular budget is established by General Conference, and it also handles extra-budgetary monies and voluntarily provided contributions to the Technical Cooperation Fund.
2. Board of Governors: It consists of 35 members. Each board members have one vote. The Board generally meets five times a year. Its key functions are-
- Recommendations to the General Conference on IAEA activities and budget.
- Responsible for publishing IAEA standards.
- Responsible for making most of the policies of the IAEA.
- Appoints the Director General subject to General Conference approval.
3. Secretariat: Vienna International Centre, in Vienna, Austria, serves as home to the IAEA Secretariat. The Director-General and six Deputy Director-Generals oversee the Agency’s six principal divisions. The professional and administrative personnel of the IAEA make up its Secretariat.
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and India
- Since 1957, India has been a founding member of the IAEA.
- In January 2020, India joined the IAEA Response and Assistance Network (RANET). Response and Assistance Network (RANET)is a group of countries that provide assistance in reducing the consequences of nuclear or radiological emergencies.
- The IAEA certified the nuclear power plant at Rawatbhata in Rajasthan in 2012, which drew criticism as the power plant had two incidents of leakage of nuclear material earlier that year.
- Safeguards are activities by which the IAEA can verify that a State is living up to its international commitments not to use nuclear programmes for nuclear-weapons purposes.
- Safeguards are based on assessments of the correctness and completeness of a State’s declared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities.
- Verification measures include on-site inspections, visits, and ongoing monitoring and evaluation.
- Basically, two sets of measures are carried out in accordance with the type of safeguards agreements in force with a State.
- One set relates to verifying State reports of declared nuclear material and activities.
- Another set enables the IAEA not only to verify the non-diversion of declared nuclear material but also to provide assurances as to the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in a State.
Issues with International Atomic Energy Agency
- The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) has no authority to trump the sovereignty of any UN member state.
- The five permanent members of the UNSC, who collectively own some of the largest nuclear arsenals in the world, are never criticised by the IAEA for their nuclear hegemony.
- The IAEA made up for what it lacked in genuine authority over sovereign nations by fostering some strong leadership whose activities helped keep the non-proliferation debate on the world agenda.
- Additionally, the IAEA has shown to be poor at shielding nuclear discussions from the influence of power politics.
- This was especially evident when Pakistan continued its nuclear weapons programme in the 1980s despite the American authorities having access to overwhelming proof.
- Due to the U.S. and Pakistan’s collaboration on the Afghan front, they were unable to properly pursue the matter through the IAEA.
- When great nations supported the Agency’s operations in Iran, the unequal authority generated results.
IAEA- Iran Challenge
- Iran pledged to follow the rules governing nuclear facilities under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), which was signed by Iran and other major world powers, including the United States. Iran also welcomed international inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).
- The Iran-P5+1 (China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany) talks that took place between 2013 and 2015 led to the JCPOA. Iran consented to drastically reduce its stockpiles of heavy water, enriched uranium, and centrifuges—all essential components for nuclear weapons.
- As part of the JCPOA, Iran also promised to put in place a mechanism that would grant access to its nuclear sites to IAEA inspectors, preventing Iran from secretly developing nuclear weapons.
- Up until 2020, Iran was governed and observed by the IAEA. After then, it suffered from a deadlock in the indirect negotiations between the United States and Iran.
- The IAEA Board of Governors recently approved a resolution urging Iran to fully cooperate with the agency’s probe.
- The 63-year-old organisation will be put to the test in the upcoming weeks, though, as Iran continues to harbour doubts about the Biden administration’s precise goals.
- The latest incident will undoubtedly put the IAEA to the test because it involves regional political issues including the rivalry between Iran and Israel and Saudi Arabia as well as American interests in the area.
- The IAEA’s capacity to deal with strong states from its position of “uneven authority” will likewise be put to the test.
- Tehran’s demand for the abolition of American sanctions will be the primary negotiating point on this front. Iran has stated that the easing of sanctions will determine its compliance.
Previous Year UPSC CSE Exam Questions:
Try this question from CSP 2018:
Question: In the Indian context, what is the implication of ratifying the ‘Additional Protocol’ with the ‘International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)’?
A) The civilian nuclear reactors come under IAEA safeguards.
B) The military nuclear installations come under the inspection of the IAEA.
C) The country will have the privilege to buy uranium from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).
D) The country automatically becomes a member of the NSG.
Correct Answer: Option A
Try this question from CSP 2020:
Question: In India, why are some nuclear reactors kept under “IAEA Safeguards” while others are not?
(A) Some use Uranium and others use thorium.
(B) Some use imported uranium and others use domestic supplies.
(C) Some are operated by foreign enterprises and others are operated by domestic enterprises.
(D) Some are State-owned and others are privately-owned.
Correct Answer: Option B
Article written by: Aseem Muhammed