International Atomic Energy Agency(IAEA): History, Membership & Functions

By BYJU'S Exam Prep

Updated on: November 14th, 2023

International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is the world’s central intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the nuclear field. IAEA works for the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals. The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the deep fears and expectations generated by the discoveries and diverse uses of nuclear technology. The U.S. Ratification of the Statute by President Eisenhower on 29 July 1957 marks the official birth of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

The IAEA also has two regional offices located in Toronto, Canada, and Tokyo, Japan, as well as two liaison offices in New York City, United States of America, and Geneva, Switzerland. The IAEA UPSC is extremely important for the IAS Exam, as it is covered in both UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. The IAEA UPSC is covered mostly through the Current Affairs section.

What is IAEA?

IAEA full form is International Atomic Energy Agency. It serves as the world’s foremost intergovernmental forum for scientific and technical cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy and carries out programs to maximize the contribution of nuclear technology to society while verifying its peaceful use.

IAEA is a UN agency that works with member countries and partners to promote the safe, secure, and peaceful uses of nuclear science and technology, contributing to international peace and security and the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.

  • International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) reports to both the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council.
  • The headquarters of the IAEA is in Vienna, Austria.
  • The IAEA is entrusted with the task of upholding the principles of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty of 1970.

International Atomic Energy Agency


IAEA Full Form

International Atomic Energy Agency

IAEA Full Form in Hindi

अंतरराष्ट्रीय परमाणु ऊर्जा अभिकरण (आईएईए)

IAEA Headquarters

Vienna, Austria

IAEA President

Rafael Mariano Grossi

International Atomic Energy Agency: History

The origin of the International Atomic Energy Agency can be traced back to the General Assembly of the United Nations in 1953. There, former US President Dwight Eisenhower addressed ‘Atoms for Peace, which was also the former name of the institution. It was formally established in 1957.

  • The mandate of the IAEA is to promote safe, secure, and peaceful nuclear technologies. Currently, it has 175 members.
  • The latest members are Saint Kitts and Nevis; and Tonga, which joined the IAEA in 2022.
  • India became a member in 1957.

The IAEA, and its former Director-General, Mohamed El Baradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. The IAEA is an independent international organization, but it reports annually to the UNGA. Its regional offices are in Geneva, New York, Toronto, and Tokyo.

IAEA Members

Presently, the total membership is 175. In the list below, some of the latest joined members are given, the year denotes the year of membership.

  • Eswatini; San Marino(2013)
  • Bahamas; Brunei Darussalam(2014)
  • Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Djibouti; Guyana; Vanuatu(2015)
  • Turkmenistan(2016)
  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines(2017)
  • Grenada(2018)
  • Saint Lucia(2019)
  • Comoros(2020)
  • Samoa(2021)
  • Saint Kitts and Nevis; Tonga(2022)

IAEA: India’s Membership

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.

IAEA Secretariat

The IAEA Secretariat is headquartered at the Vienna International Centre in Vienna, Austria. The Agency is led by the Director-General and six Deputy Director Generals who head the major departments. Its Secretariat comprises the IAEA’s professional and general staff.

Present IAEA Director General is Rafael Mariano Grossi.

IAEA Functions

The IAEA’s prime functions include:

  • To promote and assist the research, development, and practical applications of peaceful uses of nuclear technologies.
  • To establish and administer safety guards to ensure that such research/development, etc., by the IAEA is not used for military purposes.
  • The countries, under the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and other international treaties, should fulfil the non-proliferation commitment they have made “with a view to preventing diversion of nuclear energy from peaceful uses to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.”.
  • The IAEA’s three important areas of work are:
    1. Safety and Security
    2. Science and technology
    3. Safeguards and verification

IAEA Governance Model

The International Atomic Energy Agency has two policymaking bodies. They are

General Conference

It consists of the IAEA member countries and meets in an annual session. The annual general conference generally takes place in September. The 66th General Conference of IAEA will be held in Vienna from September 26th to 30th, 2022.

Board of Governors

There are 35 board members. The 35 Board Members for 2021-2022 are

  1. Argentina
  2. Australia
  3. Austria
  4. Brazil
  5. Burundi
  6. Canada
  7. China
  8. Colombia
  9. the Czech Republic
  10. Egypt
  11. Finland
  12. France
  13. Germany
  14. Guatemala
  15. India
  16. Ireland
  17. Japan
  18. the Republic of Korea
  19. Libya
  20. Malaysia
  21. Mexico
  22. New Zealand
  23. Pakistan
  24. Peru
  25. Poland
  26. the Russian Federation
  27. Senegal
  28. Slovenia
  29. South Africa
  30. Spain
  31. Switzerland
  32. the United Arab Emirates
  33. the United Kingdom
  34. the United States of America, and
  35. Viet Nam

The Board Members meet five times a year. The board examines and makes recommendations to the IAEA’s General Conference on the organization’s program, financial statements, and budget. It also considers membership applications, approves safeguards agreements, and the publication of the safety standards of the IAEA.

The Board appoints the Director-General of the IAEA, with the approval of the General Conference.

International Atomic Energy Agency Safeguards

They are a set of technical measures that allow the IAEA to independently verify a State’s legal commitment not to divert nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to nuclear weapons or other nuclear explosive devices.

IAEA Statute authorizes it to establish and administer safeguards; States accept the application of such measures through the conclusion of safeguards agreements with the IAEA.

These safeguards are based on assessments of the correctness and completeness of a country’s declared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities. The verification measures include visits and ongoing monitoring, on-site inspections, and evaluation. Basically, the two types of measures are carried out as per safeguards agreements in force with a State.

  1. The first relates to verifying State reports of declared nuclear material and activities.
  2. The second 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 of International Atomic Energy Agency

International Atomic Energy Agency does not have any power to override the sovereignty of any member nation of the UN. The IAEA never challenges the five permanent members of the UNSC on their nuclear dominance, who themselves hold some of the biggest nuclear arsenals in the world. IAEA has also proved to be ineffective in preventing power politics from influencing nuclear negotiations.

IAEA Iran Challenge

Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) signed between Iran and other major powers of the world, including the United States, Iran agreed to obey the regulations pertaining to nuclear facilities and welcomed international inspections by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

The JCPOA was the result of negotiations between 2013 and 2015 between Iran and China, France, Russia, the United Kingdom, the United States, and Germany(known as P5+1). Iran agreed to significantly cut its stores of centrifuges, enriched uranium, and heavy water, all key components for nuclear weapons. Under JCPOA, Iran also agreed to implement a protocol that would allow inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) to access its nuclear sites to ensure Iran would not be able to develop nuclear weapons in secret.

Iran was under the control and monitoring of the IAEA till 2020. After that, it was affected due to a stalemate in the indirect talks between the U.S. and Iran.

Recently, the IAEA Board of Governors has passed a resolution calling on Iran to fully cooperate with the investigation by the Agency.


IAEA, or the International Atomic Energy Agency, is an important topic covered under the UPSC Syllabus. The questions on IAEA are asked frequently, both in UPSC Prelims and UPSC Mains. The topic is covered through Current Affairs and occupies a significant portion of the GS Paper 2, which highlights the Important International institutions, agencies, and fora, their structure, and mandate. Basic knowledge about the IAEA can be covered through the UPSC Books and International Relations Books for UPSC. Read about the IAEA in detail and prepare yourself fully for the upcoming UPSC Exam.

IAEA UPSC Questions

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 of buying uranium from the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG).

D) The country automatically becomes a member of the NSG.

Correct Answer: Option A

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