International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


The IAEA is the most important international organisation for cooperation on issues relating to peaceful uses of nuclear energy

The IAEA's objective is to increase the contribution nuclear energy makes to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world. To that end, it supports measures to improve (operational) safety and protect nuclear installations and materials; it also promotes technical cooperation. The IAEA is a key element of the Non-Proliferation Treaty. Its inspections aim to ensure that countries do not misuse nuclear material for military purposes in contravention of their obligations under international law.

The Agency

The IAEA, based in Vienna, was established in 1957. It now has 167 member states. Its principal decision-making organs are the General Conference and the 35-state Board of Governors. Since 1 December 2009, the post of Director General has been held by Yukiya Amano of Japan. The IAEA’s budget for 2016 totalled around 361 million euros, financed by contributions from the member states. In addition, there is a fund for technical cooperation amounting to some 84.5 million euros.

In December 2005, the IAEA and its then Director General, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their important and politically not easy work.

Germany’s involvement

The Federal Republic of Germany became a member of the IAEA in 1957 and has been continuously represented on the Board of Governors since 1972. Germany is the third largest contributor after the United States and Japan, providing 6.9% of the Agency’s regular budget. In addition, Germany provides voluntary contributions, mainly to support international cooperation projects with the IAEA in the field of nuclear security.

Comprehensive Safeguards Agreements and Additional Protocol

Under Article III of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) concluded in 1968, it is the task of the IAEA to put in place safeguards with all non-nuclear-weapon countries. The aim is to ensure that fissionable materials are not diverted from declared nuclear activities to the manufacture of nuclear weapons. This verification of commitments is an essential component of the NPT.

The Safeguards Agreements make all movements of declared fissionable material (the process from import or extraction to the disposal of nuclear material) in a country subject to controls. When non-declared nuclear activities were discovered in Iraq, if not before, it became clear that this was not enough. Consequently, the IAEA worked on an Additional Protocol to the Safeguards Agreement, which was adopted by the IAEA Board of Governors in 1997. This Protocol enables the IAEA to provide assurances that there is no evidence of undeclared activities within a country’s nuclear sector, meaning that all nuclear material in that country is being used solely for peaceful purposes.

By February 2016, a total of 146 countries had signed the Additional Protocol, and it had entered into force in 129 (including Germany and all EU member states). Germany is working – as is the entire EU – to ensure that the Additional Protocol becomes the accepted norm in the non-proliferation regime.

Secure fuel supplies and a multilateral nuclear fuel cycle

Uranium enrichment and the reprocessing of spent fuel rods are dual-use technologies: this means that they are important for the production of fuel rods for use in civilian nuclear power stations and research reactors but are also essential for the construction of nuclear weapons. On the one hand, nuclear plant operators need a reliable supply of fuel rods. On the other hand, however, the international community has a strong interest in ensuring that this legitimate civilian purpose is not being used as a front for military objectives. A multilateral nuclear fuel cycle could contribute to a safer fuel supply and reduce the risks of proliferation, the idea being that there is a better chance of creating transparency and preventing abuse if several states hold joint responsibility.

One concrete project in this regard is the “international fuel bank”, the IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank, currently being set up by the IAEA in Kazakhstan. From the end of 2017, the LEU Bank is intended to have its own stocks of low enriched uranium which it can sell to IAEA member states if their fuel supplies cannot be guaranteed in another way, i.e. by the world market. This additional degree of security of supply is intended to motivate countries not to build up their own national enrichment capacities.

The security of nuclear power stations and nuclear material

In recent years, Germany’s participation in the IAEA has concentrated on increasing security and improving safeguards.

The IAEA promotes the exchange of experience in matters related to the safety of nuclear power stations. It also organises voluntary safety inspections, during which plant operators are advised by colleagues (peer reviews). The Agency has developed fundamental standards in this area. The IAEA also organises workshops for countries seriously considering using nuclear energy and informs them of the numerous and often difficult challenges involved.

Furthermore, the IAEA is involved in improving both the physical protection of nuclear installations and the protection from theft of nuclear material. It has established a code of conduct as a safeguard against terrorist abuse in particular. Within the framework of an action plan, the IAEA organises training and advises nuclear plant operators.

Promoting the use of nuclear technologies

Through technical cooperation measures, the IAEA supports many developing countries in the use of nuclear technologies, including in medicine (especially in the fight against cancer), hydrology (water dating through isotope analysis) and pest control (e.g. sterilisation of disease-bearing tsetse flies or mosquitoes).

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Additional content

In signing the Vienna agreement of 14 July 2015, the E3+3 countries (including Germany) and Iran reached consensus on a long‑term settlement, following more than 12 years of contention over Iran’s nuclear programme.

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