International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)


The IAEA is the most important international organisation for cooperation on issues relating to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Its goal is to increase the contribution made by nuclear energy and civilian nuclear technologies to peace, health and prosperity throughout the world (Atoms for Peace).

The IAEA is the most important international organisation for cooperation on issues relating to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. Its goal is to increase the contribution made by nuclear energy and civilian nuclear technologies 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 170 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 2017 totalled around 366 million euros, financed by contributions from the member states. In addition, there is a fund for technical cooperation amounting to some 85 million euros.
In December 2005, the IAEA and its then Director General, Dr Mohamed ElBaradei, were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their important work, which is not easy politically.

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 fourth largest contributor after the United States, Japan and China, providing 6.1% 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. At the latest when non declared nuclear activities were discovered in Iraq, 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 May 2018, a total of 148 countries had signed the Additional Protocol, and it had entered into force in 132 of them (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, it is very much in the international community’s interest to ensure 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.
The IAEA community has already moved closer to this goal with the establishment of an “international fuel bank”. The IAEA Low Enriched Uranium (LEU) Bank opened in Kazakhstan on 29 August 2017. The LEU Bank has its own stocks of low enriched uranium which it can sell to IAEA member states in future 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 in areas including medicine (especially in the fight against cancer), hydrology (water dating through isotope analysis) or pest control. The aim of the latter, for example, is to sterilise disease-bearing tsetse flies and mosquitoes.

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Additional content

Iran’s nuclear programme has been on the international agenda since 2002. Alongside the IAEA and the UN Security Council, Germany is involved within the framework of the E3/EU+3 (EU, Germany, France, UK, China, Russia, USA). The E3/EU+3 concluded the Vienna nuclear agreement (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPoA) on 14 July 2015. The USA withdrew from the JCPoA on 8 May 2018.
→The Vienna nuclear agreement with Iran

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