IAEA: a body to regulate nuclear technology

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) occupies the headlines in the media around the world these days. This United Nations body has carried out a mission at the Zaporizhia nuclear power plant, in southeastern Ukraine, to verify its safety in the midst of the war.

The IAEA group of experts warns that it is urgent to take provisional measures to avoid a nuclear accident, which can be caused by both the Russian and Ukrainian armies. The agency has also called for the bombing to stop immediately to avoid a catastrophe.

The Zaporizhia plant has been the target of bombings of which Russia and Ukraine accuse each other. This war scenario supposes a nuclear disaster risk for months, so international organizations such as the IAEA have traveled to the site to assess the situation.

What is the IAEA? Its duties? What agreements and pacts do you have? Have nuclear accidents occurred after the creation of this body? We explain it to you below.

An organism for atomic energy

According to latest data According to the UN, in 2020 a total of 32 countries generated electricity through 443 nuclear reactors, while there were 55 nuclear power plants under construction. To this are added countries such as France or Ukraine, where nuclear energy represents more than half of the total electricity production.

The proliferation of nuclear energy is a reality and therefore it is important that there is an international body that helps regulate these technologies, since they can pose a risk to people’s lives depending on how they are used.

In this context, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was born, an international forum of the United Nations (UN) that focuses on nuclear technology. This body works with member states and other associated countries to promote the use of nuclear technologies for peaceful purposes and in safe conditions.

The IAEA was created in 1957 in response to the international community’s fears about the power of nuclear technology. Years before, the Second World War (1939-1945) culminated in the atomic explosions of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, which put on the table the need to address the nuclear problem.

The IAEA mission departs from Vienna to go to the Zaporizhia plant in Ukraine.


Agreements to regulate nuclear activity

One of the most important treaties regulating the activity with nuclear technologies is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). This is an agreement signed by 191 countries that are committed to preventing the spread of nuclear weapons, as well as fostering cooperation and promoting nuclear disarmament.

Although the IAEA is not directly a party to the NPT, it does participate in its enforcement. As it does? By sending groups of experts to different places, where they analyze whether the regulations on technological nuclear safety are correctly applied. For example, evaluating whether radioactive waste is managed correctly and safely.

The most critical voices point out that the NPT does not directly prohibit the development or possession of nuclear weapons, which is why they defend the application of the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons to ensure global security.

nuclear accidents

The International Atomic Energy Agency won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2005. The Norwegian Nobel Committee, which awarded the prize, praised the IAEA’s efforts to prevent military energy from being used for military purposes dangerous to the world.

However, the creation of this international organization and the signing of different treaties to avoid possible risks has not prevented some nuclear accidents from happening throughout history.

For example, in 1986 the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident occurred (Ukraine, then within the Soviet Union), which took place due to a faulty design of the reactor. Another accident occurred in 2011, when the Fukushima nuclear power plant was severely damaged by a tsunami.

This is how the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant was left after the nuclear explosion

This is how the fourth reactor of the Chernobyl power plant remained after the nuclear explosion.


This type of catastrophe has led to the development of new codes of conduct and security conventions. In addition, the IAEA Plan of Action on Nuclear Security (2011) was developed, which encourages international collaboration to improve nuclear security worldwide.

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IAEA: a body to regulate nuclear technology