Based in Vienna, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is at the heart of international cooperation in the nuclear field. It is the United Nations family organization responsible for promoting “The atom in the service of peace”, an initiative of President Eisenhower.
On October 23, 1956, 81 States approved the Statute of the Agency, which was thus created on July 29, 1957. The IAEA had, in January 2020, 170 member States.
The main objective of the IAEA is to promote with its member states the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. The Agency’s missions are:
- Guarantees and verification: the Agency is responsible for inspecting nuclear activities and installations around the world. It ensures that nuclear materials and activities for peaceful purposes are not diverted for military purposes in the 189 states signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). To do this, it encourages non-signatory states to join the treaty, to conclude safeguards agreements with it as well as an additional protocol (114 protocols are currently in force). Due to the proliferation crises in Iran, North Korea and Syria, this theme is regularly at the heart of international news.
- Promotion of nuclear energy: the Agency’s mission is to promote the efficient and safe use of nuclear energy by supporting existing or developing nuclear power programs around the world, by promoting the exchange of information to catalyze technological innovation and stimulating the training of human resources in the nuclear field. The Department of Nuclear Energy advises and assists IAEA member states in strengthening their nuclear expertise, the process of developing their civilian nuclear program, and the safe operation of their nuclear facilities. Some numbers :
449 reactors in operation in 30 countries;
60 nuclear reactors under construction.
- The promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology for the promotion of economic and human development. The IAEA promotes technical and scientific cooperation in all areas of nuclear applications (food & agriculture, health, energy, safety, environment) and contributes to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). The range of its skills is vast and includes in particular the protection of the environment and natural resources such as water and soil, human health, in particular the fight against cancer and the elimination of insect vectors of diseases as well as aid for the safe and responsible development of a nuclear power program. The IAEA acts as the main vehicle for the transfer of nuclear technology to developing countries through its technical cooperation program.
- Nuclear safety and security:
Safety: The IAEA is responsible for developing safety standards based on a global consensus. The agency facilitates international security agreements and provides expert analysis, services and training. It helps to promote research, cooperation and the exchange of information.
Security: The IAEA is conducting a broad assessment of nuclear security, needs, priorities and threats, including those related to terrorism. It supports the establishment of international partnerships and networks. It develops recommendations, directives and technical or operational procedures. It encourages member states to ratify the Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (CPPNM) and its amendment (115 states have ratified the amendment).
Crisis management: The IAEA advises and assists member states in strengthening their structures to manage a radiological emergency. In the event of a nuclear or radiological event, the agency relies on its crisis center, the IEC (Incident and Emergency Center), and on 2 conventions that it has developed, the Convention for rapid notification of a nuclear accident and the Convention for assistance in the event of a nuclear accident or a radiological emergency.
The IAEA has its own decision-making bodies within which the member states determine the directions to be taken:
- The General Conference of the IAEA member states is held once a year. It is the main governing body of the Agency and brings together all the member states. It studies and approves the IAEA’s program and budget, and makes decisions on matters brought to its attention by the Board of Governors, the Director General or member states.
- The Board of Governors, made up of 35 member states appointed by the Board or elected by the General Conference, generally meets five times a year. The Council makes recommendations to the General Conference on the Agency’s program and budget, approves guarantee agreements and the publication of safety standards, and votes on resolutions. This body is also responsible for appointing the Director General, with the agreement of the General Conference.
The Director General of the IAEA since December 2, 2019 is Mr. Rafael Mariano Grossi, an Argentine national. He was appointed by the members of the IAEA Board of Governors on October 30, 2019 and officially took office after a special session of the IAEA General Conference held on December 2 .
Specialist in nuclear files and with a long experience in disarmament and non-proliferation, Mr. Grossi was chief of staff to the previous director general of the IAEA, Mr. Yukiya Amano, from 2010 to 2013. Mr. Grossi was previously Ambassador, Permanent Representative of Argentina to the IAEA and the United Nations in Vienna. He succeeds Mr. Yukiya Amano (Japan), elected Director General of the IAEA in July 2009 and successively re-elected in 2013 and 2017, who died in July 2019. Mr. Cornel Feruta (Romania), former chief of staff of M Amano, served as Acting Director General of the Agency from the end of July to November 2019.
- Nuclear energy: France actively participates in the work of the IAEA in this area. In particular, it provides its unique expertise in all stages of the development of a nuclear power program, from fuel extraction to waste management. In addition to the French personnel hired by the Agency, France contributes to the activities of the Department of Nuclear Energy by making experts available free of charge (notably within the NIDS section), the number of which is increasing. The themes on which France wishes to be more strongly present are those of support for new countries entering or wishing to relaunch themselves in a nuclear power program, as well as questions linked to the dismantling of nuclear installations (power reactors or research reactors). France each hosts several technical meetings organized by the IAEA and regularly sends experts from all over the French nuclear industry to Vienna to contribute to the work of the Agency. In 2015, two CEA research reactors were the first installations in the world to be designated ICERR (International Center based on Research Reactor) by the former Director General of the Agency, Mr. Yukiya AMANO.
- Guarantees and verification: France actively participates in the IAEA’s work in this area, in particular through its national guarantee support program, which celebrated its 30th anniversary in 2012. It also monitors the Agency’s safeguards and verification activities around the world, as well as the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Iran, through participation in meetings and the publication of reports.
- Promotion of the peaceful use of nuclear science and technology: France contributes approximately US $ 4 million per year to the Extrabudgetary Technical Cooperation Fund. France also allocates additional funds each year to regional human development projects, mainly in Africa or Latin America, or to IAEA cross-functional programs (cancer control, disease vector control).
- Safety and security: France is working with the Agency to establish and disseminate best possible safety practices for responsible nuclear development. In terms of security, France supports the activities of the IAEA’s nuclear security program, which aims in particular to prevent terrorists from accessing nuclear or radioactive materials and facilities, and it contributes to the Extra-budgetary Nuclear Security Fund (FSN). ).
In general, to support the work of the Agency, France relies on the expertise of its bodies and national authorities such as the French Atomic Energy and Alternative Energy Commission (CEA), the Nuclear Safety Authority (ASN) ), the Institute for Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety (IRSN), the National Agency for Radioactive Waste Management (ANDRA), as well as industrialists in the nuclear sector such as EDF, Orano, Framatome (ex AREVA).