The UN and the nuclear age were born almost simultaneously. The horror of the Second World War, culminating in the nuclear blasts at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, brought home the need to address the nuclear issue. By its , the General Assembly established the UN Atomic Energy Commission to deal with the problems raised by the discovery of atomic energy. And a  by United States President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1953, Atoms for Peace, led to the establishment in 1957 of the .

International Atomic Energy Agency

The International Atomic Energy Agency works with its Member States and multiple partners worldwide to promote the safe, secure and peaceful use of nuclear technologies. The IAEAs relationship with the United Nations is guided by an signed in 1957. It stipulates that: The Agency undertakes to conduct its activities in accordance with the Purposes and Principles of the United Nations Charter to promote peace and international co-operation, and in conformity with policies of the United Nations furthering the establishment of safeguarded worldwide disarmament and in conformity with any international agreements entered into pursuant to such policies.

Nuclear energy in numbers

As of , 32 countries worldwide are operating 413 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 58 new nuclear plants are under construction. By the end of 2022, 12 countries relied on nuclear energy to supply at least one-quarter of their total electricity. In France and Slovakia nuclear power even makes for more than half of the total electricity production.

Nuclear Safety

Nuclear safety is the responsibility of every nation that utilizes nuclear technology. The IAEA, through the , works to provide a strong, sustainable and visible global nuclear safety and security framework for the protection of people, society and the environment. This framework provides for the harmonized development and application of safety and security standards, guidelines and requirements; but it does not have the mandate to enforce the application of safety standards within a country.


The 1986 Chernobyl plant accident in Ukraine was the result of a flawed design of the reactor, which was operated by inadequately trained personnel.

During the first four years after the Chernobyl accident, the Soviet authorities decided to largely deal with the consequences of the explosion at a national level. Without Soviet support, the United Nations and its partners sought ways to provide emergency support, which included assessing the nuclear safety and environmental conditions of the contaminated area, and diagnosing the various medical conditions that resulted from the accident.

After the 1986 Chernobyl nuclear accident, international cooperation in nuclear safety was significantly intensified: four international safety conventions, two Codes of Conduct, fundamental safety principles and a body of globally recognized IAEA Safety Standards were developed and adopted. The IAEA's Safety Standards reflect an international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment from the harmful effects of ionizing radiation.


In March 2011, the Fukushima-Daiichi nuclear power plant suffered major damage from the failure of equipment after the magnitude 9.0 great east-Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami. It was the largest civilian nuclear accident since the Chernobyl accident in 1986. Radioactive material was released from the damaged plant and tens of thousands of people were evacuated. The IAEAs Incident and Emergency Centre was immediately activated in full response mode, bringing together a team of experts in nuclear safety, emergency response, and radiation protection. The Centre collected and analysed data and provided regular updates to the IAEA member states, international organizations, the media and the public.

Three months later, the IAEA hosted a . This paved the way for the unanimous endorsement of the by the IAEA member states in September 2011, which has since fostered international collaboration toward strengthening global nuclear safety.

Ten years after the nuclear accident, Japan decided to dispose of treated water stored at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power into the sea, a decision by IAEAs Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi.

In 2023, the IAEA finished a safety review of Japan's plan. According to the , the project is consistent with relevant international safety standards and the discharges of treated water would have a negligible radiological impact on people and the environment. The IAEA's safety review will continue during the discharge phase, and the agency will provide live online monitoring on its website from the discharge facility.

Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT)

Under the 1968 Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), the IAEA conducts on-site inspections to ensure that nuclear materials are used only used for peaceful purposes.  Prior to the 2003 Iraq war, its inspectors played a key role in uncovering and eliminating Iraqs banned weapons programmes and capabilities. In 2005, the were awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way.

UN Conference on Disarmament

The , the sole multilateral negotiating forum on disarmament, produced the , which was adopted in 1996. It has been signed by 187 countries, and ratified by 177, including two nuclear weapons-holding States: France and the United Kingdom.

However, to enter into force, the Treaty must be by 44 specific nuclear technology holding States, eight of which have yet to ratify: China, Egypt, India, Iran, Israel, the Democratic Peoples Republic of Korea, Pakistan and the United States. Russia revoked its ratification in 2023.

Other UN Offices on disarmament or nuclear power

The promotes nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation. The  produced the 1992 Principles on the use of nuclear power sources in outer space. The  reports on the levels and effects of exposure to ionizing radiation, providing the scientific basis for protection and safety standards worldwide.

Nuclear terrorism

Addressing the danger of nuclear terrorism, the UN has also produced the (Vienna, 1980), and the .

Nuclear weapon-free areas

The establishment of Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones (NWFZ) is a regional approach to strengthen global nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament norms and consolidate international efforts towards peace and security. Article VII of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) states: Nothing in this Treaty affects the right of any group of States to conclude regional treaties in order to assure the total absence of nuclear weapons in their respective territories.

Treaties Involved in the Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones

The following treaties form the basis for the existing Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zones:

Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons in Latin America and the Caribbean
South Pacific Nuclear Free Zone Treaty
Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone
African Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty