On Wednesday, May 23, diplomats from the United States and five other global powers met their Iranian counterparts in Baghdad to continue negotiations aimed at clearing the way for the international community gradually to lift economic sanctions in return for Iran’s agreement to permit independent verification of the non-military nature of its nuclear power program. Any such independent verification would be carried out by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), an independent agency within the United Nations family.
For those seeking detailed information about the IAEA and its verification practices, the agency’s web site provides a wealth of information about its history, organization, and legal framework. The agency was founded in 1957 as the world’s “Atoms for Peace” organization. The secretariat is headquartered in Vienna, with research centers at various other locations around the world, and is run by a staff of 2300. As an independent international agency, the IAEA’s relationship to the United Nations is regulated by its statute and special agreement with the parent body. Its policy-making bodies include the General Conference of Member States (currently 154) and a Board of Governors, composed of 35 states chosen by the General Conference.
Nuclear inspections are carried out by the Department of Safeguards. According to the Department’s web page, the safeguards system “comprises an extensive set of technical measures by which the IAEA Secretariat independently verifies the correctness and the completeness of the declarations made by States about their nuclear material and activities.” These safeguards include procedures undertaken at sites declared by states to contain nuclear material, as well as “strengthened” procedures designed to permit the IAEA to draw conclusions “about the non-diversion of declared nuclear material and the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities in that State.” Interestingly, the “strengthened” measures are carried out on the basis of a model Additional Protocol to existing safeguards agreements, which not all member states (including Iran) have ratified. Hence authority for any such strengthened procedures in the current situation will have to be the product of negotiation.
Applicable legal texts, a Safeguards Factsheet, and links to a web page dedicated to the IAEA’s relationship with Iran are available at the Department of Safeguards web site.