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Half a Century of Nuclear Safety

IAEA Safety Standards Programme Crucial to Nuclear Future

The IAEA safety standards are dedicated to all facets of the nuclear sector. In the photo, nuclear fuel pellets are selected for testing. (Westinghouse Electric Sweden in Västerås, Sweden. November 2005) (Photo: IAEA)

The IAEA´s contribution to nuclear safety worldwide is marking a significant milestone this December with the fiftieth anniversary of the launch of the Agency´s safety standards.

The IAEA safety standards are a collection of fundamental principles, requirements and guidance that serves as a global reference for ensuring safety in all facets of the nuclear sector. They reflect international consensus on what constitutes a high level of safety for protecting people and the environment, and as such are a cornerstone of the global nuclear safety regime.

"The application of IAEA safety standards through, inter alia, peer reviews and advisory services at national and international levels are essential to support the development of effective national safety infrastructures and the harmonised implementation of other international instruments such as the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Joint Convention and Codes of Conduct," says Deputy Director General Tomihiro Taniguchi, Head of the IAEA´s Department of Nuclear Safety and Security.

A big part of the IAEA´s statutory mandate is the establishment and promotion of international standards and guides," says Manfred Boemeke, Head of the IAEA´s Publishing Section.

The first IAEA safety series publication, entitled Safe Handling of Radioisotopes, was issued in December 1958. Since then more than 200 safety standards have been published. They cover nuclear safety, radiation protection, radioactive waste management, the transport of radioactive materials, the safety of nuclear fuel cycle facilities and quality assurance.

Common Standards for the Nuclear Sector

The experience accumulated over fifty years and the focus on continuous improvement in nuclear safety, have resulted in the global recognition of the high quality and relevance of the IAEA safety standards.

"The IAEA safety standards are of paramount importance for Member States and for the future of the nuclear industry as a whole. For people to grow in confidence in what promises to be a truly international nuclear industry, it is essential that the same standards apply everywhere in the world," says Abel J. Gonzalez, Senior Advisor at Argentina´s Nuclear Regulatory Authority (NRA).

A parallel could be drawn between the aviation industry of the 1950s and today´s nuclear sector, explains Gonzalez. "For the aviation industry to become truly global in the 1950s, international standards had to be drawn. Similarly, the IAEA has a fundamental role to play in the emergence of a worldwide nuclear industry: the much anticipated nuclear renaissance also depends on establishing global standards," he comments.

International standards, however, should not be seen to be in conflict with national regulations. "They provide local regulatory bodies with a framework within which they can work," he says.


Regulating safety is a national responsibility. However, radiation risks may transcend national borders, and international cooperation serves to promote and enhance safety globally by exchanging experience and by improving capabilities to control hazards, to prevent accidents, to respond to emergencies and to mitigate any harmful consequences.

The IAEA safety standards provide a robust framework of fundamental principles, requirements and guidance to ensure safety. They are developed through an open and transparent process for gathering, integrating and sharing the knowledge and experience gained from the actual use of technologies and from the application of the safety standards, including emerging trends and issues of regulatory importance. They contribute to the establishment of a harmonized high level of safety worldwide by serving as the global reference for protecting people and the environment.



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