19 Sep 2014


Since its foundation, the IAEA has changed to a large extent. The little noticed technical-scientific organization turned in to an involuntarily politicized political actor in the field of security politics. This change leads to a number of challenges for the Agency's practices of legitimation.


  1. Method and approach
  2. Findings from the sources
  3. Images of the IAEA and changes over time
  4. Possible explanations

Methods and approach

  • qualitative content analysis
  • sources and material:
    • self descriptions: IAEA Annual Reports 1970:2010, 4-year steps
    • member evaluations: IAEA GC plenary debates 1970:2010, 4-year steps
    • external evaluations:
      • media: Lexis-Nexis: major world newspapers, IAEA in headline, 669 articles, 1980:2012
      • NGOs: statements of NGOs that participated at IAEA GC or were mentioned in the media, 107 statements from 19 NGOs

Findings from the sources

Important events

  • 1970: Entry into force of the NPT, expansion of safeguards, conflicts on distribution of IAEA budget.
  • 1986: Chernobyl, IAEA increases coordination efforts for security standards and legal instruments for nuclear safety, growing criticism of nuclear power promotion
  • since 1990s: IAEA increasingly involved in political inspections (e.g. IRQ, IRN, PRK), partially under UNSC mandate, growing politicization and legitimacy challenges.

Findings from the sources

Political crises (IRN, IRQ, PRK)

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Non-proliferation (safeguards, NPT, security, terror)

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Nuclear safety (safety, Chernobyl)

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Technical cooperation (assistance)

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Contestation in the sources