History of the NEA

Concerned with the rapidly increasing energy needs of post-World War II European economic recovery, and particularly the possibilities presented by nuclear power, the Council of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation (OEEC) [predecessor of the OECD] set up the European Nuclear Energy Agency (ENEA) in February 1958. The Agency’s name was changed in 1972 to the OECD Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) to reflect its growing membership beyond Europe’s boundaries.

The first phase of the NEA's programme mainly consisted of laying the foundations for nuclear co-operation, and focused on launching several joint R&D undertakings such as the Halden and Dragon reactor projects, and the prototype Eurochemic plant for the reprocessing of spent nuclear fuels. This period came to a natural end during the late 1960s as the experimental phase of nuclear energy evolved into commercial, industrial development.

By the early 1970s the Agency's role had changed to one where major emphasis was placed on providing a forum for co-ordinating the national nuclear programmes of member countries, particularly in the health, safety and regulatory areas. As nuclear energy gathered momentum in the 1970s, governments came under increasing pressure from their constituents to give greater priority to the environmental aspects of nuclear energy and to the safety and regulation of nuclear power plants.

In the early 1990s, in the wake of the dissolution of the Soviet Bloc, the Agency followed the lead of the OECD and initiated a limited programme of outreach, focusing primarily on the countries of Central and Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Europe. Some of the activities in the outreach programme have increasingly become an integral part of the core programme of the Agency as additional countries with reactors of Soviet design have become members.

While the Agency has evolved in important ways, it has maintained the key features from which it derives its comparative advantage, including the homogeneity of its membership, its flexible working methods, the depth and quality of its technical work, and its small size and cost-effectiveness. These features will continue to be the key to the role that the Agency plays in the future, as the role of nuclear power itself evolves.

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The work of the NEA

NEA Statute

The Statute of the NEA takes the form of a Decision originally adopted by the Council of the Organisation for European Economic Co-operation on 20 December 1957 and subsequently approved by the OECD Council on 30 September 1961. At that time, the Agency's members included European countries only, and it was called the European Nuclear Energy Agency. In line with the Agency's growing membership, the Statute was amended by successive decisions of the Council, and the name of the Agency was changed accordingly. Finally, the Statute was modernised by several decisions of the Council in 1978, 1992 and 1995.

Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy

The NEA is governed by the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy, which reports directly to the OECD Council. This committee is primarily made up of senior officials from national atomic energy authorities and associated ministries. It oversees and shapes the work of the Agency to ensure its responsiveness to member countries' needs, notably in establishing the biennial programmes of work and budgets.

Chairs of the Steering Committee for Nuclear Energy

Professor Léandre Nicolaidis


March 1956–November 1960

Professor José Maria Otero Y de Navascues


May 1961–November 1963

Professor Urs W. Hochstrasser


July 1964–November 1966

Mr Hans Henrik Koch


June 1967–April 1969

Professor Carlo Salvetti


October 1969–May 1973

Mr Reinhard Loosch

Federal Republic of Germany

October 1973–April 1976

Mr Bo Aler


October 1976–April 1979

Mr Hiroshi Murata


October 1979–April 1982

Mr Ivor Manley

United Kingdom

October 1982–April 1985

Ambassador Richard Kennedy

United States

October 1985–April 1991

Dr Robert Morrison


October 1991–October 1994

Dr Jörg Hermann Gösele


April 1995–October 1996

Mr Christian Prettre


April 1997–October 1998

Dr Lars Högberg


April 1999–October 2003

Mr William D. Magwood, IV

United States

April 2004–April 2005

Mr Jussi Manninen


October 2005–April 2006

Mr Richard Stratford

United States

October 2006–December 2014

Ms Marie-Elise Hoedemakers


January 2015-December 2015

Ms Marta Žiaková

Slovak Republic

January 2016-present

Strategic plans

The first Strategic Plan of the NEA was adopted in 1999. It was an essential step in the NEA reform process that was launched in 1997 and completed in 2000. This document provides the NEA with guidance for defining and implementing its activities over a five-year period.