The beginning of what is now the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission (GAEC) could be traced as far back as 1952 when the use of radioisotopes began in Ghana. At that time, radiostrontium was used in experiments on monkeys. In 1958, the Physics Department of the University College of the Gold Coast (now University of Ghana, Legon) on behalf of the Ministry of Defence started a radioactive fallout monitoring service. By the end of 1959, work in radioisotope applications in Ghana had sufficiently gained ground in a number of institutions to justify the establishment of a Radioisotope Unit.

In 1961, the Government of Ghana decided to undertake the “Ghana Nuclear Reactor Project (GNRP).” This was intended to introduce nuclear science and technology into the Country and to exploit the peaceful applications of nuclear energy to foster national development. The central facility of the project was to be a research reactor designed solely for the research, training, and production of radioisotopes.

The long-term strategic objective of this initiative was that the research reactor would facilitate the development of manpower and promote plans for the introduction of nuclear power for electricity generation in the Country. To help realize the objective of the Ghana Nuclear Reactor Project, the Ghana Atomic Energy Commission was founded by an Act of Parliament.

The Ghana Atomic Energy Commission was established by an Act of Parliament, Act 204 of 1963, as the sole Agency in Ghana responsible for all matters relating to peaceful uses of atomic energy.

Act 204 was amended in 1993 by PNDC Law 308 mainly to enable it to create other institutes under the Commission. This amendment resulted in the creation of two other Institutes in addition to the National Nuclear Research Institute (NNRI) formerly Kwame Nkrumah Nuclear Research Institute (KNNRI). The two Institutes are the Radiation Protection Institute and the Biotechnology and Nuclear Agriculture Research Institute (BNARI).

The founding Act 204 of 1963 has been superseded by Act 588 of 2000 to make provision for GAEC to undertake commercialization of its research and development results.