In terms of international relations, Austria’s role is defined above all by the fact that Vienna is the seat of several important international organizations. This has been especially true to this day of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), which has been headquartered in Vienna since its foundation in 1957. It was the first organization within the United Nations family to be launched in Austria.
The IAEA was set up in response to President Eisenhower’s programmatic “Atoms for Peace” speech at the United Nations General Assembly in 1953. In view of the threat of nuclear warfare associated with the Cold War, the Agency was designed to promote the secure and peaceful use of nuclear energy.
Austrian-American Relations and the Creation of the IAEA
Austria’s interest in attracting the new agency to Vienna coincided with the intentions of the United States, which lent Austria its political support. What was the rationale of both Austrian and American politicians and diplomats at the time? What decision-making processes and what reasons finally led to the establishment of the IAEA’s headquarters in the Austrian capital? By focusing on this still under-researched aspect of Austrian-American relations, the project aims to gain a better understanding of the two countries’ relationship in the postwar years and the era of the early Cold War.
Heated debates on the safety of nuclear power plants and their future have been triggered by the recent events in Fukushima, Japan. The objectives of the IAEA, its responsibilities and competences, have become the subject of international debate. But it is not only these recent developments that underscore the need for in-depth research in that area. The establishment of the IAEA in Vienna was the starting-point for a development in the course of which further organizations related to the United Nations system were headquartered in Vienna. It is therefore also significant as a milestone in Austria’s incorporation into the “West”.
Object of Research and Investigation Period
The research project deals with the early history of the IAEA (1946-1970) - from the creation of the United Nations Atomic Energy Commission to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The early history of the IAEA is to be linked in a comprehensive manner to its political, societal, scientific and cultural contexts. Civil society actors are to be included in the remit of the study as are Vienna’s municipal government, national governments and the United Nations. The IAEA archives will be subjected to scrutiny for the first time in the course of this project. They represent a source of unique historical relevance. The project will also include oral history interviews with experts and contemporary witnesses.
In a second phase of the project, the examination period will be extended to the 1980s. Furthermore, the scope of the project will include global aspects of the IAEA's history.
Prof. DDr. Oliver Rathkolb (University of Vienna)
Dr. Elisabeth Röhrlich (University of Vienna)
The research project is funded by the
Jubiläumsfonds der Oesterreichischen Nationalbank
Elisabeth Röhrlich's work is also supported by a
City of Vienna Research Grant
The Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies (travel grant)
We cooperate with the Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP) at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars