The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) sits at the heart of global governance in monitoring, aiding, and assisting the peaceful uses of nuclear technology. As such, the organization provides the foremost intergovernmental forum for discussions regarding nuclear technology. As of March 2015, the IAEA comprised of 164 member states served by 2,500 professional staff from more than 100 countries. The IAEA focuses on three main pillars of work: Safeguards, Nuclear Safety and Security, and the Peaceful Uses of nuclear technology.
Mandated under Article III of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (1968), the IAEA monitors the use of nuclear technology to ensure that civilian nuclear technology is not diverted toward military use. The Department of Safeguards monitors the technical completeness and correctness of state declarations of nuclear use, and reports to the IAEA Board of Governors, which, in turn, reports to the United Nations (UN).
Nuclear Safety and Security
The IAEA works to promote the safe and secure use of nuclear technologies. Following the Fukushima disaster of 2011, the IAEA has refocused its efforts to effectively aid its member states in the safe use of nuclear energy. Furthermore, as a result of UN Security Council Resolution 1540, states are required to protect their nuclear materials from theft or sabotage. As a service, the IAEA offers peer review missions to assess and advise users of the safety and security required for the use of nuclear technology.
As per Article III of the IAEA Statute, the IAEA seeks to promote the research and development of nuclear technology, provide services and equipment to its member states, and stimulate scientific and technical exchange in the field. While nuclear energy is the most known use of peaceful nuclear technology, the IAEA also provides services for nuclear techniques dealing with water, health, biodiversity, and agriculture.
Born of President Dwight D. Eisenhower’s famous “Atoms for Peace” speech to the UN General Assembly in 1953, the IAEA convened its first General Conference in October 1957. Since then, the Agency has grown while, at the same time, standing at the center of the global use of nuclear technology. The IAEA has faced many challenges, such as the nuclear disasters of Chernobyl and Fukushima, and safeguards noncompliance in the cases of Iraq, Iran, and North Korea. However, the IAEA has adjusted to tackle such issues and, as a result, provides a fascinating study into how international legislation has adapted to pressing international security issues.
In 2011, the University of Vienna’s Department of Contemporary History launched an archival research project on the history of the IAEA, with an emphasis on Austrian-IAEA relations. The project aimed to establish international research dialog among scholars in the field, and provide insight into a unique international organization. The IAEA History Research Project has acted as an umbrella for different individual research activities on the IAEA, under the auspices of the Department.
Since April 2015, Elisabeth Röhrlich continues these research endeavors with an archival-grounded research project on the creation of the IAEA. The Austrian Science Fund (FWF), within the framework of the Elise-Richter program, funds this project. Since establishment in 1967, the FWF has acted as an institution with the purpose of promoting research. It seeks to aid the ongoing development of Austrian science and research on an international level by funding high quality research projects and developing human resources in research while, at the same time, emphasizing the interconnected nature of science and research with culture, economy, and society. In support of this, the FWF Elise Richter program looks to support highly qualified female scientists and scholars in furthering their research.
Since 2011, the IAEA History Research Project has also received funding, cooperation, and support from:
Jubiläumsfonds der Österreichischen Nationalbank
City of Vienna, MA7
The Botstiber Institute for Austrian-American Studies
The Carnegie Corporation of New York
The Nuclear Proliferation International History Project (NPIHP)