Austria and the IAEA

Established in 1957, the IAEA is the oldest and largest international organization headquartered in Austria. Before the opening of the Vienna International Center (VIC) near the Danube, the agency’s headquarters were located in the Grand Hotel at the Ringstraße.

Austria, a small and neutral country in the middle of Europe, is on the margins of global nuclear history. It has never possessed nuclear weapons, proposed launching a nuclear weapons program, nor joined a military alliance that included nuclear weapons states, such as NATO. While Austria produces no nuclear power, facilities in neighboring countries, particularly the Temelin Nuclear Power Station in the Czech Republic, are targets of public protest. The Technical University of Vienna operates a small research reactor, but Austrian law has prohibited the production of nuclear power since 1978 and, in 1999, the prohibition of nuclear energy was translated into federal constitutional law (“Bundesverfassungsgesetz für ein atomfreies Österreich”). Read more about Austria’s nuclear history in the recent edition of zeitgeschichte.

Furthermore, the relationship between the Austrians and the country’s largest international organization has been marked by a history of ambivalence, often shaped by stereotypical views of international civil servants. In 1970, these views resulted in a foreign policy scandal when the Austrian Broadcasting Company (ORF) showed an ironic polemic about the IAEA’s work. The program depicted the IAEA as an organization that mostly served to host conferences of dubious necessity, frivolous cocktail parties, and movie screenings. In the eyes of the IAEA’s Director General at the time, the Swedish nuclear physicist Sigvard Eklund, the TV show was a provocation and he unsuccessfully tried to prevent the ORF from showing the feature a second time. Eklund even contacted Austrian Foreign Minister Kurt Waldheim on the matter to say he was “shocked that the responsible Austrian authorities had allowed such contemptible and malicious attack on the integrity of the International Atomic Energy Agency to happen and then be repeated”. (Sigvard Eklund to Kurt Waldheim, 5 February 1970).

We would like to thank the ORF for allowing us to show the video on this website.