Abstract: The nuclear negotiations between the P5+1 and Iran moved the International Atomic Energy Agency to the center of public attention. Based on multi-archival research and oral history interviews, this talk will look into the early history of the IAEA’s nuclear inspectorate. The foundations of today’s safeguards system were laid in the mid-1950s, when a group of twelve nations negotiated the Statute of the IAEA. In the mid-1960s, the Soviet Union abandoned its formerly critical stance on nuclear safeguards. Following the entry-into-force of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) comprehensive safeguards were introduced. The control of diversion was at the heart of the IAEA’s early safeguards system, while it neglected other aspects of the proliferation problem, such as the distribution of dual-use technology and related knowledge, or the development of clandestine nuclear programs. It was not lack of knowledge or imagination, but the complex technical, political, and legal background that was the reason for this limitation.
About the Speaker: Elisabeth Roehrlich is a senior researcher and project director at the University of Vienna’s Department of Contemporary History, and a fellow at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington D.C. She received her PhD. in History from the University of Tuebingen, Germany, and held fellowships at the Norwegian Institute for Defense Studies, the German Historical Institute in Washington D.C., and Monash South Africa. Her research focuses on the history of international relations and the evolution of the global nuclear order. She is the author of a prize-winning book about the former Austrian chancellor Bruno Kreisky (Kreisky’s Außenpolitik, Vienna University Press, 2009), and her work on the IAEA has been published or is forthcoming in journals such the IAEA Bulletin and the Journal of Cold War Studies. Roehrlich has been awarded funding from the Carnegie Corporation of New York, the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), and the Austrian Central Bank to support her research on the IAEA.