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Inspectors for Peace

A History of the International Atomic Energy Agency

The first comprehensive, empirically grounded, and independent study of the history of the IAEA.

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which sends inspectors around the world to prevent states from secretly developing nuclear bombs, has one of the most important jobs in international security. At the same time, the IAEA is a global hub for the exchange of nuclear science and technology for peaceful purposes. Yet spreading nuclear materials and know-how around the world bears the unwanted risk of helping what the agency aims to halt: the emergence of new nuclear weapon states. In Inspectors for Peace, Elisabeth Roehrlich unravels the IAEA's paradoxical mission of sharing nuclear knowledge and technology while seeking to deter nuclear weapon programs.

Founded in 1957 in an act of unprecedented cooperation between the Cold War superpowers, the agency developed from a small technical bureaucracy in war-torn Vienna to a key organization in the global nuclear order. Roehrlich argues that the IAEA's dual mandate, though apparently contradictory, was pivotal in ensuring the organization's legitimacy, acceptance, and success. For its first decade of existence, the IAEA was primarily a scientific and technical organization; it was not until the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons entered into force in 1970 that the agency took on the far-reaching verification and inspection role for which it is now most widely known. While the Fukushima nuclear disaster and the Iran negotiations made the IAEA's name famous, the organization's remarkable history remains strikingly absent from public knowledge.

Drawing on extensive archival research, including firsthand access to newly opened records at the IAEA Archives in Vienna, Inspectors for Peace provides the first comprehensive, empirically grounded, and independent study on the history of the IAEA. Roehrlich also interviewed leading policymakers and officials, including Hans Blix and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, the agency's former heads. This book offers insight not only for students, scholars, and policy experts but for anyone interested in the history of the nuclear age, the Cold War, and the role of international organizations in shaping our world.

About the Author

Elisabeth Roehrlich is an assistant professor of history at the University of Vienna.

Endorsements

"This book makes the novel case that what is apparently the IAEA's greatest weakness—its counterintuitive dual mandate of sharing nuclear knowledge and technology while hoping to deter nuclear weapons programs—is, in fact, central to its success. But Inspectors for Peace is more than the history of an institution; it is the history of an institution in action. Roehrlich, a world-class authority on the history of nuclear nonproliferation, has written an original and scholarly treatise, elegantly framed and eloquently written. This pathbreaking opus on the IAEA is poised to become the leading historical reference in the field."

- Joseph M. Siracusa, Curtin University, author of Nuclear Weapons: A Very Short Introduction

"Aiming at a wide readership interested in nuclear issues, including students, scholars, journalists, commentators, and general readers, this very welcome book fills an important gap by providing a comprehensive history of the IAEA from its foundation to the present. It places the agency in the broader context of the search for a nuclear order that would make it possible to exploit atomic energy for peaceful purposes while also avoiding nuclear war."

- David Holloway, Stanford University, coeditor of The Making of the Global Nuclear Order in the 1970s: Issues and Controversies

"Inspectors for Peace is a wonderfully researched and beautifully written study which offers the first authoritative history of a key institution of the global nuclear order and will be essential reading for anyone interested in post-1945 international relations."

- Matthew Jones, London School of Economics and Political Science

"Elisabeth Roehrlich has written a deeply-researched narrative of a peculiar global agency, born at the height of the Cold War, that continues to promote and police nuclear technologies. Much more than an institutional history, Roehrlich's story of the so-called nuclear watchdog gives us an inside glimpse into the machinations at the heart of global nuclear politics."

- Jacob D. Hamblin, author of The Wretched Atom

"This elegantly written book is a long-anticipated and fascinating study on the history of the IAEA. Inspectors for Peace puts IAEA's dual mandate at the center of a sweeping narrative of the geopolitics of nuclear regulation and global governance. To understand how and why the IAEA promoted the civilian uses of the peaceful atom while at the same time dissuaded nuclear weapon programs, Elisabeth Roehrlich calls attention to vital questions of the politics of international organizations, global order, and state nuclear interests. Based on original research and superb interviews, the book critically questions and goes well beyond IAEA's commissioned and authorized histories."

- Maria Rentetzi, University of Erlangen-Nuremberg

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