There are worse places to be than Vienna, Austria, in the early fall. The place has an old-world vibe for sure. The U-Bahn doesn’t have turnstiles; it runs on the honor system. People take care to dress up before they amble down the Kärntner Strasse, the city’s main shopping district.
Every September, a little further north, 3,000 delegates from around the world, along with 200 representatives from nongovernmental organizations, descend on the Vienna International Center of the United Nations—the VIC, for short—for the International Atomic Energy Agency’s General Conference. Attendees ply its curving hallways and attend side events, engage in meetings on the margins, and tour the national booth displays.
Inside the large, purpose-built plenary hall, a seemingly endless procession of national speakers, each allotted seven minutes (with flashing red digits to let all know who’s run over time), tout their nation’s achievements in nuclear technology and express its views on nuclear matters of any sort. As an accredited NGO, ANS has a desk in the plenary complete with microphone and wireless translation headset. An IAEA plenary is a highly scripted affair—one that looks boring at first glance, but once you put the headphones on and get acclimated to the vagaries of real-time translation, a coherent and interesting picture starts to emerge.