The male business of nuclear diplomacy

November 30, 2022, 9:30AMANS Nuclear CafeMaria Rentetzi

Maria Rentetzi

An unusual event during the recent General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency distracted the delegations of member states and the press from the Russian war in Ukraine and the fear of the next nuclear disaster. It was a small exhibition, Building the IAEA Headquarters and its Laboratories, at the IAEA headquarters in Vienna, which brought to life the history of the agency’s laboratories through photographs, original letters and documents, explanatory texts, and timetables.

I was invited to participate in a related panel discussion that shed light on the early days of the “world’s first full-fledged laboratory of a truly international character” (in the words of an article about Seibersdorf Laboratory that ran in the January 1962 edition of the IAEA Bulletin) and its role in science diplomacy. There, I spoke of something that had struck me: Women were totally missing from the agency during this early period—making nuclear diplomacy an exclusively male business. To a large extent (as, for example, the recent IAEA missions to Ukraine show) nuclear continues to be a gendered endeavor.