This week the hot topic of nuclear power was overshadowed by President Obama’s announcement to restrict the use of nuclear weapons and reduce nuclear stockpiles—along with Russia—by about one-third.
If you missed it, the President specified that the use of nuclear weapons would only be considered against countries that are not in compliance with the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty; for example, North Korea and Iran. The previous stance taken by the Bush administration didn’t rule out nuclear retaliation in the event of a chemical or biological attack.
And yesterday saw the U.S. and Russian presidents sign a new Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START). A post on President Obama’s Twitter account conveyed the magnitude of the occasion: “Today, we take a significant step forward in pursuing a world without nuclear weapons.”
It got me thinking about the relationship between nuclear weapons policy and the growing use of nuclear power—or more specifically the negative affects of Iran and North Korea’s nuclear programs on the global nuclear power industry.
It turns out that the actions of these two countries are having little effect.
In a speech to the Argentine Council for International Relations, Yukiya Amano, director of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), announced that 10 to 25 new countries will bring nuclear power plants online by 2030. He also outlined his desire to bring nuclear power to developing countries as a way to lift them out of poverty.
While I doubt that the pressure applied to Iran and North Korea by the President’s new nuclear posturing will have much affect, having developing countries successfully implement nuclear programs will further demonstrate that the IAEA’s safeguard system is workable for those willing to separate nuclear power and weapons.
No More Nukes
In an online discussion about the ambiguous use of “nuke” and “nuclear” to refer to both power generation and weapons, the name Helen Caldicott came up as one of the first people to fuse the disagreeable notion of nuclear war with the use of nuclear power. This quote says it all, really: “I wish to practice the ultimate form of preventive medicine by ridding the earth of these (nuclear) technologies that propagate disease, suffering, and death.”
Caldicott has a passionate—more likely obsessive—hatred of all things nuclear and corporate. She’s a self-imposed guardian of the planet called to action by events unfolding around her (the Three Mile Island incident prompted Caldicott to leave her successful medical career in order to concentrate on anti-nuclear activities). As it was pointed out to me, Caldicott’s position applies across the board, with no substantial differentiation between the threats presented by nuclear weapons and nuclear power.
I have nothing against passionate environmentalists, but I think that people like Caldicott get an idea so engrained in their head that it becomes impossible to re-evaluate the logic of their argument. With support for nuclear power in the U.S. at an all time high of 62 percent and overwhelming support for the arms reduction deal signed recently, it’s good to see that most people are able to separate the issues.
What do you think of President Obama's nuclear power and nuclear security policies? Send me an e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.