Third time lucky?

Yet another Nobel for nuclear non-proliferation

Published: Monday 31 October 2005

-- in the 60th anniversary of the Hiroshima-Nagasaki bombing, the International Atomic Energy Agency (iaea) and its chief Mohamed ElBaradei have received the Nobel peace prize. This is not necessarily a surprise. The reward comes shortly after the Vienna-based nuclear watchdog managed a resolution against Iran, to the satisfaction of Big Brother usa and its handling of post-Chernobyl nuclear safety. The award, to be equally shared by iaea and its boss, is the third to go to nuclear non-proliferation. In 1995, it was the Pugwash group and its founder Joseph Rotblat; in 1985, to the International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War.

The fact that us secretary of state Condoleezza Rice was the first to call up and congratulate ElBaradei indicates a patch-up between the Egyptian-lawyer-turned diplomat and the Bush administration.Early this year, the us had sought to scuttle his chances of getting elected for a third term as iaea director-general. The iaea chief's relations with the us soured after the former made it clear that Iraq did not possess weapons of mass destruction.

Critics say the prize is being given for work half done. Recent years have seen rampant proliferation in nuclear technologies, the most prominent one being the nuclear racket run by the father of the Pakistani nuclear programme, Abdul Khader Khan. iaea has always been wearing two hats: that of a nuclear policeman and a peddler of nuclear power. It encourages more countries to take up nuclear power generation and helps them with expertise and materials. In the other role, it has to monitor and prevent non-nuclear nations from making the n -bomb. But the irony is that the processes involved in making power-grade uranium and weapon-grade uranium are quite similar, except that the one for the latter has to be passed through the centrifuges a few more times.

The award also comes at a time the global nuclear industry, dealt a crippling blow following the Chernobyl disaster, is actively seeking to expand its horizons. Many European countries, which had earlier shunned the nuclear monster, are already looking discreetly at returning to atomic plants to meet commitments on greenhouse-gas emissions, or stave off energy insecurity.

Congratulations, iaea and ElBaradei for keeping alive -- but not kicking -- the cause of nuclear non-proliferation.

Subscribe to Weekly Newsletter :

Comments are moderated and will be published only after the site moderator’s approval. Please use a genuine email ID and provide your name. Selected comments may also be used in the ‘Letters’ section of the Down To Earth print edition.