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Nuclear Technology in a Changing World: Have We Reached a Turning Point?

11/03/2005 3:30 PM Stata 123
Mohamed ElBaradei, 2005 Nobel Peace Prize; Director General, International Atomic Energy Agency

Description: We stand at a crossroads, states Mohamed ElBaradei: We can either employ nuclear energy to achieve global security, or watch nuclear technology lead to a global cataclysm. This stark analysis emerges from ElBaradei's broad vision of a world of haves and have-nots: 1.6 billion people lack access to modern energy services, and the "disparity in energy supply and corresponding standard of living creates a disparity of opportunity, and of hope." Not surprisingly, some members of the developing world are enraged by this state of affairs. "When we want to understand the rise of terrorism and extremism, we need to go back to the root causes," says ElBaradei. And while global tensions rise, the demand for energy in Western nations and in emerging Asian economic giants is escalating so fast that it's unclear if fossil fuel supplies, subject to market turbulence, will suffice in the coming decades. Given this grim scenario, the case for constructing new nuclear energy plants is gaining ground, says ElBaradei. They emit little greenhouse gas and offer a relatively inexpensive route to energy independence. But "nuclear energy alone is not the panacea," cautions ElBaradei. Innovation must tackle outstanding problems, such as waste generation, construction costs and safety. The larger issues involve political leadership, though. The technological obstacles to converting nuclear fuel to weapons have largely disappeared, so when a non-nuclear nation proposes building a new nuclear enrichment or reprocessing facility, it poses a regional or worldwide threat. This is "not the kind of security model we'd like to live under," says ElBaradei. The original members of the nuclear club must get serious about disarmament, and subscribe to new, regional solutions that give all countries equitable and safe access to nuclear fuels.

About the Speaker(s): Mohamed ElBaradei, Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) shares the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, with IAEA "for their efforts to prevent nuclear energy from being used for military purposes and to ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way". Mohamed ElBaradei has been with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) since 1984. Prior to that, he served with the United Nations' International Law Program. ElBaradei began his career with the Egyptian Diplomatic Service in 1964. He specialized in political, legal and arms control issues. He earned a doctorate in International Law at the New York University School of Law, and served as an adjunct professor there from 1981 to 1987. ElBaradei is a member of the International Law Association and the American Society of International Law.

Host(s): School of Engineering, Nuclear Science and Engineering

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MIT World — special events and lectures

MIT World — special events and lectures

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