August 13, 2009

Push For Atomic Energy Causes Nuclear Weapons Concerns

The demand for atomic energy is making it increasingly difficult to control the spread of nuclear weapons, a senior U.S. official acknowledged on Wednesday.

"Some people are calling this a nuclear renaissance, it's very much in vogue," said Susan Burk, the US president's special representative for nuclear non-proliferation.

It is clear why there is such a surge of interest in nuclear energy. With issues of energy security, climate change and volatile energy pricing, the nuclear option looks pretty good.

The use of atomic energy in a peaceful way is one of the three pillars of the Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), which lets countries make peaceful use of nuclear power if they agree to disarm or give up their weapons ambitions.

"Strengthening this pillar of the treaty is more important than ever, especially when one considers the renewed interest in nuclear power as a response to climate change, energy security and the promotion of sustainable development," Burk said.

However, there is the incredible challenge of making sure that the world would not be "creating proliferation when we turn the lights on."

According to Burk, President Barack Obama is going over new steps, such as an international fuel bank that could give countries access to civilian nuclear power without developing their own complex fuel production capability.

Iran has been accused by several Western nations of attempting to develop an atomic arsenal under the auspices of its power program, which involves the domestic production of enriched nuclear fuel.

However, Iran is insisting that its program is peaceful and seeks to merely satisfy the country's growing energy needs.

Burk called for steps to confront "abuse" of the NPT and for such measures to be strongly supported, considering the international community's has a "poor" record in responding effectively to breaches.

"The costs of violating this treaty must outweigh the benefits. Non-compliance must be met with real consequences," she said at the Geneva Centre for Security Policy.

Burk also suggested that the U.S. had not exhausted all its resources in dealing with the long term nuclear impasse with Iran and North Korea through the United Nations and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

On Wednesday, Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi pointed out "the possibility of establishing a multilateral nuclear fuel supply mechanism."

Western countries have a history of being skeptical of such ideas, which was intensified by Russia.