Atoms for peace

Why not leave a minimal carbon footprint and achieve the maximum we can from other safer ways?

Since the past month, social media has persistently remarked that the world is ‘at the brink of nuclear war’. Perhaps the immediate impression, and sometimes the only impression, your mind conjures up at hearing the word ‘nuclear’is the dismal mushroom cloud, the cloud of death that marked the eradication of 220,000 innocent souls of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. That was, unfortunately, nuclear power’s instigation to most of the world’s population and so manipulative is that legacy that it has been adopted as the true image of nuclear power by the current generation as well.

International tension, due to failure of holding diplomatic talks and former political disputes spanning throughout the Cold War era between long-time adversaries, USA and North Korea, were the main background factors that triggered North Korea to arm itself with nuclear warheads, aiming to establish itself as a communist nuclear power in front of USA.

Ri-Chun-Hee, the anchor of the Korean Capital Television or better known as the pink lady,perhaps justly expresses North Korea’s defeat-driven motive from the Korean War; but if diplomats and governments would have advanced with that notion, the world we live in now, would have been a far insecure one and truly on the brink of nuclear annihilation owing to the position of nuclear warheads at every hundred miles and the danger merely one’s launch presented.

Nuclear warfare is deadly; it undoubtedly represents the worst of mankind, the evil satanic nature enveloped deep inside. This very damned technology is unfortunately prized by nations and is widely wanted as an intimidation device in today’s military-daunting times. The bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki were, in some opinions, forced as a result of Imperial Japan’s atrocities on the civilians of the Central Powers. Such is the fury of nuclear warfare that the effect of the bomb shook even the hearts of the attackers. Imperial Japan, in a matter of only six days, surrendered to the wrath of USA’s debatable bombing.

There is no doubt that USA was determined to establish its superiority with the success of the Manhattan Project because Germany was already defeated by then and no room for extreme measures remained. The usage of the nuclear bomb was definitely to impose fear, particularly into Joseph Stalin himself and the Soviet Union, which was a growing communist superpower at the end of the World War 2. Despite that, like any other country,USA is resolute on disarmament and nuclear non-proliferation. In the end, who would not want more a world rid of nuclear bombs? Current developments in the nuclear industry, including Pyongyang’s threat of launching an intercontinental ballistic missile equipped with a Hydrogen-bomb, have naturally forced up the question, why are nuclear warheads still around?

The answer to that question is more psychological than political. No doubt diplomacy has been a major factor in mediating international affairs since World War 1, but it has a limit and that limit emerges when trust comes into the fold. If USA disarms its nuclear weapons, it simply does not trust North Korea to follow in. That is where diplomacy breaks up because no one is ready to take the first step and someone must or else we will get nowhere.

In early 2017, UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Kim Won-soo started a negotiation in the United Nations General Assembly, regarding a complete global ban on nuclear weapons, very much like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. More than 130 countries lined up in agreement with the resolution but all nine of the nuclear powers unhesitatingly disagreed, with America’s UN Representative, Nikki Haley pointing out to the session to be realistic. Even though nuclear disarmament has been the longest sought objective of the United Nations from the very first resolution adopted by the General Assembly in January 1946, the nuclear powers cannot risk their security now, as proven by the failure of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, not when they have become too involved in the game.

Instead they focus on the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty and previously the Partial Test Ban Treaty. When India and Pakistan surprised the world with nuclear bomb tests of their own, during the effectiveness of these treaties, they were responded with sanctions from the United Nations, IMF and the World Bank but only sanctions are not going to get us anywhere. Change is slow, yes, but sanctions simply do not provide enough incentive to nations, to stop nuclear testing willingly. Disregard of treaties will carry on until trust is built through other means like economic relationships.

Unfortunately in all the proxy battles, the true purpose of nuclear power has till today remained unexploited. It had been originally purposed to generate green electricity.Pro-nuclear writers like David Dietz and Glenn Seaborg talked about this untapped energy and the depth of its almost-unimaginable applications; but the fear in people, that insect, has led them to adopt a false perspective of nuclear power and the idea of a Utopian future, powered by virtually limitless and harmless energy, to diminish into improbability.

To be fair, nuclear energy is just what this age of civilization direly needs. Harnessing the energy of the atom can easily tackle the growing demand of electricity and light up this world for as long as we desire, while not harming the environment in any way. Independent of environmental conditions unlike other renewable energy sources, once countries accept it, the high construction costs can be easily overcome with a high market demand. It does not emit greenhouse gases which is all we have been fighting for, since the Montreal Protocol for the Ozone Layer and the recent Kyoto Protocol. Why not leave a minimal carbon footprint and achieve the maximum we can from other safer ways?

Owing to its surrounding market, the nuclear energy industry has developed only so much after 1945. Nuclear power plants are able to produce 3.7 million times as much energy as the same amount of coal and yet in 2016, nuclear energy accounted for just 11.8% of the total global energy production with only 31 countries out of 196 having set up nuclear power plants in them.

Today, ITER is an international research project run by seven member entities -the European Union, India, Japan, China, Russia, South Korea, and the United States and is scheduled for completion in 2019 whereby it will be able to produce 500 MW for up to 1000 seconds with an input of only 50 MW. Such promising prospects should be shared all around the world, not be feared of.Even better, when was the last time USA and Russia worked together on something this big? So let ‘the miraculous inventiveness of man not be dedicated to his death, but consecrated to his life,’ (Eisenhower). Let us try to put the past behind us and learn from our mistakes. Let us embrace trust and join together as brothers-in-arms. Let atoms be the bridge to peace between nations.

Muhammad Huzaifa Ali

The writer is a student of O' Levels at Aitchison College.

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