President Barack Obama has provided a regular thrill ride when it comes to nuclear energy, tamping down Yucca Mountain, inspiring commissions galore on what to do with used nuclear fuel, and suffering our parsing his every word.
Well, we parse no more. Obama said this to the Czechs gathered in Prague to hear him speak – and by extension, everyone with a TV or radio. The subject was nuclear disarmament (we’ll leave it to you to decide how you feel about that), but what then to do with nuclear energy?
The basic bargain is sound: Countries with nuclear weapons will move towards disarmament, countries without nuclear weapons will not acquire them, and all countries can access peaceful nuclear energy. To strengthen the treaty, we should embrace several principles. We need more resources and authority to strengthen international inspections. We need real and immediate consequences for countries caught breaking the rules or trying to leave the treaty without cause.
It gets better.
And we should build a new framework for civil nuclear cooperation, including an international fuel bank, so that countries can access peaceful power without increasing the risks of proliferation. That must be the right of every nation that renounces nuclear weapons, especially developing countries embarking on peaceful programs. And no approach will succeed if it's based on the denial of rights to nations that play by the rules. We must harness the power of nuclear energy on behalf of our efforts to combat climate change, and to advance peace and opportunity for all people.
A lot of this taps Obama’s penchant for soaring into rhetorical rhapsodies, but an international fuel bank is pretty darn specific. (See here for more information – the U.S. supports Kazakhstan’s efforts – and here for what the IAEA is up to in this regard.) And that last sentence might have come from an overreaching nuclear energy advocate. But boy, we’ll take it – a big change from the stingy references that have dotted Obama’s utterances up to now.
Genuinely strange illustration for the Czech newsweekly Respekt. The colored letters on his teeth – which you can see better by clicking the image – spell “change.” It took us a moment to grasp that they had given him a seventies-style afro, too – we thought at first it was the brim of a cowboy hat. We’re sure the artist has something in mind here, but we’re not sure what that something is. Respekt’s english website is here.