- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 4, 2004

The International Atomic Energy Agency, which meets next week to discuss Iran’s refusal to end its nuclear weapons programs, finds itself at a crossroads: It can continue its descent into irrelevancy; or it can cooperate with Washington and other democracies in encouraging private-sector nuclear energy programs for peaceful purposes.

In fairness to the IAEA, it is unreasonable to expect one international agency lacking an army of its own to face down rogue-state dictatorships like the regimes in Tehran or Pyongyang without strong support from the world’s strongest military power, the United States. But it is perfectly legitimate to insist that IAEA Director-General Mohammed ElBaradei and his merry band of bureaucrats do no harm. This includes refraining from careless talk coming out of Vienna in recent weeks that appears to suggest the world would be better off if the nuclear industry were run by multinational government bureaucracies.

It is true that the IAEA’s professional staff includes inspectors with a great deal of technical expertise about nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. But this expertise is meaningless as an anti-proliferation tool without the military backing of nation-states. Since the Cold War ended 15 years ago, there has been considerable progress toward taking nuclear weapons out of the hands of potentially dangerous regimes. Virtually all of this has occurred with the IAEA relegated to the sidelines.

Ronald Reagan’s political resolve — demonstrated by increased defense spending and American support of anti-Communist resistance movements in countries such as Afghanistan, Angola and Nicaragua — helped trigger the collapse of the Soviet Union. As we noted recently, this has resulted in the destruction of 20,000 former Soviet nuclear warheads (many of which had been pointed at cities in the United States and Western Europe), and the conversion of highly enriched uranium from these weapons into low-enriched uranium, which provides electricity here in the United States. Following the collapse of Soviet Communism, former Soviet satellites, such as Ukraine and Kazakhstan, gave up their nuclear weapon infrastructures. After apartheid fell in South Africa, the government jettisoned that nation’s atomic-weapons program.

Since that time, there have been even more successes — particularly during the administration of President Bush. Much of nuclear material from what used to be Saddam Hussein’s Iraqi weapons program and Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s Libyan A-bomb plan lie in U.S. storage facilities in Tennessee. The Pakistani government has gone from active involvement in nuclear proliferation to cooperating with American efforts to terminate A.Q. Khan’s nuclear network. Again, the recent progress results from the projection of American power during the current war on terrorism, not from IAEA actions.

Unfortunately, the IAEA — feverishly working to make itself relevant — has just embarked on a quixotic project it calls “Revisiting the Nuclear Fuel Cycle.” Judging from the description of the project that appears in indecipherable bureaucratese on the agency’s Web site, it sounds vaguely like an effort to put together some sort of government-run multinational agency to oversee nuclear energy programs abroad. That sounds like a sure-fire way to send private investors fleeing from the civilian nuclear energy sector — a very foolish and harmful idea.

Copyright © 2019 The Washington Times, LLC. Click here for reprint permission.

The Washington Times Comment Policy

The Washington Times welcomes your comments on Spot.im, our third-party provider. Please read our Comment Policy before commenting.


Click to Read More and View Comments

Click to Hide