Global renaissance of nuclear energy or just a revival of announcements? The vision of a world without nuclear weapons and the perspectives of a worldwide civil use of nuclear energy

Frank Umbach


The proclamation of complete abolition of all nuclear weapons on earth by the new American president Barack Obama in April 2010 in Prague would not have been noticed if this vision had not been supported by such prominent former US foreign and defence politicians like Henry Kissinger or George P. Shultz in the meantime as well. On the home policy level President Obama could pay for the assent of the senate for backing and ratification of the new START-Treaty with a new 85 billion program to update the American nuclear weapon systems, which will render producing 80 new nuclear warheads per year possible. Obama’s vision and the prominent support result from the increasing concern that the nuclear non-proliferation-treaty (NPT) is in a serious credibility crisis. The approaching verification conference of May 2010 looked like a failure without any steps of disarmament, with the possible consequence that already within few years more and more nations as well as non-governmental protagonists acquire nuclear weapons and/or “dirty bombs”, thus seriously endangering international stability and security. From that point of view the 8th verification conference of the NPT-Treaty in May 2010 took place in a new mood, when the USA - with the purpose of creating international transparency - disclosed the exact number of their operational nuclear warheads for the first time, and the USA together with Russia confirmed their willingness for nuclear disarmament, at least as far as strategic nuclear weapons are concerned. Additionally, a conference for the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction is to be created, which, against a backdrop of increasing ambitions on building civil nuclear reactors in the Middle East, appears to be more urgent than ever. As proven by the increasing concern of Arab neighbouring countries of Iran expressed in Wikileaks-documents, these ambitions might not be limited to the civil use of nuclear energy alone. Nuclear proliferation has been sped up by the illegal nuclear weapons programs of North Korea, Iran, Libya, Israel, Pakistan and India during the last two decades already. Here only the Libyan program could be stopped diplomatically. Further proliferation of nuclear weapons programs are not only expected in the Middle East (Syria, Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Turkey), but also in Asia (Myanmar) and Latin America (Brazil, Venezuela). If the nuclear ambitions of Iran become political reality in the near future, the topic of a reliable American nuclear shield and of “extended deterrence” will gain strategic importance, and the necessity of effective antiballistic missile defence will grow.