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Ending the nuclear threat vision continues to live on today

Paraphrased by:
Steve Waldrop
December 11, 2003

In a bold response to a fearsome menace, President Dwight Eisenhower hoped to erase the threat of nuclear annihilation by establishing a global agency to keep nations from abusing the power of the atom.

But 50 years after Eisenhower's landmark "Atoms for Peace" speech on December 8, 1953, the U.N. nuclear agency born of his address is still struggling to contain the threat and move the world "out of the dark chamber of horrors into the light."

Nuclear weaponry poses even more of a danger than it did during the arms race between the United and the former Soviet Union, the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), Mohamed ElBaradei, said in an interview marking the golden anniversary of the speech.

There were only two nuclear powers in the world when Eisenhower addressed the U.N. General Assembly but now there are at least seven; the United Stated, Russia, China, Britain, France, India and Pakistan. Israel is widely believed to have nuclear weapons, and North Korea says it has them, a claim that has not been verified. Washington accuses Iran of covertly developing atomic arms, a charge the Tehran regime denies.

"I'd like us the see nuclear weapons the way we perceive slavery or genocide- that it's taboo." Elbaradei told reporters.

"I would not be surprised if we see more countries acquire nuclear weapons," he said. "We need to change that environment to move toward a world free of nuclear weapons, which have no place in our defense arsenals of the future."

This year alone, the IAEA has convened emergency meetings on Iraq, Iran and North Korea, the countries that pose the most immediate threat.

Eisenhower believed the best way to deal with the nuclear threat was to get countries to commit to using atomic technology for purely peaceful purposes.