Courtesy Reuters

Nuclear Energy


In 1914 H. G. Wells predicted that peaceful nuclear energy might profoundly affect the relations between nations. In his remarkable The World Set Free: A Story of Mankind Wells foretold the invention of the nuclear bomb and its use in war. After this, said Wells, would come a new age of plenty, based on the availability of cheap and unlimited energy. In this energy-abundant world, adventitious maldistributions of natural resources would no longer be a cause of international strife. The world would become a much more stable place if energy, ubiquitous and cheap, could replace other raw materials: if, say, natural hydrocarbons were replaced by hydrocarbons derived from limestone, water and energy; or if unfertile deserts were rendered fertile by huge desalting complexes driven with the new energy source. Nuclear energy was, to use the current phrase, the ultimate "technological fix": by its exploitation, man could satisfy all of his material wants. And if man's material wants were satisfied, then it seemed to Wells that the world would become a more stable place, especially if the big bomb were there to enforce the peace.

To present-day "realists" all this is merely the dream of a mystic. Yet it is my contention that in the long run H. G. Wells-not the cynical realists- will be proved the better prophet. Despite skepticism with which one now views nuclear energy as an instrument of international understanding, or as a promoter of world stability, the final returns are far from in. The promise is there, and it will eventually be turned into reality.

The Wellsian vision of nuclear utopia was certainly an undercurrent in the original Eisenhower Atoms-for-Peace Plan. President Eisenhower, strongly influenced in this matter by Lewis Strauss, then Chairman of the United States Atomic Energy Commission, presented to the United Nations in 1953 a proposal to share the benefits of nuclear energy with the rest of the world, particularly its underdeveloped areas. In his Atoms-for-Peace speech he proposed

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