Uranium, the most atomically unstable natural element on earth, has a unique place in the global geopolitics of resources. It provides energy to millions of people and its isotopes are used to power spacecraft and in nuclear medicine. But it is also at the heart of many of the planet’s most deadly threats, including nuclear devastation and radioactive waste. Its mining has caused bitter conflict with indigenous peoples and its testing in nuclear weapons has left a toxic legacy. Yet the nonproliferation regime which aims to phase out nuclear weapons and manage the risks of nuclear energy is at risk of unravelling.
In this book, Anthony Burke explores the geopolitical intrigue around uranium and the dilemmas of justice and security to which its development has given rise. The twenty-first century, he cautions, will be a time of reckoning and new reserves of political will must be found to manage the impact of this extraordinary mineral. Only by cooperating to achieve multilateral disarmament and greater international control over nuclear power can we ward off nuclear catastrophe and harness the potential of nuclear energy to help address, rather than create, some of the world’s most pressing problems.