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Last Updated: Friday, 5 September, 2003, 10:42 GMT 11:42 UK
Nuclear university promotes atom power
By Richard Black
BBC science correspondent

A new international university has been set up to promote the spread of expertise in nuclear technology across the world.

The World Nuclear University was inaugurated by representatives of the global atomic energy industry at a meeting in London, UK.

While I would be the last to underestimate the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, I think the environmental risks we face are even greater
Hans Blix
former UN weapons inspector
The aim is to improve and expand education and training in nuclear technologies, which the industry believes is necessary if electricity supplies are to increase in line with growing global demand.

The inauguration was welcomed by an impressive cast of speakers assembled for the annual meeting of the World Nuclear Association.

Professor James Lovelock, the prominent environmental thinker and father of the Gaia theory, said atomic energy was the only away to avoid fossil fuels and the impending disaster of global warming.

"I'm absolutely sure that if we - by which I mean civilisation - are going to get through this century without some greenhouse disaster, we've just got to use nuclear on a grand scale.

"Renewables simply can't do it in time," he said.

And the former UN weapons inspector in Iraq, Hans Blix, who is to be the university's chancellor, said global warming was a greater danger than the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

"While I would be the last to underestimate the risk of proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, in particular nuclear weapons, I think the environmental risks we face are even greater," he said.

Global link-up

The university aims to link up institutions running training courses in nuclear technologies across the world, a remarkable change from the early days of the atomic age, when nations jealously guarded their secrets.

The hope is that by exchanging ideas and expertise, nuclear power will become safer and more efficient.

Despite concerns over the long-term storage of radioactive waste and the possibility of accidents, a number of countries including China and India are pressing ahead with reactor building programmes.

India's situation illustrates perfectly the dilemma.

With a growing population and rapid economic development, it will need to generate about 10 times as much electricity in 50 years time as it does today.

"Energy is the key to development... We have to exploit every energy resource available to us," said Dr Ravi Grover, director of the strategic planning group in the Indian government's Department of Atomic Energy said.

Other speakers at the inauguration included Susan Eisenhower, grand-daughter of President Dwight Eisenhower who promoted "atoms for peace" 50 years ago, and Mohammed el-Baradei, head of the International Atomic Energy Agency.

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