The Atomic Energy Agency's Peace Prize

With the passing of some great leaders in nuclear arms control, could the Nobel committee be encouraging its institutionalization?

4 min read

The conferral in October of the Nobel Peace Prize on the (IAEA) and its current director general, Mohamed ElBaradei, is noteworthy on several scores. Most obviously--and this is about all the general press has noticed--it's a boost for the somewhat embattled director. Much more important, however, it represents a vote of confidence in the controversial agency that has the sometimes thankless job of verifying the compliance of non-nuclear-weapons nations with treaty obligations.

Perhaps, too, the award also quietly affirms the desirability of nuclear energy as such. The Norwegian Nobel Committee commended the IAEA and its head, as the opening paragraph of its citation put it, "for their ensure that nuclear energy for peaceful purposes is used in the safest possible way"--interesting language, coming from an organization closely linked to a community of peace activists who have always been profoundly suspicious of the atom.

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This photograph shows a car with the words “We Drive Solar” on the door, connected to a charging station. A windmill can be seen in the background.

The Dutch city of Utrecht is embracing vehicle-to-grid technology, an example of which is shown here—an EV connected to a bidirectional charger. The historic Rijn en Zon windmill provides a fitting background for this scene.

We Drive Solar

Hundreds of charging stations for electric vehicles dot Utrecht’s urban landscape in the Netherlands like little electric mushrooms. Unlike those you may have grown accustomed to seeing, many of these stations don’t just charge electric cars—they can also send power from vehicle batteries to the local utility grid for use by homes and businesses.

Debates over the feasibility and value of such vehicle-to-grid technology go back decades. Those arguments are not yet settled. But big automakers like Volkswagen, Nissan, and Hyundai have moved to produce the kinds of cars that can use such bidirectional chargers—alongside similar vehicle-to-home technology, whereby your car can power your house, say, during a blackout, as promoted by Ford with its new F-150 Lightning. Given the rapid uptake of electric vehicles, many people are thinking hard about how to make the best use of all that rolling battery power.

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