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 Uranium, 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.
1 The Politics of Uranium
2 The Brief History of a Resource
3 Weapons and Security
4 Mining, Politics and People
5 Energy, Risk and Climate
6 Challenges and Futures
Anthony Burke is Professor of Politics and International Relations in the School of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of New South Wales, Canberra.
"A refreshing and highly readable analysis that takes a broad historic look at the discovery and exploitation of uranium and the moral, political and strategic questions to which its development has given rise."
– Angela Kane, Vienna Center for Disarmament and Non-Proliferation
"In this significant work, Anthony Burke traces the generative powers of a formidable metal that has shaped world politics in profound ways. Highlighting the toxic and dangerous effects of uranium through its entire production chain and failed attempts to control its uses, Burke makes an urgent humanitarian argument for nuclear disarmament."
– Shampa Biswas, Whitman College