Image: Mohamed ElBaradei
John Mcconnico  /  AP
Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei accepts his prize at City Hall in Oslo, Norway, on Saturday.
updated 12/10/2005 12:59:22 PM ET 2005-12-10T17:59:22

Chief U.N. nuclear inspector Mohamed ElBaradei, accepting the 2005 Nobel Peace Prize, warned Saturday that the world is in "a race against time" to keep atomic weapons from terrorists.

ElBaradei, who shared the award with his International Atomic Energy Agency for efforts to control the spread of nuclear weapons, said the risk of atomic disaster is as great as ever 15 years after the Cold War ended.

"We are in a race against time," the 63-year-old Egyptian said about efforts to keep nuclear weapons away from terrorists. "In four years, we have completed perhaps 50 percent of the work. But this is not fast enough."

He said globalization, with its free flow of people and products, presents new challenges in curbing the spread of nuclear weapons.

"Our security strategies have not yet caught up with the security threats we are facing," ElBaradei said. "The globalization that has swept away the barriers to the movement of goods, ideas and people has also removed barriers that confined and localized security threats."

He also warned that humanity faces a choice between atomic weapons and survival.

"If we hope to escape self-destruction, then I believe nuclear weapons should have no place in our collective conscience, and no role in our security," he said.

"The hard part is: how do we create an environment in which all of us would look at nuclear weapons the way we look at slavery or genocide, as a taboo and a historical anomaly?"

Celebrities and royalty attend event
ElBaradei and Amano accepted their Nobel gold medals and diplomas from awards committee chairman Ole Danbolt Mjoes at a ceremony in the Oslo City Hall, which was decorated with 6,000 carnations and 3,000 orchids.

Those in attendance included Norway's King Harald V and Queen Sonja, musician Bob Geldof and actresses Salma Hayek and Julianne Moore.

The award also includes 10 million Swedish kronor, or about $1.3 million. ElBaradei said his half of the money will go to orphanages in his native Egypt, while the IAEA plans to establish a fund for cancer and nutritional research.

"At a time when the threat of nuclear arms is again increasing, the Norwegian Nobel Committee wishes to underline that this threat must be met through the broadest possible international cooperation," committee chairman Mjoes said.

Mjoes said the efforts of ElBaradei and IAEA had grown even more important because disarmament efforts appear deadlocked, nuclear weapons may spread to more countries and to terrorists, and there is renewed interested in nuclear power.

ElBaradei said part of his agency's efforts includes new "threats without borders" brought on by globalization.

"There are three main features to this changing landscape: first, the emergence of an extensive black market in nuclear material and equipment; second, the proliferation of nuclear weapons and sensitive nuclear technology; and third, the stagnation in nuclear disarmament," he said.

He said measures were urgently needed to control all three.

‘Imagine the legacy we could leave’
When the Cold War ended 15 years ago, many hoped it would also end the balance of terror of nuclear weapons.

Yet ElBaradei said eight or nine countries still have nuclear arsenals, and more countries want them.

"It is baffling to many that the major nuclear-weapon states continue to maintain their arsenals on hair-trigger alert," he said. "Imagine that the only nuclear weapons remaining are the relics in our museums. Imagine the legacy we could leave to our children."

ElBaradei also said he would like to set up a nuclear fuel bank under the IAEA, so countries could have access to fissionable material for peaceful uses, such as power plants, without building their own atomic fuel processing centers that also could be used for weapons.

That is similar to a proposal made by former President Eisenhower in his 1953 "Atoms for Peace" speech at the United Nations.

ElBaradei also underscored the peaceful side of the IAEA's nuclear watchdog role: ensuring the safest possible use of atomic materials for power plants, cancer treatments, research and science.

The Nobel prizes are always presented on Dec. 10, the anniversary of the death of their founder, Swedish Industrialist Alfred Nobel.

The peace prize is awarded in Oslo, and the other awards in Stockholm, Sweden.

Celebrations of the peace prize also include a torch-light parade and banquet in the laureates' honor Saturday and a concert on Sunday.

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