“Imagine a world where we could settle our differences through diplomacy and dialogue, not bombs and bullets.” This was Mohamed ElBaradei’s mindset as he stepped into the center of the nuclear fray. Looking at that journey, students can better understand the changing landscape in nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Mohamed ElBaradei was born in Cairo in 1942. Following in his father’s footsteps, he studied law in Egypt before earning his doctorate in international law at the New York University School of Law in 1974. He then served as special assistant and legal adviser to the Foreign Minister in Egypt, in the Egyptian Diplomatic Service, and directly for the United Nations.

ElBaradei became the director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in December 1997 and served three consecutive terms until 2009. The IAEA was created by the United Nations in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy. Within the first few months of ElBaradei’s tenure, he and his staff began to search more intensely for undeclared nuclear activities around the world. In 2005, ElBaradei and the IAEA were jointly awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for their efforts to prevent the use of atomic energy for military purposes.

ElBaradei was later elected leader of the National Association for Change in Egypt, and he played a key role in the 2011 protests, which led to the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak.

In our “Nuclear Arms Control” lesson, students engage with science and social issues by discussing peaceful uses of and safety standards for nuclear energy that are associated with the IAEA and the United States. After reading ElBaradei’s 2005 Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, watching the video of Mohammed ElBaradei’s report before the United Nations Security Council, and learning where nuclear weapons are located around the world, students analyze uses of nuclear energy, nuclear medicine, and nuclear technology and consider the implication of nuclear power and security. Finally, students facilitate a discussion on the United States invasion of Iraq and “Become a Defender” by organizing a teach-in on the school campus on nuclear nonproliferation.

Because all the activities involve independent or group research that can be done online, this lesson plan fits into either virtual or in-person classrooms, with opportunities for discussion and collaboration on Zoom or with classmates.