The earthquake and tsunami that hit the Fukushima nuclear plant is a long overdue wake up call. Image: Douglas Sprott/flickr
In the wake of the Fukushima nuclear accident in March, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) on Monday began a five-day Ministerial Conference on Nuclear Safety in Vienna. The objective, according to Director General Yukiya Amano, is to identify the ‘lessons learned’ from the accident and determine how to improve the Agency’s efforts to increase nuclear safety worldwide. To be sure, public confidence in the safety of nuclear power plants has plummeted in recent months, particularly in Japan and Germany where demonstrators have taken to the streets demanding nuclear energy be phased out.
A glance at the conference‘s stated aims and objectives, and at what the media has thus far reported, suggests that discussion of these ‘lessons learned’ has focused on : 1) safety in nuclear installations, 2) emergency preparedness, and, 3) effective first-response to accidents. While the savvy reader will know that the focus of international conferences can change as unpredictably as the weather, a distinct pattern is emerging.
On Monday, the conference adopted a Declaration on Nuclear Safety which expresses the participants’ resolve to enhance nuclear safety around the world. Among the measures it proposes are : 1) enhancing knowledge about nuclear safety; 2) promoting international cooperation and coordination around the issue; and, perhaps most relevantly to Fukushima, 3) meeting the public expectation to provide “factually correct information and assessments of nuclear accidents.”
But the response to the Fukushima accident must address not just the technical and political issues that have dominated the conference so far but, moreover, how we fundamentally think about nuclear safety. What the Japanese people experienced – an earthquake, followed by a tsunami, followed by a nuclear disaster – should, in this sense, be an urgent wake up call. » More
Nuclear power is the focus of our Special Report this week. Do you know the facts? [QUIZZIN 32]
Nuclear power plant in Sweden, courtesy of Vattenfall/flickr
This week the ISN looks at the causes and consequences of a global nuclear renaissance. We ask whether nuclear power is a false prophet for a planet imperiled by climate change and assess the difficulty of reigning in those that seek to turn energy into weapons.
The Special Report includes the following content:
- An Analysis by Trevor Findlay and Justin Alger on the promise of nuclear energy in the fight against climate change.
- A Podcast interview with Dr Oliver Thränert on the need to control the risk of nuclear energy being used for military purposes.
- Security Watch articles on nuclear cooperation between Japan and India, Sino-Pakistani nuclear ties, the Iranian impasse and many more.
- Publications housed in our Digital Library, including an Elcano Royal Institute of International and Strategic Studies study on nuclear weapons in the 2010s and a Congressional Research Service paper on US nuclear cooperation with India.
- Primary Resources, like the Joint Declaration by Iran, Turkey and Brazil on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons.
- Links to relevant websites, including a TEDTalk on the importance on nuclear energy.
- Our IR Directory, featuring the Russian Federal Nuclear Center (RFNC-VNIIEF) and the Japan Atomic Energy Agency (JAEA).
The New Appeal of Nuclear Energy and the Dangers of Proliferation
Every country has a right to the peaceful use of nuclear power. Some even argue that this ‘clean-burning’ fuel could be the CO2 emissions cure-all.
But how to keep states from using these plants to disguise weapons programs?
And how to tackle the risk of nuclear terrorism?
In a new CSS Analysis, Olivier Thränert provides an overview of current efforts and debates to address this nuclear power conundrum.
Dr Thränert is an expert on the proliferation of nuclear, chemical and biological weapons at the German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) in Berlin.
You can download his paper here.