chapter  6
41 Pages

Implications of a nuclear revival for global governance

The implications for global nuclear governance of the less-than-dramatic increase in nuclear energy projected by this study are obviously not as alarming as they would be if a full-bore revival were imminent. Yet even if the nuclear energy revival is confined largely to the existing nuclear energy states and a small group of newcomers, there will be growth in the numbers of nuclear reactors and fuel cycle facilities, more nuclear transport, both domestically and internationally, and more spent fuel and nuclear waste. The implications for global governance are thus sufficiently serious to warrant attention now, especially as many aspects of the nuclear regime, as we have seen, are not optimally effective today or are under threat. Indeed, the slow pace of nuclear energy expansion gives the international community breathing space to put in place the necessary reform of global governance arrangements. This chapter considers the potential impact of a nuclear energy revival on global nuclear governance in the three key areas of safety, security and non-proliferation. The effects may be of two broad types. First, if a nuclear revival results in a serious accident, a major terrorist incident or nuclear weapons proliferation this will have an impact on the credibility and integrity of the respective safety, security and non-proliferation regimes. As in the past, such crises may ultimately lead to reform and rejuvenation, but in the short run the regimes will appear more fragile and less authoritative. This chapter therefore begins with an assessment in each case of the impact of a revival on nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation per se. The second type of impact that a revival may have is a more direct one, affecting the capacity of the three regimes to deal with increasing numbers of nuclear energy states, increasing numbers of vendors, associated companies and national regulatory authorities, more reactors and other nuclear facilities and rising volumes of nuclear material being produced, shipped, used and stored. In global governance terms, the burden will mostly fall on the IAEA but also on the treaties, mechanisms and other arrangements that have been outlined in Chapters 4 and 5. Such effects will be political, institutional and financial. This chapter will thus consider the additional demands and strains that a nuclear energy revival is likely to place on the global governance enterprise. The overall impact on the IAEA, as the key multilateral component of the global nuclear governance regime, will be dealt with in a final section.