Even before the March accident at the Fukushima nuclear power plant, it appeared that expectations of a “nuclear renaissance” might not come to pass. To be sure, some countries in Asia such as the ROK and China had ambitious plans for building new power plants and related facilities. However, the world’s largest markets?the United States and Western Europe?were not only moving slowly to build new plants but were facing the retirement of aging reactors. And while some new countries such as the United Arab Emirates and Vietnam were moving to develop nuclear energy, other countries confronted with its financing costs and regulatory needs were having second thoughts. Iran and North Korea’s nuclear program had raised questions about the viability of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty for ensuring that peaceful nuclear energy was not diverted to weapons purposes. And only Finland and Sweden seem to have found a way to address what has long been nuclear energy’s Achilles Heel: winning public acceptance for a means to dispose of spent nuclear fuel and/or high level nuclear waste.
After the Fukushima accident, nuclear energy’s future is more in doubt. Still, in a world still facing the possibility of climate change, nuclear energy uniquely offers a proven form of baseload, largely carbon-free energy, as well as providing a perceived source of enhanced energy security for those countries heavily dependent on fossil fuels.
This panel will review the opportunities and obstacles to nuclear energy’s growth. Sharon Squassoni will provide an overview of the prospects for the growth of nuclear energy, discussing issues such as costs and public acceptance. Trevor Findlay will look at international governance of nuclear energy, particularly whether the International Atomic Energy Agency needs to be altered to better address nuclear security and safety issues. Leonard Spector will examine approaches for preventing proliferation. Tom Latourette will propose means to address the challenge of spent nuclear fuel. Miles Pomper will conclude with some thoughts on how the ROK fits into this global picture.