Journal Article - Daedalus

Alternative Nuclear Futures

| Winter 2010

Excerpt from "Alternative Nuclear Futures":

"The global nuclear order is changing, but where is it headed? Will the expected expansion of nuclear power in many regions around the world lead to increased dangers of nuclear terrorism and increased risks of nuclear weapons proliferation? As we noted in our introduction in volume 1,1 the common answer provided by the diverse international group of contributors to this two volume special issue of Dædalus is that it depends: it depends on how quickly and how widely nuclear power spreads to new countries; it depends on the domestic political and governance characteristics of the new nuclear power states; it depends on whether terrorists' plans to attack nuclear sites or steal nuclear materials succeed or fail; and, crucially, it depends on the steps taken by the international community to improve the safety mechanisms, physical protection standards, and nonproliferation safeguards that make up the tapestry of agreements that we call the nonproliferation regime.

Our colleagues have laid out a rich menu of steps that could strengthen the nonproliferation regime. We hope that governments around the world will listen to the ideas offered by these scholars, industry leaders, and former officials about how best to gain the benefits of nuclear energy while minimizing the security risks that are inherent in the spread of nuclear power. But we know from studying the history of nuclear power and proliferation that not all good ideas are adopted over time, and that wise policies and potential constructive compromises among conflicting interests do not always triumph.

Our crystal ball is not clear enough to predict with confidence whether the global nuclear future will be characterized by peace and prosperity or by conflict and destruction. But we do believe that the choices made in the coming few years will be crucial in determining whether the world can have more nuclear power without more nuclear weapons dangers in the future. Here we first briefly outline five major security challenges posed by the potential expansion and spread of nuclear power. Second, we discuss the major players whose decisions and interactions will determine which policies are adopted and which are rejected as the international community seeks solutions to these five security challenges. Finally, we sketch a number of alternative nuclear futures to demonstrate the truly momentous nature of the political and technical decisions that will soon be made by critical national and international actors...."

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1 See Steven E. Miller and Scott D. Sagan, "Nuclear Power Without Nuclear Proliferation?" Dædalus 138 (4) (Fall 2009): 7–18.

This article was originally published by the quarterly journalDædalus.Read the entire issue here.

For more information on this publication: Please contact International Security
For Academic Citation: Miller, Steven E. and Scott D. Sagan. Alternative Nuclear Futures.” Daedalus, vol. 139. no. 1. (Winter 2010):

The Authors

Steven E. Miller

Scott Sagan