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Europe’s Anti-Nuclear Power Outburst

An energy policy test.

10:39 AM, Jun 30, 2011 • By HENRY SOKOLSKI
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Yet another way to fumble nuclear power’s future would be to allow another “peaceful” nuclear Iran to emerge. Certainly, as U.S., Japanese, and European nuclear sales opportunities shrink, pressures to corner the remaining markets risks making non-proliferation and nuclear security secondary concerns. Someone should tighten the rules.

Late in 2009, the U.S. and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) established the “gold standard” for civilian nuclear cooperation. The UAE foreswore making nuclear fuel – a process that can bring states within weeks of acquiring a nuclear bomb – and promised to ratify a new, tougher international nuclear inspection protocol. The U.S. Congress endorsed this deal and is now urging the White House to get other nuclear suppliers to adopt similar export conditions. A recent bill reported out of committee asks the White House to weigh the merits of continuing to make nuclear loan guarantees to nuclear firms eager to penetrate the U.S. market, such as AREVA, Rosatom, and EdF, unless they are willing to impose similar conditions on their nuclear exports.  

The suggestion in all this is that Europe’s current nuclear intermission is less a political show than an energy policy test. At a minimum, it should be viewed as an experiment to determine what the safest, cleanest, cheapest energy future is.  In this, the only serious mistake is to prejudge the results.

Henry Sokolski is the executive director of the Nonproliferation Policy Education Center in Arlington, Virginia and is editor of Nuclear Power’s Global Expansion: Weighing its Costs and Risks (2010).

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