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Common Goals, Different Approaches? Strengthening Transatlantic Cooperation on Global Energy Issues

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Towards a Nuclear Power Renaissance?

Challenges for Global Energy Governance

4 - 5 March 2010

Event context    

Climate change has put nuclear power back on policy agendas on both sides of the Atlantic. The urgent need to reduce carbon emissions has led researchers and policymakers to increasingly focus their attention on the potential role of nuclear energy in achieving a low-carbon world while at the same time ensuring security of supply. In 2009, Sweden decided to go nuclear. The same year, the UK Government has initiated a major policy shift by announcing that nuclear power is supposed to be a major component of the country’s energy mix in the future. Finland has launched work on multiple new reactors that are supposed to go online within the next decade. Similarly, the US is also further investing in nuclear power. Beyond the transatlantic alliance, China and India have made very significant commitments to the expansion of nuclear power. Yet, while some see this renaissance of nuclear power as the key to tackling climate change, others are warning that this resurgence of nuclear power raises a number of potent challenges that will need to be resolved.

The debate on the merits and perils of nuclear energy is as long-standing as it is heated with proponents and opponents in irreconcilable disagreement. The Transatlantic Energy Governance Dialogue will not venture to solve the dispute, but it will dare to attempt giving room to all sides of the argument, thereby creating the basis for an informed discussion on a range of exceedingly difficult issues. Developing a more comprehensive picture of a potential nuclear renaissance will require an open exchange of opinions on three basic questions:

  1. What is the extent of tangible benefits that can be expected from a resurgence of nuclear power?
  2. What is the level of risk that corresponds with this potential nuclear renaissance?
  3. What are the implications of an expansion of nuclear power for global energy governance?

Event objectives

This Transatlantic Energy Governance Dialogue did not attempt to find conclusive answers to the many open questions that are associated with the apparent renaissance of nuclear power. It certainly also did not try to build consensus around issues that for decades have been characterized by emotional and often highly divisive debates. Yet, it was the intention of this conference to provide an opportunity for constructive debate.

Panel sessions took a closer look at the potential benefits of nuclear energy in terms of emission reductions as well as market structures and economic realities; examined the risks of nuclear energy from accidents and nuclear waste to dual-use and nuclear terrorism; and discussed the implications for Global Energy Governance. Working group sessions provided the opportunity for participants to break into smaller groups and dig deeper into the specific issues.

This TEGD brought together professionals from all sectors (governments, NGOs, business, the media, think tank and universities) in order to promote constructive debate on these issues. The dialogue sessions are also designed to complement our research program on global energy governance and serve as an important forum for both presenting our ideas and receiving feedback.

For more information, please contact Wade Hoxtell.