Promoting Safe, Secure, and Peaceful Growth of Nuclear Energy: Next Steps for Russia and the United States

A report from the Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs

November 15, 2010

Russia, the United States and other countries must cooperate to enable large-scale growth of nuclear energy around the world while achieving even higher standards of safety, security, and nonproliferation than are in place today. This will require building a new global framework for nuclear energy, including new or strengthened global institutions. The Belfer Center's Managing the Atom (MTA) Project and the Russian Research Center's Kurchatov Institute developed these and additional recommendations in a new collaborative report, published this month. The report's authors and project co-directors, Matthew Bunn, Associate Professor of Public Policy at the Harvard Kennedy School and Co-Principal Investigator of MTA and Vyachevslav P. Kuznetsov, Scientific Secretary of the Academic Council at the Kurchatov Institute led a multi-national team of more than a dozen experts in developing the report and its recommendations.

The basis of the report is the April 2009 meeting of Russian President Dmitri Medvedev and U.S. President Barack Obama. Following the summit, Medvedev and Obama said: "Together, we seek to secure nuclear weapons and materials, while promoting the safe use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes." The two presidents agreed that they sought "to promote international cooperation in the peaceful use of nuclear energy while strengthening the nuclear non-proliferation regime." At their July 2009 summit, the presidents repeated these objectives, and established a joint Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Security Working Group co-chaired by Sergei Kirienko, Director-General of the Russian State Atomic Energy Corporation (Rosatom), and Daniel Poneman, U.S. Deputy Secretary of Energy. MTA and the Kurchatov Institute's report provides recommendations for steps Russia and the United States can take to achieve these common goals.

The report begins with an outline of the world's energy challenges in the 21st century, the potential role of nuclear energy in addressing these challenges, and the issues that must be addressed if nuclear energy is to play a major role in meeting the world's 21st century energy needs. The report continues with a description of the special role that Russia and the United States can play in the future of nuclear energy.

The authors argue that with more than 95% of the world's nuclear weapons in Russia and the U.S., most of the world's weapons-usable nuclear material, and the world's longest experience in nuclear energy, the United States and Russia bear special responsibilities for strengthening global efforts to minimize the risks and maximize the benefits of the use of nuclear energy. Expanded U.S.-Russian cooperation will be essential in achieving this objective.

The report concludes with recommendations for Russia and the United States to address issues related to: safety; security; nonproliferation; extending uranium resources; waste management; cost reduction; and making nuclear energy more broadly available around the world, and more capable of addressing multiple needs. The authors describe particular areas of joint research and development that should be undertaken, and the need to move forward with the bilateral Agreement for Cooperation in the Field of Peaceful Uses of Nuclear Energy, to provide a government-to-government framework for this cooperation.

Read more on the Belfer Center website.

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Promoting Safe, Secure, and Peaceful Growth of Nuclear Energy: Next Steps for Russia and the United States

The full report can be read on the Belfer Center website.

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