The reality, we suspect, lies between the extremes.
Similar problems may be encountered with respect to renewables, carbon dioxide sequestration and perhaps even demand-side technologies. In order to ensure that solutions to the major areas of difficulty become feasible, governments - either alone or in international collaboration - may have to act now, or very soon, to ensure that there are ways of clearing these logjams by providing stimuli for progress.
Perhaps the most difficult issue is over the construction of demonstration plants. If private companies should prove unwilling or unable to build such facilities, the financial risk being too great, then, in our view, governments should be prepared to take steps to ensure that such plants are built. Without them much of the longer-term research effort is likely to be wasted.
In the immediate future, it looks likely that the 'centre of gravity' of nuclear activity will continue to move away from North America and Western Europe and towards South and East Asia. Before long, however, a new understanding between the people, governments and nuclear industries in the industrialized world may be needed. Such an understanding should open the way for proper international appraisal of whether, and in what circumstances, nuclear energy might make a positive contribution to meeting the energy and environmental challenges that the world has to face in the twenty-first century.
This article has been adapted from the Briefing Paper, "Double
or Quits? The Global Future of Civil Nuclear Energy" issued by The Royal
Institute of International Affairs, April 2002. At the time of the paper's
issuance, the late Peter Beck and Malcolm Grimston were Associate Fellows
with the Sustainable Development Program at the Royal Institute of International
Affairs, also known as "Chatham House," in London. For the complete briefing
paper, visit www.riia.org/pdf/research/sdp/Nuclear_ Double_or_Quits.pdf
and for further information on the Sustainable Development Program please
visit the Institute's website at www.riia.org.
Double or Quits? The global future of civil nuclear energy, 2002, by Malcom Grimstone and Peter Beck, RIIA & Earthscan Publications, London, and Brookings Inst., USA. ISBN 1 85383 913 2 (paper).