Center for Governance and Sustainability

at the University of Massachusetts Boston

Nuclear Fuel

pg. 32: . . . the Council on Energy Security has proposed a . . .  practical approach to nuclear non-proliferation: a global public-private partnership to manage the nuclear fuel cycle of civilian power plants in a politically neutral and technically secure manner, thereby reducing the incentive for countries to develop their own nuclear processing and enrichment capabilities.

As with other calls by the GRI for public-private partnership (PPP), it is useful to examine exactly who ‘the public’ and who the ‘private’ Actors might be. The ‘public side’ for GRI’s new nuclear PPP could be nations who currently possess nuclear weapons, those who dominate the movement of civilian nuclear power plant technology. In short, this would imply that the commercial beneficiaries of an expanded public-private system would be able to open new markets, markets restricted under the current public system.

Alternatively, the ‘public side’ might be the current nuclear power countries and all the countries that have explicitly disavowed the use of nuclear power. As it would be unprecedented to have non-nuclear states with an equal role in controlling the nuclear market, the GRI is probably not proposing such a shift here.

A third alternative for the ‘public side’ could be to have all 193 members of the UN family as the designated ‘public’ body. In addition to allowing states that oppose nuclear power to have a voice in the nuclear club, it would also democratize the control of civilian nuclear power in a way that might someday legitimate democratic control of military nuclear powers. This does not even include the possibility that ‘public’ might mean some role for the international civil society.

What GRI seems then to be proposing is that the private sector civilian nuclear industry formally join forces with the nuclear states in managing the world’s access to, and use of, civilian nuclear power. GRI has provided no evidence that this would result in a more effective global governance system. It would, however, presumably open more domestic markets for the global nuclear industry.

For a set of proposals presented as practical and effective, there is a lack of clarity about how a PPP nuclear body would reduce the incentive for domestic enrichment capabilities. In fact, if the global nuclear supply industry had this power, nation-states might be incentivized to have their own capacities simply to prevent a commercial monopoly.

Related Ideas: Key third building block; Governance by volunteering; Options for military matters; Opt-in-Opt-outism; Multi-stakeholder governance; Multi-stakeholdism

The Readers' Guide welcomes comments with alternative examples or counter examples, supplemental assessments of the extracted GRI text or commentary – critical or otherwise – of the above interpretation of GRI’s perspective.

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