The devastating earthquake, tsunami, and consequent multi-reactor
damage in Japan will have a significant impact on the future use of nuclear energy,
the nuclear industry, and the global nuclear order. The full impact will not be
known for some time. Data about the incident unfolding at the Fukushima Daiichi
nuclear power reactors were still being compiled when this paper went to press.
To make wise choices about the future of nuclear power, we need improved knowledge
of the safety, safeguards, and security features of both existing and new nuclear
energy plants. Understanding the potential advantages and disadvantages of nuclear
energy is critical for those stakeholders and decision-makers facing national energy
challenges. This publication provides an overview of the evolution of nuclear reactor
technology and discusses six important factors in the development and deployment
of new reactors.
For over five decades, the American Academy of Arts and Sciences has played an integral
role in nonproliferation studies, beginning with a special issue of Daedalus
on “Arms Control” published in 1960 and continuing with studies
conducted by the Academy’s Committee on International Security Studies (CISS).
More recently, the Academy’s Global Nuclear Future (GNF) Initiative—under
the guidance of CISS—is examining the safety, security, and nonproliferation
implications of the global spread of nuclear energy. The GNF Initiative is promoting
innovative scholarship, fostering creative behind-the-scenes interactions with international
leaders and stakeholders, examining issues critical to a safer and more secure nuclear
future, and developing pragmatic recommendations for managing the emerging nuclear
order. The GNF Initiative is supported in part by grants from The Carnegie Corporation
of New York, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, and the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation.
The Academy is grateful to these supporters and to the principal investigators of
the Global Nuclear Future Initiative—Steven E. Miller, Scott D. Sagan, Robert
Rosner, and Stephen M. Goldberg—along with Thomas Isaacs, Carl Rau, and the
expert members of the project’s advisory committee—Richard A. Meserve
and Albert Carnesale—for contributing their time, experience, and expertise
to the work of the Initiative.
President and William T. Golden Chair
American Academy of Arts and Sciences