The devastating earthquake and tsunami off the coast of Japan in
March 2011 will have a signiﬁcant impact on the future of nuclear energy.
The ultimate outcome of the Fukushima Daiichi accident will inﬂuence public
opinion and government decisions about the future development of nuclear power worldwide.
And the lessons we learn from the crisis will inform future decisions about nuclear
fuel storage, appropriate safety standards and accountability measures, and emergency
preparedness. However, our ability to respond effectively to the challenges presented
by the Fukushima Daiichi accident has been, in large part, predicated on research,
practices, and policies developed over the last three decades. What additional events
or developments might surprise us in the future that could affect the spread of
nuclear energy? How can we better anticipate such surprises so that we can more
effectively mitigate the impacts of negative developments and maximize the impact
of positive developments?
Toward this end, in August 2010 the American Academy, as part of its Global Nuclear
Future Initiative, cosponsored a meeting with the Center for International Security
and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University on Game Changers for Nuclear Energy.
The conference brought together a small group of representatives from diverse energy
backgrounds—including government, industry, NGOs, national laboratories, and
academia—for an in-depth discussion of variables that could affect the future
of nuclear power. These include reactor and fuel cycle technology and regulation,
accidents and security incidents, climate change, and relevant politics. The purpose
of the workshop was to explore what events, foreseen or not, could change the presently
foreseen nuclear power “game.” What follows is the resulting paper from
This Occasional Paper is part of the American Academy’s Global Nuclear Future
Initiative, which examines the safety, security, and nonproliferation implications
of the global spread of nuclear energy and is developing pragmatic recommendations
for managing the emerging nuclear order. The Global Nuclear Future Initiative is
supported by generous grants from Carnegie Corporation of New York; the William
and Flora Hewlett Foundation; the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation; the Flora Family Foundation;
and Fred Kavli and the Kavli Foundation. The American Academy is grateful to the
principal investigators of the Global Nuclear Future Initiative—Steven Miller,
Scott Sagan, Robert Rosner, and Stephen Goldberg—for contributing their time,
experience, and expertise to the work of the Initiative.
CISAC would like to thank the Flora Family Foundation and the John D. and Catherine
T. MacArthur Foundation for supporting the scholars’ work on this project.
We would like to thank Thomas Isaacs, Michael May, and Kate Marvel for organizing
a substantive meeting and the participants for their thoughtful contributions at
the meeting and to this paper. We are grateful to Michael and Kate for bringing
their knowledge and insight to bear on this important issue.
President and William T. Golden Chair
American Academy of Arts and Sciences
Scott D. Sagan
Caroline S.G. Munro Professor of Political Science
Codirector, Center for International
Security and Cooperation,