Workshop on Nuclear Energy and Human Security
23 April 2010
Holiday Inn Singapore Orchard City Centre Hotel
Energy security is more than just the security of supplies; it is multifaceted and intertwined with economic, environmental and socio-political issues, among others. For the rapidly developing Asia-Pacific, alternative energy sources represent feasible solutions towards balancing socio-economic growth and environmental protection. In particular, nuclear energy has been viewed in recent years as an attractive option in the region.
The aim of this workshop on Nuclear Energy and Human Security was to bring out the complexities involved in the expansion of nuclear energy usage. These complexities were brought out through the debates articulated here on the pros and cons of adopting nuclear energy, from the environmental, economic and security perspective. In addition, the role of civil society organisations (CSOs) in nuclear energy policymaking, which play a vital role in centering the issue on human security concerns, was discussed.
Notwithstanding the lower probability of nuclear accidents compared to that of fossil fuel-fired power plants and even plane crashes, past nuclear accidents, such as Chernobyl in 1986, have shaped public perceptions towards nuclear energy. The advent of sophisticated nuclear technologies and risk management measures also did not end intense debates on pertinent issues – environmental, economic, and security – revolving around nuclear energy.
Nuclear operations cannot be deemed environmentally and economically risk-free. Rather, these issues remain contentious due to lack of data and scientific consensus. Since a complete moratorium on nuclear expansion is almost impossible to achieve, the environmental and economic risks entailed in nuclear operations need to be better understood and managed in a broader context involving other energy alternatives.
Given the salience of nuclear terrorism risk and weak global nuclear security regimes, the expansion of nuclear energy use encompasses potential security issues for the Asia-Pacific. A coherent international framework based on greater interstate cooperation and coordination to secure existing inventories of nuclear armaments and fissile materials is needed and it will have significant ramifications for the region.
Beyond the technical aspects of nuclear operations, more research focus in nuclear energy policy planning needs to be placed on addressing other equally crucial areas that could also shape public perceptions towards nuclear energy. A culture of safety needs to be inculcated, especially in nuclear-aspiring Southeast Asia, whose track record of industrial safety has been less than perfect.
A decision-making culture espousing transparency and accountability to the public can go a long way towards enhancing sound nuclear energy planning. Multiple stakeholdership involving the government, but also nuclear industry, scholars and CSOs, is essential for ensuring holistic nuclear energy policymaking.
Rather than adopting a partisan approach to nuclear energy, a sustainable and diverse energy portfolio that considers a whole range of possible alternative energy sources is the way forward. In this holistic equation, nuclear energy remains a viable option whose risks need further research and better understanding in order to devise sound policies to better regulate its expanding use. It is hoped that the debates fleshed out in the workshop will help policymakers arrive at policy decisions more effectively and persons interested in nuclear energy understand the debated issues more thoroughly.
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Presentations and speeches delivered at the Workshop
Session 1: The Environmental Aspects of Nuclear Energy
Assistant Professor, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
Chairman, Singapore Institute of International Affairs (SIIA), Singapore
Dr Michael Quah
Principal Fellow, Energy Studies Institute (ESI), National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore
Session 2: The Economic Aspects of Nuclear Energy
Executive Director, Institute of Applied Energy, Japan
Deputy Director, Institute of Environmental Studies, University of New South Wales, Australia
Dr Chang Youngho
Assistant Professor, Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Session 3: The Security Aspects of Nuclear Energy
Professor, Global Centre of Excellence Program, Nuclear Education and Research Initiative, University of Tokyo, Japan
Senior Research Associate, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington DC, United States of America
– Joint paper with
Mr Cole Harvey
Research Associate, James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, Washington DC, United States of America
Dr Ron Huisken
Senior Fellow, Strategic and Defence Studies Centre, Australian National University, Australia
Session 4: Nuclear Energy and the Roles of Civil Society Organisations
Associate Professor Mely Caballero-Anthony
Head, Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
Mr Kevin Christopher D.G. Punzalan
Research Analyst, Centre for Non-Traditional Security (NTS) Studies, S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies (RSIS), Nanyang Technological University, Singapore
– Joint paper with
Ms Lina A. Alexandra
Researcher, Department of International Relations, Centre for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS), Jakarta, Indonesia
Dr Teresita Cruz-del Rosario
Senior Research Fellow, Centre on Asia and Globalisation, Lee Kuan Yew School of Public Policy (LKYSPP), National University of Singapore (NUS), Singapore