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From Nuclear Disarmament to Nuclear Energy: Implications for Human Security

On 31 October, the GCSP held a public discussion titled “From Nuclear Disarmament to Nuclear Energy: Implications for Human Security”.

Shortly after the UN vote to negotiate a ban on nuclear weapons, the GCSP, together with The Right Livelihood Award Foundation, hosted their first joint event under the title “From Nuclear Disarmament to Nuclear Energy: Implications for Human Security” on 31 October 2016.

The chair, Mr Marc Finaud, invited British activist Ms Angie Zelter and nuclear policy consultant Mr Mycle Schneider, both laureates of the “Alternative Nobel Prize”, as well as Mr Bruno Pellaud, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency, to shed a new light on the current state of civil and military uses of nuclear material.

Angie Zelter brought up the severe potential hazards of nuclear weapons, including their manufacture and transport in the UK as well as the link between huge investments in new nuclear power plants and the military uses of nuclear material. Mr Mycle Schneider argued that national governments did not learn lessons from 9/11 or Fukushima. Apart from the risks of nuclear accidents, he pointed to the increasing threat of terrorist attacks (in particular against spent fuel pools). Reporting from his year-long involvement at IAEA, Mr Pellaud concluded that today’s safety standards were still not satisfying everywhere although he stressed the importance of separating the peace discussion from the global security debate.

All panelists agreed that there are no longer any justifiable arguments in favour of nuclear weapons. Both Ms Zelter and Mr Schneider considered that the most reliable and cost-effective way to fight climate change was not nuclear energy but renewable energies: every year the additional production of electricity from renewables is higher than what the new UK nuclear power plant will produce in 10 years.

During the discussion with the audience, the question was asked what it would take to make a nuclear weapons ban treaty effective. The panelists agreed that increasing public awareness as well as removing investments from nuclear weapons would be useful first steps towards a larger societal change that will ultimately require political will to move the current national security paradigm closer to the human security and cooperative security paradigms.