21st Century US Nuclear Power Policy: Standing at a Strategic Crossroads

21st Century US Nuclear Power Policy: Standing at a Strategic Crossroads

(Link to In-Review Version of Paper)

At the 2018 ISSS-IS conference at Purdue University, my colleague, Josh Massey, and I presented a paper on the challenges facing 21st century US nuclear power policy, particularly in the global context. In December 2019, I testified before the US House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Environment and Climate Change where I included in my testimony the national security implications of US nuclear power (Link to testimony here). Recently, we authored a paper where we go into greater detail on these issues and offer recommendations for a long-term US nuclear power policy strategy. This is a draft of that paper, which is currently in review.

Abstract: America’s 20th century policy on the peaceful uses of nuclear power is a US original in strategic thinking. A policy founded on principles that were informed and shaped by personal experiences and aligned with comprehensive, long-term national security objectives for a yet-to-be-established liberal international order for ending great power wars. However, in the 21st century, the US stands at a crossroads, embroiled in a national discussion as to whether it should advance its civilian nuclear power enterprise or abandon it altogether. This disposition conflicts with America’s first principles of nuclear power policy and does not align with 21st century realities that competing powers are leveraging civilian nuclear collaborations to meet strategic geopolitical objectives.  In this article we argue that America’s civilian nuclear power enterprise should be included as a strategic sector within the US national security industrial base and deliberated as a foreign policy issue not merely as a domestic energy policy issue subject to popular opinion or the volatility of energy markets. Otherwise, if America retreats from the civilian nuclear field, revisionist powers will occupy in the 21st century the position America occupied in the 20th century—that position being, the global leader in nuclear science, engineering and technology.

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