Nuclear Energy 2011: A Watershed Year

Op-Ed Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists
The cumulative impact of the nuclear developments that occurred in 2012, from the disaster in Fukushima to Iran's continuing nuclear program, will make the world's nuclear future more uncertain.
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The cumulative impact of the nuclear developments that occurred in 2012, from the disaster in Fukushima to Iran's continuing nuclear program, will make the world's nuclear future more uncertain. The year 2011 marked the first serious accident at a nuclear power plant in a quarter century. After the previous disaster at Chernobyl, the world’s nuclear industry axiomatically predicted that another accident—especially in an advanced country operating conventional light-water reactors—would spell the end of nuclear power everywhere. A year after three US-designed power reactors in Japan melted down in March, that hasn’t happened, but the real impact of the accident on the future of nuclear energy worldwide has yet to be felt. The accident focused attention on Japan for nearly half a year. As the threat gradually receded, the world’s focus shifted back to flashpoints where nuclear crises have been with us for a long time: Iran, North Korea, and South Asia. These weren’t resolved in 2011, and all three appear to be escalating. Two years after the United States recommitted itself to multilateral nuclear diplomacy in 2009, it became apparent that its recommitment was oversold and would not suffice to bridge serious divisions besetting Washington, Beijing, and Moscow—divisions that stand in the way of resolving nuclear crises in Iran and North Korea, or of effectively contributing to a de-escalation of an emerging nuclear arms race in South Asia.

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About the Nuclear Policy Program

The Carnegie Nuclear Policy Program is an internationally acclaimed source of expertise and policy thinking on nuclear industry, nonproliferation, security, and disarmament. Its multinational staff stays at the forefront of nuclear policy issues in the United States, Russia, China, Northeast Asia, South Asia, and the Middle East.




In Fact



of the Chinese general public

believe their country should share a global leadership role.


of Indian parliamentarians

have criminal cases pending against them.


charter schools in the United States

are linked to Turkey’s Gülen movement.


thousand tons of chemical weapons

are in North Korea’s possession.


of import tariffs

among Chile, Colombia, Mexico, and Peru have been eliminated.


trillion a year

is unaccounted for in official Chinese income statistics.


of GDP in oil-exporting Arab countries

comes from the mining sector.


of Europeans and Turks

are opposed to intervention in Syria.


of Russian exports to China

are hydrocarbons; machinery accounts for less than 1%.


of undiscovered oil

is in the Arctic.


U.S. government shutdowns

occurred between 1976 and 1996.


of Ukrainians

want an “international economic union” with the EU.


million electric bicycles

are used in Chinese cities.


of the world’s energy supply

is consumed by cities.


of today’s oils

require unconventional extraction techniques.


of the world's population

will reside in cities by 2050.


of Syria’s population

is expected to be displaced by the end of 2013.


of the U.S. economy

is consumed by healthcare.


of Brazilian protesters

learned about a massive rally via Facebook or Twitter.


million cases pending

in India’s judicial system.

1 in 3


now needs urgent assistance.


political parties

contested India’s last national elections.


of Egypt's labor force

works in the private sector.


of oil consumed in the United States

is for the transportation sector.


of Chechnya’s pre-1994 population

has fled to different parts of the world.


of oil consumed in China

was from foreign sources in 2012.


billion in goods and services

traded between the United States and China in 2012.


billion in foreign investment and oil revenue

have been lost by Iran because of its nuclear program.


increase in China’s GDP per capita

between 1972 and today.


billion have been spent

to complete the Bushehr nuclear reactor in Iran.


of Iran’s electricity needs

is all the Bushehr nuclear reactor provides.



were imprisoned in Turkey as of August 2012 according to the OSCE.

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