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September 2010

The Uncertain Future of Nuclear Energy

Report

By Frank N. von Hippel, Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice; Co-Principal Investigator, Project on Managing the Atom, Anatoli Diakov, Ming Ding, Tadahiro Katsuta, Charles McCombie, M.V. Ramana, Tatsujiro Suzuki, Susan Voss and Suyuan Yu

In the 1970s, nuclear-power boosters expected that by now nuclear power would produce perhaps 80 to 90 percent of all electrical energy globally. Today, the official high-growth projection of the Organization for Economic Co‑operation and Developments (OECD) Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA) estimates that nuclear power plants will generate about 20 percent of all electrical energy in 2050. Thus, nuclear power could make a significant contribution to the global electricity supply. Or it could be phased out — especially if there is another accidental or a terrorist-caused Chernobyl-scale release of radioactivity. If the spread of nuclear energy cannot be decoupled from the spread of nuclear weapons, it should be phased out.

 

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