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"Northeast Asia's Nuclear Future"

Four nuclear reactors at the Wolsong Nuclear Power Plant are seen behind homes of residents in Kyungju, south of Seoul, South Korea, April 21, 2006.
AP Photo

"Northeast Asia's Nuclear Future"

Backgrounder on the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit

Op-Ed, The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs

April 1, 2012

Author: James Platte, Former Stanton Nuclear Security Predoctoral Fellow, 2011–2012

Belfer Center Programs or Projects: International Security; Managing the Atom; Science, Technology, and Public Policy


At the beginning of 2011, Northeast Asia was well on its way to becoming the epicenter of a long anticipated global nuclear renaissance. According to data from the International Atomic Energy Agency, China, Japan, South Korea, and Taiwan account for 22 percent of the operational nuclear power reactors in the world. More importantly, 52 percent of the reactors under construction in the world are located in Northeast Asia (China alone has 41 percent), and 53 percent of the reactors connected to electricity grids since 2000 are in this region. The trend was only beginning, with China and South Korea crafting aggressive expansion plans.

But the Great East Japan Earthquake on March 11, 2011 and the ensuing tsunami caused the most serious nuclear accident since Chernobyl, at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant 225 kilometers north of Tokyo. Before the earthquake, Japan had 54 operational nuclear reactors. Today, only one of those reactors is producing electricity. The future of the Japanese nuclear industry — and the nuclear dynamics of all of Northeast Asia — is now in question.

Against this backdrop, the world gathered in Seoul, South Korea for the 2012 Nuclear Security Summit on March 26 and 27. This year's summit ostensibly retained the 2010 summit's main objective of reducing the threat of nuclear terrorism, but there was one very significant addition to this year's agenda: exploring the nexus between nuclear security and nuclear safety....

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For Academic Citation:

Platte, James E. "Northeast Asia's Nuclear Future." The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs, April 1, 2012.

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