No major nuclear revival by 2030, says CIGI report - Global nuclear governance nevertheless needs improving


Waterloo, Canada – February 4, 2010 – A significant expansion of nuclear energy worldwide is unlikely to occur before 2030. This provides a window of opportunity to urgently fix the currently inadequate system for governing nuclear energy to avoid accidents, nuclear terrorism and weapons proliferation.

These are the key findings of the three-and-a-half year Nuclear Energy Futures project released today by The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) in Ottawa. The project was unique in considering together the normally ‘stove-piped’ subjects of nuclear safety, security and non-proliferation. Nuclear Energy and Global Governance to 2030 reports the findings of the three-and-a-half year Nuclear Energy Futures project. Flowing from the findings is the project’s five-point Action Plan for policymakers in Canada and abroad.

“Concerns about nuclear terrorism and weapons proliferation will be the focus of several important international gatherings in the coming months, including the G-8 Summit. The proposed Action Plan points to concrete steps that can be taken to make the world safer for nuclear energy,” said Madame Louise Fréchette, chair of the Nuclear Energy Futures project and a distinguished fellow at CIGI. 

The report argues that a significant expansion of nuclear energy is unlikely to happen before 2030, due to a number of constraints on the plans of both existing and aspiring nuclear energy states. “Despite some powerful drivers, a revival of nuclear energy faces too many barriers compared to other means of generating electricity,” states Trevor Findlay, director of the project and author of the report.

Barriers that present challenges to the revival of nuclear energy are: (1) Unfavourable economics compared to other sources of energy, (2) Fewer subsidies from governments, (3) Nuclear energy is too slow to address climate change and to compete with cheaper alternative means of tackling it, (4) Demands for energy efficiency are leading to fundamental rethinking of how electricity is generated and distributed, (5) Long-term decline of the nuclear sector is resulting in industrial bottlenecks and personnel shortages, (6) The nuclear waste issue remains unresolved with no country currently implementing a sustainable solution, (7) Growing fears about safety, security and nuclear weapons remain  in public consciousness and (8) Developing countries face additional constraints, including inadequate infrastructure, poor governance, deficient regulatory systems and finance. 

Despite potential synergies, the existing regimes have emerged piecemeal and in uncoordinated fashion, reacting to rather than anticipating threats and crises. They are all underfunded, under-resourced and often lacking in transparency. Each faces its own particular set of challenges.  Improved coordination is needed with the civilian nuclear industry, which is often leery of close involvement with governments and international organizations, especially in the security and non-proliferation realms. For their part, governments and international organizations often fail to consult industrial and other stakeholders, including civil society.

“Global governance in the nuclear realm is already facing significant challenges even without the prospect of a nuclear energy revival,” says Dr. Findlay. “The desire of states for the benefits of nuclear energy should be levered to reinforce global governance.”

Flowing from the report is a five-point Action Plan. It recommends specific steps that the international community should take to: (1) Ensure that all states are committed to and capable of implementing the highest nuclear safety standards, (2) Ensure that all nuclear material and facilities are secure from unauthorized access or terrorist seizure or attack,  (3) Ensure that a nuclear revival does not contribute to proliferation of nuclear weapons, (4) Reinforce the centrality of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through increased funding, modernization and reform, (5) Ensure that all stakeholders, especially industry, participate in judiciously managing a nuclear revival.

“Canada, as an exporter of nuclear technology and the world’s leading uranium producer, is well placed to promote improvements in the system of global nuclear governance which it helped to develop from the very beginning of the nuclear era,” commented Madame Fréchette.

The report concludes with a proposed grand bargain. The deal for aspiring states should be: if you want civilian nuclear power, you have to agree to the highest international standards for avoiding nuclear accidents, nuclear terrorism and diversion of materials to nuclear weapons. The deal for existing advanced nuclear states should be: if you want the newcomers to comply with a newly strengthened global regime that was not in place when you first acquired nuclear energy, you have to multilateralize the fuel cycle and disarm yourselves of nuclear weapons.

Nuclear Energy and Global Governance to 2030 is the final report of CIGI’s Nuclear Energy Futures Project, conducted in partnership with the Canadian Centre for Treaty Compliance (CCTC) at the Norman Paterson School of International Affairs at Carleton University in Ottawa. The project began in 2006 with the aim of investigating the implications of the purported nuclear energy revival for nuclear safety, security and nonproliferation. Project outputs include 11research papers, a unique online Survey of Emerging Nuclear Energy States (SENES) and A Guide to Global Nuclear Governance, the first comprehensive guide to the international nuclear treaties, organizations, initiatives and networks.

To view or download a free copy of the report or Action Plan, please visit:



Neve Peric or 519-590-2626

Mary-Lou Schagena
 or 519-497-9112


The Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI) is an independent, nonpartisan think tank that addresses international governance challenges. Led by a group of experienced practitioners and distinguished academics, CIGI supports research, forms networks, advances policy debate, builds capacity, and generates ideas for multilateral governance improvements. Conducting an active agenda of research, events and publications, CIGI's interdisciplinary work includes collaboration with policy, business and academic communities around the world. CIGI was founded in 2002 by Jim Balsillie, co-CEO of RIM (Research In Motion), and collaborates with and gratefully acknowledges support from a number of strategic partners, in particular the Government of Canada and the Government of Ontario. For more information, please visit