International Nuclear Politics

A major landmark in the history of international nuclear politics will be the conclusion of the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation in February 1980. Though little publicized in the press (perhaps because of its hermetic and quite unpronounceable acronym), INFCE has been an unprecedented international undertaking both in its scope and objectives. For over two years-since the Evaluation was formally launched in October 1977 by the Carter Administration-more than 500 experts from 46 nations, both developed and developing, have jointly studied the international implications of the growth of nuclear energy. In carrying out a detailed analysis of the technical, economic and institutional aspects of nuclear energy development throughout the world, the Evaluation has sought to reconcile the need for nuclear power in many nations with the prevention of a further spread of atomic weapons from civilian fuel cycles.1

While the problem of achieving a stable balance between nuclear power development and nonproliferation has been a constant dilemma since the 1950s, an international consensus on this issue has never seemed so unattainable as today. This is due in part to the growing military and energy insecurity shared by most nations of the world, which has resulted in making nonproliferation a very costly proposition, both economically and militarily. Another reason lies in the fact that international nuclear politics have been in a state of turmoil since the early 1970s, and that many of the accepted international norms which were gradually established during the 1950s and 1960s have been called into question.

In order to measure the complexity of the problem it must be remembered that when the Evaluation was launched the international nonproliferation controversy had reached a peak. Essentially, two distinct, though interconnected, areas of conflict had emerged.

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