Nuclear Energy Cooperation – a tool for trust-building and development


  • Anita Nilsson An independent consultant, former Director of IAEA Nuclear Security and Senior Associate, Partnership for Global Security, Washington DC.


The build-up of the nuclear energy sector has continued since more than half a century. Presently, 32 countries operate a nuclear energy programme, generating about a tenth of the world's electricity. Affordable, clean energy and electricity for all is identified as the 7th goal of the UN list of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Several countries have indicated and planned to introduce nuclear power in their energy mix. The introduction of nuclear energy in a country without prior nuclear experience is a process that involves several sectors of the civil society. The process would benefit from interaction and cooperation with countries that have obtained the competences and established the systems required. In addition to the well-established contributors in the western hemisphere, Pakistan may usefully offer its experience and assist, inter alia, with human resource development. Such efforts could directly support the 7th goal of the UN SDGs.

Nuclear technology stands in the beginning of a period of major development. Small modular reactors, building on new technical solutions have obtained very significant interest among a large number of countries. The development effort, including the production of equipment and the remote assembly reactor units, referred to as Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), still has a way to go. Regulatory systems, control arrangements for SMRs placed near cities or in remote areas will require considerable cooperation and interaction. Pakistan could serve a useful role in that context.

In parallel, the Nuclear Weapon States are not meeting their disarmament commitments under the UN Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), inter alia, evidenced by the most recent NPT review conference that closed without a final document. Tension increases in Asia and Europe, and the potential use of nuclear weapons as ‘tactical’ or ‘battle-field’ armoury, appears not to be completely ruled out. This global situation requires countermeasures, and increased cooperation among countries in the energy sector may build trust in circumstances that otherwise are characterized by alienation and the lack of dialogue.