Risk-Distribution among Public and Private Actors in the United States' Nuclear Sector

Master's Thesis, 2018

98 Pages, Grade: 2.0



1. Introduction

2. The Changing Nature of Risk
2.1 The Production of Nuclear Energy
2.2 Potential Risks before, during, and after the Production of Nuclear Energy
2.3 Risk-Assessment of Nuclear Energy and its Limits
2.4 How to Regulate Risks caused by Nuclear Energy?

3. The Role of Nuclear Energy in the United States
3.1 A Short History of Nuclear Energy in the United States
3.2 Geopolitics and Nuclear Energy
3.3 The Economic Aspects of Nuclear Energy

4. The Entanglement of Private Enterprises and the U.S. Government
4.1 The AEC and the JCAE
4.2 The NRC and ERDA/Department of Energy

5. Regulations and Subsidies
5.1 Construction and Operating
5.1.1 The Early Phase of Nuclear Energy/The Light Water Reactor (1946-1963)
5.1.2 Commercialization Phase of the LWR/Development of the HTGR
5.1.3 The Liquid Metal Fast Breeder Reactor (LMFBR) and the Decay of the Nuclear Industry in the United States
5.1.4 The Failed Renaissance of Nuclear Energy in the United States
5.1.5 Summary of Research, Construction, and Operation
5.2 The Fuel Cycle
5.2.1 Uranium Mining
5.2.2 Enrichment
5.2.3 Reprocessing
5.2.4 Waste Disposal
5.2.5 Summary of the Fuel Cycle
5.3 External Threats
5.3.1 Terror Scenarios involving Fissile Materials
5.3.2 Reactor Site Safety
5.3.3 Cyber-terrorism
5.3.4 Summary of External Threats
5.4 Conclusion: Tendencies in Risk Distribution concerning Nuclear Matters

6. The Future of Nuclear Energy and Potential Future Research

7. Bibliography

1. Introduction

This work will try to answer two central questions: Firstly, this work will try to find out when which kind of risk in the field of nuclear energy was perceived as relevant by politics and the industry and whether a shift concerning this risk perception can be identified. Secondly, it will be attempted to clarify the question which of the involved actors – public or private – had and still have to cover the different risks. The division into public and private actors results from the circumstances that nuclear energy was not created out of the industry’s desperate search for a new energy source (cf. Basalla 1988: 167) but the historical fact that nuclear energy was a state-sponsored technology transfer from the military sector into the civil sector of energy production.

This work can be divided into six different blocks: 1) Introduction, 2) Risk and Risk Evaluation, 3) The Role of Nuclear Energy in the United States, 4) The Entanglement of the Public and Private Sector, 5) Risk Distribution among Private and Public Actors in different Fields of Nuclear Energy, and 6) Outlook on Potential Future Research. As it can be deduced from this itemization, this works becomes gradually narrower and leads to the main corpus of this work – the fifth block on risk-distribution among private and public actors in different fields of nuclear energy. The sections mentioned above and their relevance for this work will be present in the following.

In the section concerning risk and risk evaluation it will be tried to lead over to the theoretical basis of this work. The section however starts with “The Changing Nature of Risk”, in which the general risk discourse will be discussed and it will be shown that risk has developed from a purely natural to a technological phenomenon and, in its later perception, is perceived as a hybrid threat of the two aforementioned, in which natural disasters unveil the weaknesses of mankind’s constructions and the catastrophes become significantly more disastrous – as seen in Fukushima. After the introduction of this relatively abstract risk discourse, the technological process of creating nuclear energy and its risks will be presented. Especially the latter mentioned will serve, at the end of this work, as an additional basis for comparison. After having discussed potential risks of nuclear energy, the following section will argue that classic risk evaluation (risk probability multiplied by the potential damages) comes up short in the field of nuclear energy and nuclear matters in general. The key problem is that the necessary variables, the probability as well as the damages, cannot be calculated adequately. Out of the necessity to follow another, and more practical, theoretical approach, risk-based regulation (cf. Black 2013, cf. Black/Baldwin 2012, and cf. Black/Baldwin 2010) will be presented at the end of this section, which will also serve as the theoretical basis of this work. To not have an exclusively legal focus in this work – and perhaps missing out on various occasions – the perspective of the risk-based regulation will be complemented by the so-called proceduralization (cf. Black 2000), which also allows taking more indirect forms of regulation (subsidies, tax-cuts, etc.) into account.

After having introduced the theoretical framework of this work, the third section will try to evaluate the relevance and importance of nuclear energy for the United States. Section three starts with a rough historical overview over developments concerning nuclear energy in the United States. The historical overview on the amount of reactors will be followed by a sub-section on geopolitical consequences and risks which were created by the spread of nuclear technology. As this kind of risk can only be handled by the state, it is discussed separately in this work. Following the section on geopolitical consequences, economic aspects of nuclear technology will be discussed. The majority of all energy producing sectors is unprofitable in completely deregulated and unsubsidized markets; however, nuclear energy is a special case as the technological risks are significantly higher compared to traditional sources of energy. To justify the exposure to such risks, the profits or potential profits of nuclear have to be significantly higher than of other technologies (cf. Renn 1982: 38). As multiple researchers have shown, the profitability of nuclear energy is heavily depending on the amount of public subsidies (cf. Meyers 1977: 26/27) and as soon as those subsidies are no longer given, nuclear energy’s profitability no longer exists (cf. Tamplin/Gofman 1983: 49) – a result the MIT could confirm in 2003 (cf. 2003: ix). Morone and Woodhouse asked the question why “[t]he United States has invested more than 200 billion in an industry that is psychologically unacceptable to a majority of citizens, politically unacceptable to most elected officials, and economically unacceptable to utility companies” (1989: 29). George (1978: 39) states that the AEC – the commission responsible for the regulation and promotion of nuclear energy – recruits its members almost exclusively from former or active top-rank industry staff. On the basis of this observation, George concludes that nuclear energy was a vehicle to transfer public money into private companies – whether this observation can be confirmed or not will be discussed in the following section, which focuses on the entanglement of private companies and governmental regulation and promotion commissions. The insights from this section will help to understand risk-distribution schemes in the main part of this work.

In the fourth section of this work, the entanglement of politics and private actors will be looked at. The focus will be set on the change of organizations (from the AEC and JCAE to the ERDA and NRC and from there to the current model of the Department of Energy and the NRC). Further, the regulatory performance of the installed organizations will be discussed. Generally speaking, this section tries to deepen the understanding how regulation was organized in the United States. The central problem concerning regulation of sophisticated technology is that politics try to find a solution for a technological problem. However, the regulation of technology “requires expert knowledge which often resides solely within the industry” (Slayton/Clark-Ginsburg 2017: 1). This section aims at understanding which kind of political solution the United States has chosen to overcome this information gap.

After having gained insights on the regulatory picture, the main part of this work can tackle the question of the actual risk-distribution. Nuclear energy introduces a variety of risks – ranging from economic risks (R&D, production, construction, operation) to the case of hazards and disasters. With the help of risk-based regulation focusing on the past, it will be attempted to identify resource distribution schemes. This analysis will take place in three different sectors concerning nuclear energy and its production. Firstly, the R&D, the construction, and operation of reactors will be looked at and it will be tried to find out when which kind of actor had to cover which kind of risk and whether shifts in those constellations could be observed. This part strictly follows the technological innovation (LWR, HTGR, and LMFBR) and will show how the different actors involved reacted to market fluctuations and other risks. The second section will take a closer look at the nuclear supporting industry (mining, enrichment, reprocessing, and waste storage). All of those industry branches used to be organized by the state and were later partly privatized. The organization and degree of privatization, as well as risk-distribution among public and private actors, differ immensely depending on the sector. This will be analyzed in this sub-section. The last section in chapter 5 will focus again on nuclear power plants, this time with a special interest in security issues. Since the late 1970s no new reactors projects were realized. The security situation was distinctively different in the 1970s than it is today. As a result, many reactors lack much needed upgrades and protection. This sub-section will analyze which security measures were upgraded as a result of newly arising threats and who had to cover the costs for these upgrades. After having worked on these three areas (R&D and construction, supporting industry, security), it will be tried to draw conclusions on the basis of prior results and it will be attempted to answer the question whether certain trends and tendencies in risk-distribution among private and public actors can be observed and identified. At the end of this work an outlook on potential future research in the field of nuclear matters will be given.

2. The Changing Nature of Risk

“Risk is the potential for realization of unwanted, negative consequences of an event” (Rowe 1977: 24). Kates and Kasperson follow a similar approach when they state that “[…] risks are measures of the likelihood of specific hazardous events leading to certain adverse consequences” (1983:7029). But then again risk has been defined as the probability (or probability distribution) of positive and negative consequences, which can occur when a certain action or incident has been realized (cf. Renn 1984: 97). By those definitions, risk is not a fixed value but only a probability with which certain events and their consequences, negative as well as positive, may occur. Those three definitions already show that risk has always been a contested term and was negotiated and defined countless times. All three definitions have in common that they assign a certain probability to an event. The assignment of probabilities to different outcomes differentiates risk from uncertainty1 (cf. Knight 1965/1921). It can be stated that information about the world plays a crucial role in decision-making and the risk discourse. However, not only knowledge is crucial for the risk discourse but also the question of agency. Some scholars differentiate between risk (chosen by oneself) and danger (chosen by someone else) (cf. Rescher 1983: 6/7). But even without active decision-making, risk and danger has been mankind’s companion ever since as “[t]here will always be crisis, catastrophes and uncertainty” (Müller 1994: 372). For ages, the main causes of risk were produced by human environment itself as humans were depended on climate and fertile soil (cf. Renn 1984: 30) and so “natural phenomena such as earthquakes, storms, floods, or tsunamis” but also droughts were uncontrollable and God-given (Macamo/Neubert 2012: 82). However, perception of mankind’s impotence can only be uphold until mankind developed mechanisms to foresee, to control, and to mitigate the impacts of those disasters (Renn 1984: 29). One promising attempt to foresee, control, and mitigate risks was the development of technology. Some scholars argue that the development of technology enabled humans to thrive beyond their insufficient and limited God-given physical abilities (cf. Ropohl 1980: 3). However, it has to be acknowledged that technological progress is a source for improvement of life quality but simultaneously a thread to it as well (Douglas/Wildavsky 1982: 194). Over time, the scholarly perception of risk was shifting from exclusively natural disasters to “[…] accidents of a more technical nature” (Macamo/Neubert 2012: 82). Ulrich Beck’s argument is even more radical when he states that “[r]isk may be defined as a systematic way of dealing with hazards and insecurities induced and introduced by modernization itself” (1992: 21). Beck coined the term “risk society” which has been criticized by multiple scholars for its vagueness (cf. Schimank 1990: 62). Beck revisited his concept and came to the conclusion that societies which are confronted with the self-created possibility of self-destruction can be considered risk societies (cf. Beck 1988: 109). Beck’s risk society is still controversially discussed, especially due to his introduction of objective major threats, which he defines by their lack of containment; accountability, excludability, and compensability (cf. 1988: 9). The central weakness most of his critics aim at is that objectivity is an unachievable state as objective measurement of risk always contains a subjective connotation (cf. Hiller 1993: 16), even if it is the mental model of rationality which marks a predominantly Western/occidental discourse (cf. Ewald 1993: 10).

Even though there is an emerging amount of risk being introduced by modernization, it is argued that the response to modern-day risk should not be less technological progress but more (cf. Ropohl 1980: 4). Decisions produce risks2, especially in the technological-ecological sector (cf. Krücken 1997: 31), but technology also enable mankind to name and measure risk more precisely and opened up new possibilities (cf. Ewald 1993: 211). The constitution of risks and the overcoming of risk are related to one another, which produces a new type of rationale based on possibilities and probabilities (Krücken 1997: 34). These probabilities make it possible to choose between risks/dangers (cf. Kleinwellfonder 1996: 26). Manifestations of the probability-based rationales are insurances (cf. Krücken 1997: 34) which outsource risks through preventive aftercare (cf. Beck 1988: 10). A problem with that kind of risk perception is that risk is reduced to probability and insurability (cf. Krücken 1997: 36) and leaves out many other aspects. Further, it is argued that risk-aversion is quasi impossible (cf. ibid.) as every risk is accompanied by a potential gain or loss depending on the decision (cf. Kleinwellfonder 1996: 52). Thereby, risk-taking is motivated by the even bigger risk of not taking advantage of the chances which accompany risk (cf. Japp 1990: 38). In the field of technology, risk is accompanied by technological progress which translates itself into a gain of prosperity (cf. Kleinwellfonder 1996: 17). An argument which can be applied to justify either decision is temporal asymmetry. Temporal asymmetry describes the incident that loss (the negative realization of a risk (or not taking it)) can cause bankruptcy for decision-makers and businesses whereas a gain (the positive realization) does not secure the permanent existence of the business (cf. Sinn 1988: 13). This unequal distribution of chances and risks may be one explanation why organizations are, generally speaking, rather risk-aversive.

While traditionally risk was caused by nature and later by modernization, there is a growing amount of literature which argues that risk is the interplay of man-made inventions and natural phenomena. Referring to disaster situations, it was argued that disasters are a “complex intertwining of human interventions and environmental vulnerability” (Luig 2012: 4). As in the case of the hurricane Katrina in New Orleans but also the disaster in Fukushima, natural disasters unveiled the failures and weaknesses of mankind’s constructions. The disaster was perceived as a natural disaster at first but after evaluating the construction’s failures, the catastrophe was seen as “man made” (Keeble 2016: 168; Neuhaus 2017: 8). Mankind has produced technology to reduce risks and the same technology has introduced new forms of risks, which again have to be foreseen, controlled, and mitigated. However, the difference between those uncontrollable God-given risks and the one’s introduced by technology is that the latter can be ascribed to an individual, an institution, or governments and thereby the responsibility for those risks lies no longer in the hands of abstract entities but specific people (cf. Spaemann 1980: 192), which now leads to the question how the aforementioned risks and gains are distributed between the different institutions, actors, and individuals. The case of nuclear energy also requires further concepts to be introduced at this point. Firstly, the “knowledge gap” which describes a situation in which certain decisions have to be made but relevant information is missing (Munthe 2017: 2). Risk assessment can only argue on the basis of science’s status quo but how can something be scientifically evaluated if there are none or only very few empirical tests or prior experiences3 ? For that reason, such constellations were coined “trans-scientific dilemma” as science has introduced a question but cannot answer it accurately at the very moment (cf. Weinberg 1972: 209). “Economic decisions-making [among other decision scenarios] more often than not takes place in contexts where the agents do not know, and cannot know, the probability distribution over future events” (Ehring 2013: 37), which can be considered a knowledge gap. This knowledge gap can either be tolerated or the decision can be delayed (cf. Munthe 2017:3). Taking all possible scenarios in nuclear power plants into consideration, it can be argued that nuclear energy and all decisions concerning that topic feature a knowledge gap. The special case with nuclear energy, however, is that the knowledge gap is also combined with an existential risk or “ultimate harm” (Persson/Savulescu 2012). Existential risks come in two forms: They occur independently from human action and only require a response, or they arise out of otherwise valuable human action (Häggström: 2016). Nuclear energy most definitely falls into the latter of the two.

Throughout this thesis, it will be tried to find out how the risks of nuclear energy were and still are distributed among different organizations, institutions, and governments. In order to name the concrete threats in the different phases of the production of nuclear energy, the production of nuclear energy has to be understood first, so the next section will investigate the production of nuclear energy with a specific focus on potential dangers and risks.

2.1 The Production of Nuclear Energy

Nuclear energy was taken into consideration because prior technological advancement, such as fossil fuels, introduced a number of problems. The main concern was the competition for and shortage of fossil fuels, which, while being a crucial resource for energy stability and the economy, are finite resources (cf. Matthöfer 1977: 13; cf. Belknap 1977: 115). Nuclear energy was also developed because an on-going trend could be observed: Despite the usage of coal, gas, and other fossil fuels, it was projected that the world, especially the West, would need more energy for industry and private households (cf. Knizia 1977: 131; Elster 1993: 60). While those developments could also encourage a debate on resource distribution and global inequality (cf. Rose 1977: 127/128; Teller 1977: 141), this work will focus on the (geo-) political, economic, and military intentions that helped nuclear energy to be introduced as a large-scope technology. However, the technological processes and their potential risks have to be investigated first.

Nuclear energy is produced by the division of atoms. In the United States uranium-235 is used for that process (cf. Commoner 1977: 76). The core of the atom is shot with neutrons, which before they hit the uranium-235, go through water to slow them down as this increases their possibility to hit an uranium core. If a neutron hits the core of an atom and divides it, two new entities are formed which have almost the same mass as the original atom. The two smaller entities bounce into other atoms and divide those as well. A chain reaction has been triggered. The difference in mass is transformed into energy (cf. ibid.) and is absorbed by the surrounding water. The water is under pressure so that it can reach higher temperatures without evaporating (cf. Heinrich/Schmidt 1986: 70). The extremely hot water then goes through a heat exchanger and heats up water in another cycle. The other cycle is not under pressure; the water evaporates and runs a turbine, which then again produces electricity on the basic principles of a steam engine (cf. Heinrich/Schmidt 1986: 67). As mentioned earlier, uranium-235 is mostly used in traditional nuclear power plants. However, its natural deposit only makes up 0.7% of all uranium ore, which would not be sufficient to keep the chain reaction going as other uranium types, such as the very common uranium-238, would absorb the freed neutrons and thereby inhibit further reactions (cf. Commoner 1977: 77). To avoid that, the uranium mélange is turned gas and goes through a filter which filters out some of the heavier uranium-238 atoms. Thereby the concentration of uranium-235 goes up to ~3% (cf. ibid); the uranium is now enriched. After the uranium bars are used up in the reactors and the chain reaction comes to an end, they are replaced and the bars go into the process of reprocessing. Reprocessing describes the extraction of leftover uranium-235 and plutonium, which can also be used in nuclear power plants. After the extraction, the uranium-235 and the plutonium are used again for energy production whereas the rest is nuclear waste and has to be stored safely. Reprocessing was tried only relatively briefly in the United States since it turned out to be uneconomical and potentially dangerous as plutonium – the core component for a breeder economy – is also the main component of most modern nuclear weapons. It is argued that reprocessing is necessary as it provides the pre-conditions for more efficient breeder reactors (cf. Traube 1988: 127). The pressure water reactor described at the beginning of this section, as well as the high temperature gas cooled reactor, work on the same principles, yet the materials used for energy conversion are different and allow the high temperature gas cooled reactor to be more efficient. In contrast to the uranium-235 powered PWR and HTGCR, the breeder reactor uses plutonium which is encapsulated with uranium-238. After the plutonium core is divided, it triggers a reaction which turns the surrounding uranium-238 into plutonium as well (cf. Heinrich/Schmidt 1986: 77) – the breeder reactor literally breeds its only fuel by turning otherwise useless uranium-238 into plutonium. Also water is no longer used to slow down the neutrons to take up the produced heat but sodium, which can absorb higher temperatures and makes energy production more efficient (~40% energy conversion efficiency compared to 32% in the PWR) (cf. ibid.).

2.2 Potential Risks before, during, and after the Production of Nuclear Energy

Before the uranium or plutonium can be used in the reactor, it has to be mined. The majority of the material comes from South Africa, Namibia, Australia, Canada, Niger, and the USA (Kreusch/Hirsch 1988: 77). Further countries which mine uranium and sell it on the world market are located in Central Asia, such as Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, or Russia – countries whose accessibility used to be limited by the Cold War. Even though the mining process is not known for its inherent dangers, the environmental damages should still be mentioned here. They will also be analyzed in the section on mining. However, the main risks of nuclear energy are created in the energy production phase and the post-production phase when the highly enriched materials have to be stored.

The threats during the production can be categorized as internal threats and external threats. Internal threats are considered dangers which are produced by the technology itself whereas external threats are disasters triggered by an external factor. External threats can be divided into the categories natural or man-made. Earthquakes and floods, as seen in Fukushima, fall into the first whereas plane crashes, sabotage, terrorism or war fall into the latter category. Even though the Geneva Convention forbids attacks on nuclear power plants (cf. Heinrich/Schmidt 1986: 95), it is questionable whether all involved parties will stick to the agreement. The terrorism/sabotage debate has regained popularity in public as well as in scholarly discussions with a specific focus on the cyber security structures in nuclear power plants. Digital technologies run an emerging amount of the process in nuclear power plants, which makes it economical and convenient, yet those system are also “inherently susceptible to cyber attacks” (Ahn et al. 2015: 1). Further, nuclear power plants create vulnerability as they are turned off in cases of emergencies and threat. This may lead to a direct and strategic disadvantage, namely reduced energy supply, in case of a threat or a concrete danger (cf. Mechtersheim 1984: 150/151). Nuclear power plant’s lack of resilience unveils a problem for energy planners as nuclear power can only be used to a limited extent. If the energy mix is too depended on nuclear energy, society is more likely to experience blackouts and other damages (cf. Matsuzawa/Komiyama/Fujii 2017: 290). Yet another often neglected external factor in the debate is the fact that plutonium can also be used for atomic bombs. This leads to the necessity that all stages of the production and disposal have to be guarded by security specialists to avoid theft and potential misuse of the material (cf. Kankeleit/Küppers 1988: 128). Lastly, the diffusion of nuclear technology may also cause the problem of proliferation as countries and governments now hold the technological possibility to build atomic bombs (cf. Elster 1993: 66).

Internal threats are the threats introduced by the technology itself. Even though filter technology is applied, it cannot prevent that a certain amount of radioactive material pollutes the environment (cf. Huster 1977: 25). It should be considered a given that ultimate security cannot be guaranteed with any technology. However, the consequences of nuclear pollution are more drastic which creates the necessity to regulate nuclear pollution. While constant nuclear emission is certainly a problem, the majority of the risk discourse circles around the scenario of accidents. As mentioned in the prior section, a range of toxic chemicals is mixed, heated, and put under huge pressure. Due to the radioactive materials but also the production mechanisms as such, used materials and parts in nuclear power plants are exposed to a tremendous amount of stress and the pipes, bowls, walls, reactors, and others may break or leak due to attrition. Furthermore, nuclear power plants’ constant usage leads to faster attrition. Leaks, breaches, and failure of used materials are the consequences (cf. Begemann 1984: 123). Not every incident causes massive damages, yet they can. For instance, leaks in the breeder reactor can mix sodium and water, which results in an explosion. However, the worst-case scenario is the melting of the reactor’s core, which can happen when the cooling systems fail to work. In this case, the uranium/plutonium melts, burns itself through the iron reactor and finds its way into the environment (cf. Huster 1977: 26). The melting of the reactor’s core marks a distinct temporal episode as the existential risk changes its nature: From technology which has to be controlled to an uncontrollable risk to which mankind can only respond to and try to restrain the potential damage (Wörndl 1992: 88/89). The countless possibilities of technological failures are complemented by the human component, usually referred to as human failure, as for instance seen in the Browns Terry incident in Alabama (cf. Huster 1977: 27).

While it could be assumed that nuclear pollution is strongest during the production process, the refurbishment process outperforms all other stages in that regard (cf. Begemann 1984: 123). Even though filters are installed in almost all facilities, the threshold value is often exceeded (cf. Weiss 1984: 59) and pollutes the environment. No scientist can exactly measure the influence of nuclear particles on the human body but it is consensus that uranium, plutonium, and other leftover materials must be kept out of the biosphere (Köhnlein 1977: 32) as they take an extremely long time to dissolve. If nuclear pollution is absorbed by plants, water, soil, or animals it is only a matter of time until the pollution finds its way back to human beings through nature’s circle (cf. Weiss 1984: 64/65). Radiation is highly toxic and especially in the case of plutonium and its alpha-radiation it remains in the body for multiple decades where it can cause cancer (cf. Köhnlein 1977: 35/36 & 41).

The last threat of nuclear energy is the storage of nuclear waste. Here it can be differentiated between used up core material, hot waste, and cold waste. All three require the highest standard in cooling, shielding, and consistent containment (cf. Kreusch/Hirsch 1988: 77/78). The particular threat is generated through the temporal dimension of nuclear waste. As mentioned earlier, it takes an extremely long time until radiation drops (Kreusch/Hirsch 1988: 83). Especially the temporal dimension makes the nuclear waste discussion not only a political but also a generation problem as one generation produces a risk which will remain active and dangerous for more than 10,000 years. Further, unforeseeable changes of environment, i.e. swamping of vertical tunnels and shafts, cause the danger of nuclear waste being released. However, those changes cannot be foreseen, at least not for the necessary temporal period. As this section tried to illustrate, nuclear energy and its potential dangers in all stages of the production contain a “wide range of [potentially] global consequences” (Green/Percival/Ridge 1985: 91) as they affect mankind’s resources and habitat, such as nature, soil, water, and our very lives.

2.3 Risk-Assessment of Nuclear Energy and its Limits

In order to regulate a technology’s dangers, the risk of a certain technology has to be known and put into relation with its potential gain. The central problem is that nuclear energy introduces a variety of risks. Further, risk is not a stable entity as new information or new foci may gain popularity in the scientific community and society. Time thereby plays a crucial role as decisions can be considered an interpretation of current knowledge with a certain understanding of the past and vision for the future in mind (cf. Luhmann 1984: 116; Bergmann 1981: 38). Temporal aspects of risk-assessment and decision-making are essential as “[d]ecision, […], is a cut between the past and the future, an introduction of an essentially new standard […]” (Shackle 1969: 3). Decisions can be considered single spot-lights which show us how society, governments, and legislators understood and evaluated risk at a certain point in time. As argued earlier, risk is not a stable entity and past decisions/interpretations of risk may be re-evaluated differently in the future – it could be argued that future damages are assigned to past decisions (cf. Hiller 1993: 35). Of course there is not only one risk-assessment at the time and all of them are normatively biased (cf. Conrad 1987: 5) but past arrangements and legislations can serve as a matter of analysis to find the dominant risk-assessment of the time.

As stated earlier, risk is often considered a probability with which a certain event (and its consequences) may occur. If risk can be numerically calculated and depicted, why is there then so little consensus on risk-assessment? The first problem one encounters when trying to calculate risks in the nuclear energy sector is that almost all variables (probabilities and damages) are missing (cf. Kuhbier 1986: 612). Only few nuclear accidents happened and so the basis on which the risk can be estimated (not calculated) is relatively limited. On top come events, such as terror attacks, which cannot be measured in terms of statistics. It could be argued that the amount of hypotheses/made estimations is tested in reality (cf. Krohn/Weingart 1986: 1) and the real world becomes the lab to test them (cf. Krohn/Weyer 1989). That creates the unfortunate scenario that researchers and scientists enter a new area of research but the classic trial and error approach could not be applied. As outlined earlier, failures of nuclear experiments can result in massive destruction and contamination so that “the trials had to be on paper because the actual errors could be catastrophic” (cf. Teller/Brown 1962: 104). It could be argued that a decision under uncertainty can still be made with only one known variable (the damages) and multiple models try to help decision-makers to make such decisions. All those models have a certain bias (i.e. the MaxiMin and MaxiMax model as they are either too pessimistic (cf. Krelle 1968: 185) or too optimistic (cf. Kloepfer 1993: 63)) or work on the basis of instable preference structures (i.e. the Krelle-Rule or Hurwitz-Function (cf. Krelle 1968 & Hurwitz 1951)) and it has to be accepted that there is not an all-encompassing scheme which can consider all kinds of costs and damages4 (cf. Kollert 1993: 36).

Unfortunately, not only the damages of a potential nuclear power plant accident can only be vaguely estimated but also the probability with which such an accident could occur. Even though technical difficulties could be calculated quite accurately, almost all analyses consider technological facilities as closed systems which operate independently from their environment (cf. Hiller 1993: 132). The neglect of external effects does not only involve hostile actions from the outside (terror, sabotage, destruction) but also human failure, which is considered the main reason for the Chernobyl disaster (Dörner 1989: 47/48) and the Three Mile Island incident. Summarizing, it can stated that the possibility of a pure technical failure is relatively low but does not take into account the environment of the facility. Further, it can be stated that the damages can also not be calculated accurately due to a lack of experiments and experience. Also it should be noted that there is no absolute elimination of risk unless technology is forbidden (cf. Kloepfer 1993: 66). As a closing remark, it could be argued that the only argument against the immeasurable potential damages is their relatively bare probability (cf. Bechmann/Frederichs 1980), even though that probability cannot be measure accurately. Risk – or the perception of risks – is not a stable entity and thereby makes it difficult to regulate nuclear energy solely on the potential dangers and risks attached to it. But what kind of theoretical framework allows re-constructing the risk-preferences of past governments and how they regulated that risk?

2.4 How to Regulate Risks caused by Nuclear Energy?

To control the risks of nuclear energy, the production of it has to be regulated and supervised. The same holds true for the waste disposal and every other aforementioned step in the production of nuclear energy. Generally speaking, regulation can be considered “[…] a process involving the sustained and focused attempt to alter the behavior of others according to identified purposes with the intention of producing a broadly identified outcome” (Black 2002: 170). Regulation is often understood as the intersection of politics, law, and economics. To the three aforementioned disciplines, natural science could be added in the case of nuclear energy since the regulation of emissions and pollution, as one example of applied regulations, can be considered a negotiation process between the technological-scientific advancements and society (cf. Rohrmann 1993: 294). As a later chapter will show in greater detail, there is a complex entanglement of governmental and commercial interest in the case of nuclear energy and its production as governments have supported, directed, and regulated nuclear energy since its earliest days (cf. Starr 1993: 18). Scholarly explanations for the implementation of (de-)regulation range from neo-classical economic ideology and rising national debt to the need for investment into public infrastructure, which the state could not provide at a certain point in time, and the inadaptability of the welfare state model to adapt to a globalized environment (cf. Yeung 2013: 68/69). A trend of the past three decades is the on-going privatization of businesses formerly run by governments. This changes the role of the state from a former employer to a sheer regulator (cf. Majone 1994). With this understanding of regulatory regimes, regulation serves the purpose of improving market efficiency by correcting market failures “such as monopoly, imperfect information, and negative externalities” (Majone 1994: 79). In the United States, the regulatory sector emerged in President Roosevelt’s New Deal Era as a response to the Great Depression (cf. Yeung 2013: 72/73). However, the regulatory sector eventually grew over time and did not limited itself to the correction of market failures but as late as the 1970s also tackled social issues and gained huge support from activists (cf. ibid.). The heydays of regulation in the United States coincidentally fell in the times of the attempted large-scale commercialization of nuclear energy and, as shown later, made it nearly impossible for nuclear energy to establish itself on the market.

While neo-economic regulation is often seen as an uncontested paradigm, guided by numbers and calculations and conducted by economic experts and policy-makers, risk-based regulation follows a different approach which also opens opportunities for civilian participation (Black 2013: 309). Risk-based regulation tries to measure risk and attach it to behaviors, structures, or states aiming at a purpose-driven allocation of resources (cf. Black/Baldwin 2012: 14). Risk-based regulation focuses on risks, not rules which have to be obeyed (cf. Black/Baldwin 2010: 184). Risk places multiple roles in the process as it serves as a justification for regulation but also defines the object which should be regulated (cf. Black 2013: 306). It should be noted that risk-based regulation cannot deliver plans but just “systemize decision-making5 and render what is tacit explicit […]” (Black/Baldwin 2012: 14). In contrast to purely economic regulation, risk-based regulation approaches share a common problem. As outlined earlier in this work, the perception and evaluation of risk is not stable and changes over time (cf. Black 2013: 306-308) which makes it difficult for policy-makers to establish guidelines. It can be argued that fast-paced changes in the world not only affect risk-perception and regulation but also led to changes in regulation approaches in general. One of those potential changes may be the shift of incentives with which states try to alter the behavior of certain industries and actors. Under the umbrella term of proceduralization a shift in regulation from the imposition of laws to more indirect strategies (subsidies, taxes, etc.) is understood (cf. Black 2000: 598). “Procedural law is a shift to more indirect and abstract guidance mechanisms […]” (ibid.) and should thereby also be taken into account in this work. Risk-based regulation in combination with proceduralization describes the prioritization of certain sources of risks and the resources allocated to those risks. In this work, the view is focused on past regulation. It will be attempted to reconstruct former government’s prioritization by going through direct (laws, required guidelines) and indirect (taxes, subsidies, financial arrangements) regulation attempts. By looking at the past laws and arrangements, it is aimed to identify a shift in prioritization. After having identified what was important for governments in certain temporal episodes, it will be tried to find out who had to carry which kind of risk at certain points in time and whether there is a shift of responsibilities from the private sector to the public sector or vice versa.

One strategy of choice to mitigate potential damages caused by nuclear power plants would be to insure them. For the payment of a fee, the insurance provides an estimable amount of money to cover the damage (cf. Gethmann 1993: 5). Insurances force yet another decision: Tolerating and living with the risk (and the potential damage) or paying the fee and outsourcing the risk (cf. Lindley 1974: 20). Therefore, the potential damages as well as the damages’ probability have to been known (cf. Gethmann 1993: 7). As argued earlier, both variables in this equation are unknown. From a purely technical standpoint, nuclear power plants are uninsurable and even if they were, the potential damages and their costs6 would cause enormous risks for the insurance company as well as the operators of the facility. Yet, nuclear power plants exist and there are insurance and bail-out models which secure them in case of a disaster. Again, the arrangements between states and companies will be later investigate but it can already be said that the co-operation between states and private companies made the economically impossible possible. Insurances are listed separately here even though they can also be part of risk-based regulation as states can pass legislation which makes insurances mandatory (i.e. Price-Anderson Act of 1957). However, insurances are special as they open up unique ways to distribute risks as the Price-Anderson Act of 1957 and its amendment in 1975 have shown and as insurances do not prevent disasters/regulate the source of danger but only become relevant in a post-disaster scenario.

In order to find out how risks are regulated and distributed between the state and the private sector, both – direct and indirect – guidance mechanisms have to be analyzed. The core of this work is the analysis of laws concerning nuclear energy companies and will follow a risk-based regulation approach. The laws, guidelines, and incentives will be analyzed with regard to the object they try to regulate and the legitimization of regulation. Further, the structure of the regulatory process will be looked at. In the last step, the accountability relationships will be analyzed and it will be tried to identify shifts of responsibilities. As argued earlier, the sheer analysis of laws is insufficient to completely apprehend regulation regimes. Therefore, the indirect incentives (agreements, subsidies, etc.) will also be part of the analysis. This work is aiming at a demarcation of different temporal stages in the production of nuclear energy and tries to find out whether a shift in risk distribution among governments and the private sector can be observed.

3. The Role of Nuclear Energy in the United States

This section aims at providing an overview over different processes concerning nuclear energy. Firstly, a short history of nuclear energy in the United States will be given in which central milestones of nuclear power plants will be discussed. That section is followed by an introduction into the geopolitics of nuclear energy and how the United States tried to regulate nuclear developments globally. Afterwards, economic aspects of nuclear power will be discussed. Lastly, the key incentives for the introducing of nuclear energy will be revisited. The section will close with a remark on institutional responsibilities concerning regulation and promotion of nuclear energy and will lead over to section four, which will discuss regulatory performance and opposing incentives more deeply.

3.1 A Short History of Nuclear Energy in the United States

The United State’s history of nuclear energy can be split into three phases: The technological testing phase (1946-1962), the commercialization phase (1962-1974) and the decay phase (1975-present). After WWII, the Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) promoted the peaceful use of the Manhattan Project’s findings, which were sponsored with $2.2 billion via the government (cf. Nye 1998: 201). But before nuclear power could be used peacefully, the technology had to be transformed for its civilian use. The head of the Atomic Energy Commission Reactor Safeguards Committee, Edward Teller, stated that “the trials had to be on paper because the actual errors could be catastrophic” (cf. Teller/Brown 1962: 104) and so the AEC suggested strategic placement of reactors, far away from major cities (cf. Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 68). A testing lab in Argonne (a city outside Chicago) was moved further away as “[…] adopting a very conservative attitude on safety is not an unnecessary luxury” (cf. Zinn 1948 qtd. in Hewlett/Duncan 1972: 196). In the following years, it was attempted to make nuclear energy as safe as possible. The aim was to develop designs which could contain “any radioactivity that might be produced in a reactor accident” (Hewlett/Duncan 1974: 176). The prevention strategy resulted in what is known as conservative designs, which means that a greater margin of error had to applied, higher capacities than usually needed had to provided, etc. (cf. Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 72). This however, led to a vicious circle of “What If”-scenarios and the scientists had to accept that they could impossibly exterminate all potential failures and instead focused on the development of systems which “operate when such problems occur” (Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 73). Many of those developments and inventions were created under the Atoms for Peace program, which was the “major government program in the 1950s” (Nye 1998: 201) and demonstrated the technological leadership of the United States (cf. Mazuzan/Walker 1981: 308). In 1962, the AEC declared that embryonic period of nuclear energy was over and that the new form of energy was ready for commercial development (Mazuzan/Walker 1981: 307) and “the Atomic Energy Act subsidized private nuclear power that could compete with other forms of energy” (Nye 1998: 201). However, it took another three years before the first reactors were ordered. Between 1965 and 1974, a total of 200 reactors were ordered (cf. Jurewitz 2009: 204). Especially the first part of that phase was characterized by great enthusiasm and the lines between science fiction and reality became blurred as it was predicted that cars would run a year “on a pellet of atomic energy the size of a vitamin pill” (Ford 1984: 30/31) and even the OECD estimated that nuclear energy will be a competitive source of energy by 1970 (cf. 1961: 57). Those predictions were certainly inspired by the zeitgeist. However, by 1970, nuclear energy “supplied less energy than firewood” (Nye 1998: 201) and was considered “an infant industry” (Connor 1974: 63). An obvious problem was that competing sources of energy were too cheap (cf. ibid.) but also emerging protest movements formed and pressured jurisdiction to revise decisions. One of those jurisdictions was that in 1971 all 60 reactors (operating and under construction) had to be relicensed (cf. Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 85). Further, “[…] the AEC was dismantled and replaced by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) and the Energy Research and Development Administration (ERDA) (predecessor to the Department of Energy)” (Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 85/86). The latter of the two institutions handled responsibilities for reactor development (cf. Gillette 1972: 970/971). Also the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy was dissolved and various other committees tried to extend their competences by interfering with the field of nuclear energy (cf. Woodhouse 1983). Due to the on-going protests, the political restructuring, and more complex regulatory processes, delays in construction became more apparent7 (cf. Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 86). But also the political climate has changed between 1965 and 1972 and citizens had less trust in politics and businesses, which was the time when nuclear power became politically visible. The changed political climate but also Wall Street’s reluctance of risks led to cancellations of orders (cf. Jurewitz 2009: 205). Orders of 43 reactors were cancelled in the second half of the 1970s and another 54 orders were cancelled in the first half of the 1980s (cf. ibid.). Investor’s reluctance towards nuclear energy can also be partly explained by the cost escalation. It is assumed that the costs of reactors rose by 8.1% from the 1970s to the 1990s (cf. Harris et al. 2013). Reasons for the cost explosion were the aforementioned decentralized decision-making and involvement of multiple entities in the regulation process (cf. Lovins 1986) but also the not existing standard of reactors which resulted in tailor-made drafts, constructions, and designs and thereby rising costs for the individual investor (cf. Komanoff 2010: 2). The collapse of fossil fuel prices in the mid-1980s is considered the “final nail in the coffin” of nuclear energy as it was considered too expensive and too risky (ibid.). The investors of nuclear energy tried to cut their losses and, with the exception of the already operating power plants, nuclear enterprise was considered to be dead (cf. Morone/Woodhouse 1989: 87). From there on, the remaining nuclear power plants produced energy and turned out to be economical after time (cf. Jurewitz 2009: 205), while the problematic and inconsistent plants were shut down in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2017, 99 reactors are still operating and the OECD’s prediction was not completely misled when they estimated that nuclear energy will make great contributions and “introduce new flexibility into energy policy” (1961: 63) as nuclear energy currently makes up 20 percent of the United States’ energy production (cf. de Blasio/Nephew 2017: 19) and 70% of all emission-free energy produced in the United States (cf. Kinsella 2015: 350). However, capacity is aging and “there are few near-term prospects for construction of new plants beyond the four units under construction” (ibid.). Additionally, it is projected that more energy will be needed globally and fossil fuels are getting less attractive due to their impact on the climate. Due to the aforementioned arguments, it may happen that interest in nuclear energy could reignite in the near future (cf. Zohuri 2017: 3).

3.2 Geopolitics and Nuclear Energy

As argued earlier, nuclear energy can cause the risk of proliferation. Due to its historical and geopolitical relevance, the risk of proliferation should not be neglected in this work. However, it can be categorized as a governmental responsibility and will be treated as such. In this section, the United States’ strategies and efforts to avoid proliferation will be discussed and it will be shown how those efforts translate into global policies, institutions and guidelines, which are still intact today.

The United States followed an isolation strategy to prevent data concerning nuclear energy being used by other states. The Atomic Energy Act (AEA) of 1946 defined all information concerning materials, procedures, and usage as “restricted data” and penalized every person who communicates, distributes, or otherwise transmit restricted data to “secure an advantage to any foreign nation […]” with a five digit fine, imprisonment, and even the death penalty (AEA 1946: 13). In the early 1950s, however, the Eisenhower administration had to accept that it is virtually impossible to “dam…the flow of information” and the resulting technological developments of other nations (Dull qtd. in Potter 1982). The American monopoly on nuclear technology was de facto over. Therefore, the United States changed their approach and promoted the controlled distribution of knowledge and know-how when Eisenhower suggested the founding of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA). The IAEA should enable other nations to make use of nuclear energy while ensuring that “nuclear facilities were not diverted from civil to military uses” (de Blasio/Nephew 2017: 9). Simultaneously, Eisenhower emphasized the “universal, efficient, and economic usage” of nuclear energy in his Atoms for Peace speech (1953). For the training of foreign scientists but also the construction of test reactors abroad the AEA of 1946 had to be revised in 1954 and then allowed “nuclear technology and material exports if the recipient countries committed not to use them to develop weapons” (Lavoy 2003). A further incentive to provide nuclear technology to “free world nations” was caused by the geopolitical tensions between the USSR and the United States and, in the competition for hearts and minds, “[t]hese exports were intended to maintain U.S. global leadership, reduce Soviet influence, and assure continued access to foreign uranium and thorium supplies” (ibid.). But also economic interests played a role as reactors and fuels were demanded globally and the U.S. was one of the few states which could deliver. It is estimated that until 1975, $29 billion were generated through nuclear exports (cf. von Cube/Neuberger/Sieker 1987: 157). The United States’ foreign politics pursued contradictory goals by trying to prevent a nuclear arms race on the one hand and the promotion of “atomic energy for the general benefit of mankind” on the other (York 1975: 110).

The following decade was characterized by growing skepticism among states. President John F. Kennedy was worried “that 10, 15, or 20 nations will have a nuclear capacity, […], by the end of the Presidential office in 1964” (1960). The result of the global tensions was that deterrence became the strategy of choice to avoid nuclear conflicts. The fact that both global powers, the USSR and the USA, were exposed to the possibility of “mutual assured destruction”, created a “balance of terror” which forced both parties to not cause any further hot conflict (Rauf 2017: 12). The American deterrence strategies changed over time as the initial massive retaliation approach, in which “the U.S. would rely on the threat of massive nuclear retaliation to protect the entire spectrum of American interests, ranging from the most peripheral to the most vital” (Powell 1990: 13), was not taken serious by the USSR and also limited America’s geopolitical options (cf. Mies 1979: 13). Each of the following deterrence approaches mirrors the strategic dilemmas the two superpowers have navigated themselves into. After some almost hot nuclear conflicts, the United States and the global community wanted to solve the problem of proliferation and so the United Kingdom, the United States, the USSR, France, and China signed the Treaty on Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) in 1968. The NPT was supposed to “facilitate the peaceful use of nuclear energy for development and prosperity” (Abdrakhmanov 2017: ix) and until today only 4 nations have not signed the treaty (Israel, Pakistan, India, and South Sudan) while the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea has withdrawn their signature (cf. Dhanapala/Rauf 2017: 1). Alongside the signing of the NPT, the IAEA was also restructured in the late 1960s and early 1970s and is now sometimes considered “[…] a watchdog” (Dhanapala/Rydell 2017: 6) which ensures security standards and civil use of nuclear energy. Maria Rentetzi describes the IAEA’s work as following (2017:1):

A product of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty that came into force in 1970, the first Safeguards Analytical Laboratory was established in 1967, in a facility leased by the IAEA, in order to detect the misuse of nuclear materials and technology and to ensure that member states were honoring their safeguards obligations. As provided by the treaty, the IAEA had a mandate to verify that a member state was living up to its commitment to use nuclear materials for peaceful purposes and not for making nuclear weapons. As part of the verification process, nuclear samples collected by IAEA safeguards inspectors from nuclear fuel cycle processes were sent for analysis to the Safeguards Analytical Laboratory.

The IAEA appears to be a powerful institution but by taking into account the immense task it has to solve, the IAEA can be considered rather weak (cf. Attali 1996: 62). Two circumstances may support this critical evaluation of the IAEA. Firstly, the IAEA has no means of sanctioning misconduct. Its only possibility to create pressure on states which disobey the agreement is to inform other institution, for instance the UN Security Council which is considered the “final arbiter and enforcer of the global treaty regime” (Roberts 2002: 264). Secondly, the budget of the IAEA is limited (1995: $211.5 Mio.) of which a third is spent on the actual controls (cf. Attali 1996: 62.). With that budget, the IAEA can only overlook around 7% of the worldwide nuclear industry (cf. ibid.). As a result of the IAEA’s limited scope, “[t]here has been a long history of fissile material disappearing from poorly guarded facilities” (Bernstein 2010: 279), such as the incident in India in 1974 when uranium worth $2.5 million was smuggled out of the country and later sold to different intelligence institutions (cf. Meyer-Abich/Schefold 1986: 67).

The NPT primarily aimed and still aims at the reduction of military nuclear capacity globally without any state facing strategic disadvantages. 25 years after the initial signing of the document, its progress should be evaluated. The evaluation resulted in an indefinite extension of the NPT (Rauf 2017: 1). Over the years, the NPT was complemented by multiple other agreements and measures which forbid testing of nuclear weapons and other actions in order to reduce nuclear risks caused by weapons (cf. Rauf 2017: 2). Some of those complementary agreements mirror the major strategies at the time, for example the Anti-Ballistic-Missile agreement (ABM), which denied both parties - Russia and the USA (it was only ratified by three nuclear weapons states) at the time - to build defensive shields and left both in a state of vulnerability and thereby made the option of a preventive or first strike less attractive as they had to fear counteractions (cf. Fuerth 2002: 189). It could be argued that the ABM of 1972 should prevent defensive proliferation, which would have resulted in further offensive proliferation by another party while reminding both superpowers that invulnerability to nuclear weapons is an illusion (cf. Chauvistre 2001: 12/13). Born out of Cold War experiences, most agreements tend to focus on the main nuclear players at the time, the USA and Russia. Consequently, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) was negotiated and later expanded by the START II agreement which should result in a “smaller overall force” of nuclear weapons on both sides (Fuerth 2002: 189). Especially the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which should forbid nuclear weapon tests, created tensions as it was rejected by the U.S. Senate in the first run and raised the question of the likelihood that nuclear weapon states will live up to their obligations under the NPT or whether they will undermine the performance of Article VI of the NPT (cf. Roberts 2002: 262). Article VI of the NPT primarily aims at preventing vertical proliferation, ergo the total amount of weapons held by the nuclear powers (cf. von Cube/Neuberger/Sieker 1987: 160). The NPT also tries to inhibit horizontal proliferation, which describes the number of states, organizations, and groups having access to nuclear weapons, and those efforts were reinforced by the formation of the London Supplier Club (1975) and the U.S. Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act of 1978. Both measures agreed on export of nuclear technology but only under the condition that the “prior consent” is given and that the receiving states allow IAEA’s safeguard controls on their nuclear sites (cf. von Cube/Neuberger/Sieker 1987: 160, 162/163). The attempt to limit horizontal proliferation is of particular importance as it may trigger strategic build-up by additional nations attempting to reach “parity with the superpowers or near-superpowers” (De Volpi 1979: 17). Even though the NPT and the following agreements are rather abstract and do not have a clear formula how to react to misconduct, it created a sense of security by evening out an information gap concerning the ownership of nuclear weapons and thereby prevented further proliferation (cf. Attali 1996: 21) by states which may have invested into nuclear weapons to avoid a potential strategic disadvantage. However, the NPT and the follow-up agreements also had their downsides. While the agreements were mostly negotiated under a Cold War background, neo-realists scholars detect weaknesses which were mostly unveiled after the bipolar/duopoly era. Even though “[t]he IAEA has gained new rights to conduct special inspections, with promise of more to come” (Roberts 2002: 261), some scholars emphasize the different incentives of different states in the non-proliferation efforts and that the rather “[…] general agreement imposes no restraint on a North Korea or an Iraq” (Schlesinger 2002: 253). North Korea and Iraq were chosen by the author to underline that some states may cooperate in the first place only to get access to non-military nuclear technology and then “cheat early” (Schlesinger 2002: 252) and abandon the agreements – resulting in additional and unsupervised nuclear power. While the NPT and its follow-up agreements were designed for a duopoly of nuclear powers, it tends to have problems with a multi-agent setting as it can only provide pressure through the United Nations Security Council, in which the permanent members can boycott decisions by vetoing each other and so allow regional developments which may be in their short-term geopolitical interest but oppose the idea of the NPT and can result in further horizontal and vertical proliferation. All praise and optimism aside, it should be noted that “[w]hile the threat of war is low, massive nuclear arsenals are still in place […]” (Bluth 2000: 179) and the agreements mentioned above, such as the ABM, which was canceled in 2002, are gradually used as strategic means of articulation in geopolitics (cf. Scholl-Latour 2007: 1). As a closing remark on the ABM treaty, it can be stated that the “Bush administration used terror as a cover for renouncing the ABM treaty”, with the result that China, Pakistan, and India enlarged their already existing nuclear capacity and that non-nuclear states, whose interests differ from the United States’, such as “North Korea, Iraq, Iran, and others know that the U.S. can be held at bay only by deterrence” (Waltz 2002: 351).

As this section was hopefully able to show, nuclear energy and nuclear weapons are Siamese twins who have never really been separated as the civil infrastructure of nuclear energy can also serve military purposes (cf. von Cube/Neuberger/Sieker 1987: 161). Developed as a weapon of war, nuclear energy was transformed for its civil use and was a very promising and world-wide attraction causing technology. However, the distribution of this versatile technology caused a global game-theoretical scenario of trust and potential defect/betrayal, which resulted in proliferation. Due to the extremely high dangers of a potential nuclear conflict, the deterrence approach was discarded and replaced by disarmament which manifested itself in the NPT and the later negotiated complimentary agreements. Those agreements are often portrayed as global efforts and collectively negotiated agreements, yet it should not be neglected that “[i]n the case of nuclear energy, the major powers became the dominant players within the IAEA” (Kelly 2013: 826) and the interest of those dominant powers are nowadays expressed more covertly through those institutions.


1 Later publications split the term uncertainty into two sub-categories, ambiguity and unawareness. Ambiguity is there defined as the knowledge about different possibilities without the corresponding probabilities whereas unawareness is understood as only incomplete knowledge about the different possibilities in the first place (cf. Svetlona/van Elst 2013: 44).

2 Decisions also involve taking responsibility for the decision (cf. Krücken 1997: 50) which leads to the observation that organized social systems are generally rather risk-aversive (cf. Harrison/March 1984).

3 Even the question of how many repetitions/experiences are needed is a highly subjective debate and takes certain pre-assumptions/mental models as granted (cf. Streitferdt 1973: 9).

4 One of the central reasons for the countless possibilities to measure risks are not only the different cognitive modes and biases with which risks can be measured but also the social, political, and economic integration of the risk discourse which mirrors the expectations and desires of different groups in society (cf. Nowotny 1993: 285).

5 It is suggested to first define the object of regulation and then identify the so-called risk appetite of the organization. After having identified the tolerable risks (risk appetite), an assessment of the potential hazard should take place. The identified scenarios and activities are then assigned scores. On the basis of those scores, resources are assigned to different entities (cf. Black/Baldwin 2010: 184/185).

6 The costs of the Chernobyl disaster have been estimated to be around 600 billion DM (cf. Kollert 1993: 49). Even without further economic models and calculations, it can be estimated that the mandatory payment of such an amount would instantly put any company out of business.

7 Between 1966 and 1970, the time to gain a construction permit tripled to 3.5 years (cf. Weingast 1980: 243). This tendency is also mirrored in the construction time. Reactors ordered in the 1950s needed 5 years to be built whereas reactors from the 1970s took 14 years to be constructed (cf. Davis 2012).

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Risk-Distribution among Public and Private Actors in the United States' Nuclear Sector
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Nuclear Energy Atomenergie Risiko Terror Public Private
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Till Neuhaus (Author), 2018, Risk-Distribution among Public and Private Actors in the United States' Nuclear Sector, Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/470715


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