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The NPT review process and strengthening the treaty: peaceful uses

Non-proliferation Paper No. 11

Non-proliferation Paper No. 11

Publisher: SIPRI
15pp.
February, 2012

The peaceful use of nuclear energy, although at first glance a rather technical subject, is becoming an increasingly contested issue within the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) context. This politicization can be traced back to a number of recent developments in the discourse on peaceful uses of nuclear energy. First, the growing interest of a number of countries in establishing domestic nuclear energy programmes has been met with scepticism in certain circles of the industrialized world. Second, and not surprisingly, these doubts have led to a new discussion on the correct interpretation of NPT Article IV on peaceful uses of nuclear energy; with one camp devoted to restricting the unfettered access to nuclear technologies and the other camp defending their inalienable rights to peaceful uses of nuclear energy. This debate on nuclear energy cannot be reduced to a mere North–South divide, but cuts across established nuclear energy countries as well. With a changing nuclear energy map, some of these divisions are likely to increase unless a new consensus on Article IV is reached. This paper discusses the current controversies over peaceful uses of nuclear energy and sketches some policy options that may bridge these divisions.