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Armed Conflict and Nuclear Security: Implications for Europe

Publisher: SIPRI
SIPRI, Stockholm:
April, 2023

The traditional approach to nuclear security is unlikely to be effective against the full spectrum of current threats, including those posed by state actors. The lessons learned from the Russian occupation of Ukrainian nuclear power plants, the potential radiological consequences of armed attacks against nuclear facilities and the potential increase in the number of nuclear power states in the future underscore the need for a strong international framework to address nuclear security challenges.

The European Union (EU) is committed to implementing the highest international standards for nuclear security and may therefore be in a position to lead efforts to address threats of armed attacks against nuclear installations. This paper provides a range of potential policy recommendations and actionable steps that the EU and its member states could take at legal, institutional and operational levels to minimize the nuclear security threats posed by armed conflict in the future. While they may appear politically challenging or even unrealistic at present, the conflict in Ukraine highlights the very real need for the types of actions recommended by this paper.


I. Introduction

II. Nuclear security

III. Nuclear security during an armed conflict

IV. Shortcomings of the existing nuclear security framework

V. The way forward and the EU’s role

VI. Conclusion


Muhammed Ali Alkiş is a Research Affiliate and the Gender Champion at the Odesa Center for Nonproliferation. In addition, he is the World Institute for Nuclear Security (WINS) Ambassador to Türkiye and a PhD candidate at Hacettepe University, Türkiye. His research interests are nuclear security, non-proliferation and nuclear terrorism, as well as Turkish nuclear and foreign policies.