|Energy after Rio - Prospects and Challenges - Executive Summary (UNDP, 1997, 38 p.)|
|2. Energy and Major Global Issues|
|2.4 Energy and Security|
dependence on oil imports represents one of the significant potential sources of conflict in the world today
Current approaches to energy pose major national, regional and global threats to security, and ultimately sustainable development.
There are many security issues related to energy. An issue of dominant concern is the growing dependence of most OECD and developing countries on oil imports from the Middle East. This dependence represents one of the significant potential sources of conflict in the world today.
Dependence on Middle Eastern oil is likely to persist, since 65% of the worlds proven oil reserves are in the Middle East, and oil production costs are especially low there.
Security concerns relating to energy also arise in the harnessing of rivers for hydro-power in watersheds, involving several countries. On the other hand, strong connections between supply sources and markets, such as in the case of natural gas pipelines, can lead to mutual dependence and be a stabilising factor. This is the energy-security nexus.
if nuclear power produces an even more significant proportion of world energy, the safeguarding of weapons-usable materials will become still more daunting
Today, nuclear power accounts for about 5% of the worlds energy, and about 15% of its electricity. Nuclear energy could replace baseload fossil fuel electricity generation in many parts of the world, if generally acceptable responses can be found to concerns such as reactor safety, radioactive-waste transport and disposal, and proliferation.
Nuclear power poses security challenges because of the link between nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Nuclear power programmes require national cadres of nuclear scientists and technicians, a network of research facilities, research reactors and laboratories - all indispensable to a nuclear weapons programme. But the most direct connection between civilian nuclear power programs to produce electricity and nuclear weapons proliferation - the (nuclear) energy-nuclear weapons nexus - is through the production and use of fissile materials, plutonium and highly-enriched uranium, which could be used in nuclear weapons.
For these reasons the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty was developed (and there are now 175 parties to the Treaty as of 5 November 1996) to provide a system of safeguards aimed at assuring that civilian nuclear power programs not be used to divert nuclear materials to weapon usage. Unfortunately, safeguards are an imperfect barrier to proliferation.
If in the long run nuclear power comes to produce an even more significant proportion of world energy, the safeguarding of weapons-usable materials will become still more daunting. A nuclear explosive device can be constructed with less than 10 kg of plutonium, while a 1000 MW power reactor produces more than 200 kg of plutonium per year. It is difficult to imagine human institutions capable of safeguarding these plutonium flows against occasional diversions of significant quantities to nuclear weapons.