Nuclear safety and conflicts

The use of nuclear energy requires an extensive institutional and physical infrastructure upon a foundation of stable intrastate conditions and interstate relations. This being the case, conflicts can result in catastrophic accidents, either deliberately or unintentionally. This can be explained not only in terms of the strategic relevance of the energy supply in military conflicts, but also the increased accident risks and hazards arising from collateral damage, as well as the erosion of the safety culture and institutional control in crisis regions with a nuclear infrastructure.

Four concrete case studies of how nuclear security and safety are deliberately or unintentionally by conflicts will be analysed in the project. The results of the case studies will be systematized and the risks for nuclear safety and security will be assessed. The four cases to be investigated are the conflict in the Ukraine in connection with the Ukrainian nuclear industry, the operation of the aged Metsamor reactor in Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and the military threat to the Krško reactor in Slovenia during the Yugoslavian civil war.

The risks emanating from a disrupted nuclear infrastructure are often ignored. There also appears to be an assumption that as with the use of nuclear weapons, conflict parties will refrain from deliberately attacking nuclear facilities because to do so would break a taboo. The project is intended to help fill the gap that there has been comparatively little research, reporting and public discussion on the hazard potential of nuclear facilities in unstable regions and armed conflicts.