Policy Analysis: The Future of Nuclear Energy

WWS 594q – Half Term Course
Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University, Spring 2011

Wednesdays, 7:00-10:00 p.m., Robertson Hall 012

Interest is growing worldwide in nuclear energy as a low-carbon energy source that could help limit climate change. But nuclear energy is not just another energy source; it can facilitate the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and the national prestige that has become attached to nuclear energy programs at times trumps the economics and energy-security arguments that shape energy policy. At the same time, public opinion on nuclear energy remains highly volatile, partly due to concerns about nuclear reactor accidents and long-term radioactive waste disposal. This course will explore current debates about nuclear energy and assess the prospects of a possible “nuclear renaissance.” We will briefly review the basic science and technology and current uses of nuclear energy, looking in particular at its economics and arrangements to prevent its use for weapons purposes. We also will analyze various policy proposals to facilitate the safe and rapid global expansion of nuclear energy.

Course Format and Requirements

Most individual classes will have two parts, beginning with a tutorial or a briefing by a guest followed by group discussions. Weekly readings are typically organized along selected themes. Tuesdays before class, students submit a short note (150–350 words) on the readings, highlighting a critical argument and offering a point for further discussion in class. A 1000-word policy memo will be due on February 23. A short (15-page) final paper based on the first policy memo or a second policy memo on a different topic will be due after Spring Break. Students will be asked to present their paper to the class in the last week of the course. Grades will be based on the following scheme: 20% (four) weekly notes; 25% policy memo; 35% short final paper or second policy memo; 20% class participation including presentation.

Core readings:

The following references cover many areas that we will be discussing in this course; individual articles and chapters will be assigned.

Mark Holt, Nuclear Energy Policy, Congressional Research Service, RL33558, October 2010, www.fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/RL33558.pdfDaedalus, The Global Nuclear Future, Volume 1, 138 (4), Fall 2009.
Electronic access at www.mitpressjournals.org/loi/daed

Daedalus, The Global Nuclear Future, Volume 2, 139 (1), Winter 2010.
Electronic access at www.mitpressjournals.org/loi/daed

Nuclear Power Joint Fact-Finding, Keystone Center, Keystone, CO, June 2007.
Electronic access at www.keystone.org

The Future of Nuclear Power: An Interdisciplinary MIT Study, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, 2003. Electronic access at web.mit.edu/nuclearpower

 Draft Syllabus (Revision 0)