September 16, 2019
 In Nuclear Reactors in Conflict Zones

Country: United Kingdom
Delegate Name: Krishna Mano

United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency
Nuclear Reactors in Conflict Zones
United Kingdom
Krishna Mano
City High Middle School

The risk of a nuclear reactor disaster during times of on-going conflicts and increased tensions between leaders in the field of nuclear energy remains to be a pressing, if not pivotal, issue in the status quo. As reported by the United Nations, nuclear reactors are becoming an increasingly common source of energy with “32 countries worldwide operating 443 nuclear reactors for electricity generation and 55 new nuclear plants under construction”. Furthermore, a report from the International Trade Administration finds that, currently, “the United Kingdom has 15 operational nuclear reactors operating, which comprise just less than 20% of the United Kingdom’s electricity.” It is imperative for our operating agency to address increasing nuclear tensions and, more importantly, come to a consensus on how we can decrease these hostilities and enmities that lead to devastating conflicts with irreversible impacts, especially on nuclear reactors. As a G5 nation, the United Kingdom has joined and led many alliances like the UN and NATO to ensure that our neighboring countries have reliable protection against nuclear weapons.

Over the years, the United Kingdom has taken many steps to support the safety and security of nuclear reactors or other energy sources with radioactive components and, therefore, set a good example for emerging nuclear-energy based states to emphasize the need for these safety systems to be set in place. On a national level, our country has set proper rules and guidelines to certify that these safety systems which we preach about to our neighboring countries are ones that we practice and have put in place. Apart from checking the optimal positioning of our nuclear reactors to avoid any meltdowns from natural disasters or conflict, we have also set up a recurring system to replace our old nuclear reactors with new ones to ensure that a faulty system paired with shelling or artillery fire during a conflict is not the cause of a nuclear incident that could take the lives of many of our citizens. When looking at our accomplishments to further the protection of nuclear reactors from an international perspective, we began with taking an instrumental role in drafting and ratifying the Treaty of Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, aiming “to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons while promoting cooperation in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy and to further the goal of prioritizing the safety and security of nuclear reactor sites, especially during times of conflict,” in 1968 and strongly affirming our support for other treaties with similar goals since then. A recent example is the Agreement between the United Kingdom and the IAEA for the Application of Nuclear Safeguards which was signed by both parties in 2018. This agreement includes multiple clauses that reaffirms the Non-Proliferation Treaty and, specifically, sets the nuclear reactor safety-based guidelines found in the original Treaty in the context and setting of our country in the modern day and age.

Over the past year, nuclear energy avoided 22.7 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in the UK which is the equivalent of taking around a third of all cars in the UK off the road. We have ensured that these systems that help us improve the energy efficiency of our country remain in a safe process, one that can be trusted to continue in a secure manner even during periods of conflict. However, we are increasingly worried by the absence of such safety standards and their enforcement in neighboring countries that are currently facing a weapon-based crisis with another country: Ukraine and their response to Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Ukraine, known for having the largest nuclear power plant (and one of the most famous nuclear disasters at Chernobyl), finds itself in an especially dangerous situation, one that can be replicated by the IAEA in future conflicts. In association with other major countries, the United Kingdom and IAEA promptly responded with a joint proposal to temporarily shut down Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant, which accounts for nearly half of the total electricity generated by their nuclear power plants and one-fifth of the country’s annual electricity production, due to its close proximity to Russian-claimed territory. In a report by the Wilson Center detailing the possible outcomes of an ineffective response to the Russian takeover of the ZNPP, they emphasize the high probability of “broken emergency preparedness, response, and communication mechanisms. In the case of an accident, it will be impossible to take all the necessary steps to prevent the spread of radiation and damage to inhabitants in the region. The disaster will affect Ukraine and neighboring states, depending on the direction of the wind at the moment of the accident.”

When we are all divided by conflicts occurring throughout the world from East Europe to the Middle East, it is essential for us to not just acknowledge, but also take prompt action to re-evaluate the current safety standards in place around the world for nuclear reactors in areas of conflict. The United Kingdom strongly urges the IAEA to further support this re-evaluation, but asks that all delegates consider the essentiality of nuclear energy in transitioning towards renewable energy sources and the irrationality of completely removing nuclear energy from any country’s energy usage. When seeking global peace and working closely with allies and fellow agency members, the UK hopes that transparency and safeguards will be prioritized as the most crucial step is to reassess and amend guidelines and standards for nuclear reactor systems in conflict zones.

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