Delegate Name: Charlisa Penzak
United Nations International Atomic Energy Agency
Nuclear Reactors in Conflict Zones
People’s Republic of China
Groves High School
In recent years, nuclear reactors have become more prevalent and now produce 10% of the world’s energy. As of January 2023, the World Nuclear Association (WNA) reports that China is home to 55 nuclear reactors, with over 20 more under construction. Research by the IAEA indicates that China is the fastest expanding nuclear power in the world. It’s estimated that about 26% of the total energy comes from nuclear reactors (more than most western countries). Moreover, China is a major exporter and innovator in nuclear technology.
As a world leader in nuclear energy, China is collaborating with other countries and assisting in construction of reactors around the world through the Belt and Road Initiative. Nuclear energy is becoming a popular and reliable alternative to carbon-emitting fossil fuels. In fact, according to the WNA’s 2021 nuclear performance report, since 1970, nuclear power plants prevented 72 billion tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
However, the radioactive material that fuels nuclear reactors is highly volatile and must be protected. As demonstrated in previous nuclear reactor accidents such as the Fukushima and Chernobyl disasters, the consequences of a mishap could be catastrophic. Nuclear reactors in conflict zones are especially at risk, because most power plants were not built to withstand shelling and bombs. There is no room for mistakes: such a catastrophe cannot happen, so it is imperative that the IAEA takes steps to safeguard nuclear reactors in conflict zones.
On the domestic scale, China has maintained an extraordinary nuclear safety record and has effective safety regulations in place by establishing nuclear security policies based on international recommendations. The IAEA has examined China’s nuclear guidelines on multiple occasions and has commended the safe practices. The Chinese government regularly conducts safety inspections, enacts the latest protective guidelines on nuclear plant blueprints, and enforces China’s Nuclear Safety Plan (which includes various preventative measures among other protocols). China boasts the world’s most stringent nuclear safety requirements, according to a research article by the Nuclear and Radiation Safety Center. Furthermore, China has collaborated with the National Nuclear Safety Association to incorporate nuclear security into national security.
Not only is China a leader in nuclear safety, but is also dedicated to strengthening the security of nuclear facilities globally. For example, China was one of the first to call on the IAEA to ensure the safety of nuclear power plants in Ukraine/Russia when the war began, and have often reiterated that concern. China believes that international cooperation is essential to provide a secure world for all, especially since one state’s nuclear actions have implications for other countries.
The Chinese delegation asserts that immediate modifications to current security protocol regarding nuclear reactors in conflict zones is imperative. Specifically, China is concerned with the safety of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP) as the Ukrainian conflict rages in the region. The Chinese UN representative Geng Shuang stated, “Any single incident could lead to a serious nuclear accident with irreversible consequences for the ecosystem and public health of Ukraine and its neighboring countries.” Bombing near the reactor poses a significant threat — if power lines to the cooling systems were cut, the reactor could overheat, causing a radiation leak or an explosion.
More importantly, by addressing the root cause, China calls upon involved parties to reach peaceful resolution and will continue to play a constructive role in this goal. Until such an arrangement is reached, China encourages both sides to act responsibly and consider the implications of a nuclear disaster. In times of need, reflection on current safety standards is necessary to address difficult situations, not only in the current situation with Ukraine, but in conflicts to come. The Chinese delegation looks forward to collaborating with other countries to ensure the security of nuclear plants in conflict zones.