Sustainable development is fundamentally about improving the well-being of individuals in current and future generations by expanding their valuable choices and opportunities. This chapter evaluates nuclear energy as a potential engine of sustainable development from the perspective of its impact on the well-being of members of current and future generations of a society. The literature on nuclear energy implicitly assumes the context of a developed community. However, the moral and factual questions to consider when evaluating nuclear energy shift when the context becomes that of a developing community. We present in this chapter a theoretical framework for evaluating the promise and peril of nuclear energy for developing countries and for assessing different nuclear technologies that might be available now or in the future. The proposed framework has at its core a concern for individual capabilities. Capabilities refer to the genuine opportunities individuals are free to achieve, such as an opportunity to be educated or adequately nourished. In evaluating the role of nuclear energy in sustainable development, it is critical to consider the risks that nuclear energy poses; sustainable development promotes opportunities in a secure manner, and risks threaten that security. Our framework considers the costs, benefits, and risks associated with the use of nuclear energy to enhance development. There are four sections in this chapter. Section 12.2 provides an overview on the general issues influencing the moral justifiability of nuclear energy. Section 12.3 then discusses why these issues take a different form in developing contexts. Section 12.4 outlines a capability approach to sustainable development. Finally, Section 12.5 illustrates how the justifiability of nuclear energy in a given developing society would be approached using that framework. There are a number of subjects of debate in relation to nuclear energy (United Nations Development Program 2007). Three main themes in the literature are sustainability, safety, and security (including weapon proliferation and malicious activity that could impose radiation exposure, such as sabotage and dirty bombs.) Below we summarize how these three subjects are discussed.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Ethics of Nuclear Energy
Subtitle of host publicationRisk, Justice, and Democracy in the Post-Fukushima Era
EditorsBehnam Taebi, Sabine Roeser
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781107294905
ISBN (Print)9781107054844
StatePublished - Aug 2015

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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