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Nuclear Threats in Ukraine Today and Their Implications for Global Security Tomorrow

Source: Ігор Діклевич, March 2, 2019

By Christine Parthemore and Andrea Rezzonico

Amidst the mounting human toll of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, its attacks are affecting nuclear energy sites as well. As of this writing, Russian forces have seized control of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant – the largest site of operating reactors in Europe. To date, the fighting at this plant and subsequent fire has not released harmful radiation or led to a catastrophic explosion. However, the plant’s staff is being held against their will to continue operating the nuclear reactors, likely enduring extreme stress and a lack of sufficient rest. Last week, the power line to Chernobyl was cut off, and while it is not currently operating, radioactive materials remain stored in spent fuel pools that require continuing safety measures. These events signal the extreme dangers that can surround nuclear sites in times of insecurity and in conflict zones. 


BRIEF REPORT: North Korea, Climate Change and Security

By Catherine Dill, Alexandra Naegele, Natalie Baillargeon, Monica Caparas, Dominick Dusseau, Madeleine Holland, and Christopher Schwalm

North Korea’s provocative posture and its nuclear arsenal have shielded it from much of the pressures of globalization and integration with the international community. But neither politics nor arms can defend it from climate change. Impending climate impacts threaten to exacerbate North Korea’s already precarious ability to provide public goods for its population and thus maintain regime stability, multiplying risk factors for the Korean peninsula and the entire region.

Our new report “Converging Crises in North Korea: Security, Stability and Climate Change,” accompanied by a visual storymap, projects climate impacts on crop yields by 2040, inland flooding by 2050, and sea levels by 2050. Projections reveal rice and maize yield failures will become more likely along the Western coastlines by 2030. The country will experience significant intensification of extreme rainfall and increased flooding, with coastal areas increasingly at risk from sea level rise and inland areas – including sensitive nuclear sites – at risk of inundation if not properly protected.


The CSR Team on the Biden Budget and Systemic Threats

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To date, the Biden administration appears to be prioritizing work to address the greatest threats to international security and stability, including biological risks, the security implications of climate change, dramatic ecological disruption, and nuclear threats. Analyzing, anticipating, and addressing these issues—and how they intersect and exacerbate one another—are at the core of the mission of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR). 

In anticipation of the administration releasing its first full budget request on May 27th, the CSR team offers the following insights and hopes for what it will contain.


Managing Complex Emergencies in Complex Times – Lessons from Japan

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Fukushima I Nuclear Power Plant 1975. Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport and Tourism, Japan

By Andrea Rezzonico

Anticipating and preparing for complex and simultaneous emergencies is critical as we move further into the 21st century. The coming decades will be characterized by significant disruptors including climate change, biological hazards, natural disasters, rapid technological change, growing geopolitical tensions, an increase in fragile states, and persistent economic shocks. These issues will not exist independently of each other – they will intersect and very possibly lead to cascading effects that strain entire systems. 

Over the last several years, the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) has investigated this rising convergence of security risks, breaking down silos, pulling threads through previously unlinked issue sets, and establishing pathways along the way. This work, as well as lessons from the extraordinarily destabilizing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, has underscored that current emergency preparedness programs do not sufficiently consider how crises can overlap in time or cascade from one into another. A particularly harrowing example of this was Japan’s horrific Triple Disaster of 2011. The event serves as a warning, but Japan’s actions since then also serve as a potential model for the world on managing complex crises, including the one we’re in at the moment. Japan learned (and is arguably still learning) from the crisis, and so can we.  

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