Washington, DC, June 12, 2019 – Today the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) released a new report, titled “Nuclear Energy Developments, Climate Change, and Security in Egypt,” through its Converging Risks Lab program. The report explores the ways in which nuclear, climate and security trends are converging in this critical country – an under-explored yet potentially very consequential security issue.
This report comes on the heels of U.S. policy-makers in Congress recognizing the importance of understanding the intersection of nuclear and climate trends. Last week, the House Armed Services Committee’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces approved language to the FY20 National Defense Authorization Bill stating that the Department of Defense “must plan to ensure the viability of the nuclear enterprise” at least throughout the planned nuclear modernization program. As such, it requires “the Secretary of Defense, in consultation with the Secretary of Energy, to provide a report to the House Committee on Armed Services not later than March 31, 2020, assessing the effects of climate change on the U.S. nuclear enterprise, to include bases, ports, laboratories, plants, sites, and testing facilities, through 2080.”
This is an important step, but the U.S. government should not limit its sights to domestic nuclear weapons infrastructure. American security interests also require that the U.S. government better understands the influence climate change effects will have on the civil nuclear landscape—in the United States and around the world.
Egypt, for example, is currently moving forward with its long-held plans to develop its nuclear energy sector, with construction of its El Dabaa nuclear power plant scheduled to commence next year with help from Russia. At the same time, the country is confronting numerous traditional and climate security challenges such as terrorism, regional political instability, sea level rise, higher temperatures, and demographic changes.
According to Christine Parthemore, report co-author and Director of CSR’s Climate-Nuclear-Security Project, “All nuclear sites and projects around the world must have strong plans in place to ensure safety and security of nuclear materials and technology for decades into the future. We know that in countries such as Egypt, the effects of climate change and various security trends converging will shape that task.”
The report delves into Egypt’s nuclear power plans amidst a precarious security landscape. After delays during the Arab Spring, Cairo renewed its nuclear energy engagement with Moscow in 2013. The two countries are now pursuing an extensive nuclear cooperation partnership. In March 2019 Egypt’s regulatory authority issued a site permit for El Dabaa, an important signal that this coastal nuclear plant is moving forward.
At the same time, Egypt’s climate forecast includes hotter days, sand storms, and coastal flooding. International standards recommend nuclear reactors in design or under construction factor in higher temperatures and the impacts of extreme weather events to ensure safe operations; however, this work may not adequately account for the changes projected to occur as the world warms.
Andrea Rezzonico, co-author of the report and assistant director of CSR’s Climate-Nuclear-Security Project, stated: “There are countless ways that rising seas, freshwater stress, population growth, extreme heat, nuclear energy investments, and the unique security circumstances in Egypt could intersect. Beyond a sea-wall or end-of-century climate forecast, Egypt would benefit from comprehensive climate security assessments that incorporate geopolitical stressors and regional events.”
The authors note that important trends such as the continuing consolidation of authoritarian power in Egypt, a tense security environment domestically and regionally, continual stress in global nonproliferation norms and structures, challenging environmental and climate issues, and more demonstrate why Egypt is a case that merits serious attention.
This report is the first in a series of studies and podcasts CSR is using to examine the nexus of nuclear, climate, and security trends in specific geographies, which will include Pakistan, Turkey, India, and others. The appetite for this important work by the defense and intelligence communities continues to grow. Last week in a hearing on the security implications of climate change by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, one congressman emphasized the importance of integrating climatological and country-specific expertise.
The series is part of CSR’s Working Group on Climate, Nuclear, and Security Affairs, a group of experts across these various disciplines who convene to discuss the nexus of international trends and threats. The Working Group ranks Egypt as a high security concern; some described it as a “pressure cooker” for the various dynamics its region must grapple with. At the same time, Egypt is considered a regional linchpin: its future stability or instability, prosperity or struggles, will have ripple effects across the Middle East and North Africa—and possibly beyond.
Available for press inquiries:
Christine Parthemore, Director of the Climate Nuclear Security Program, The Council on Strategic Risks, cparthemore at csrisks dot org
Andrea Rezzonico, Climate Nuclear Security Program, The Council on Strategic Risks, arezzonico at csrisks dot org
Read: Nuclear Energy Developments, Climate Change, and Security in Egypt: https://councilonstrategicrisks.org/theconvergingriskslab/nuclear-energy-developments-climate-change-and-security-in-egypt/
More resources: The Converging Risks Lab: https://councilonstrategicrisks.org/