Delaying Disaster: The Problem of Nuclear Safety in Eastern Europe

Meredith III, Spencer Barrett, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Lynch, Allen, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Owen, John, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Alexander, Gerard, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

The purpose of this dissertation is to explain variations in compliance with international nuclear safety agreements. In the wake of the Chernobyl disaster, Western states committed considerable resources to improve the safety of Soviet-designed nuclear power plants in Eastern Europe and Russia. They conditioned further assistance on strict commitments to close some of the world's most unsafe reactors. All first-generation reactors lacking a solid structure containment unit were to be closed as soon as possible, oftentimes years before the scheduled end-of-lifetime deadlines. Each country in this study entered into such an agreement. However, despite fairly uniform requirements, the five countries under review have exhibited significant variations in compliance with those commitments. The model presented here engages the current compliance literature by introducing a previously unexamined variable, the stability of the domestic political rules of the game. The rules define both the structures of government and the processes by which normal governance of the political system occurs. They also shape how government elites evaluate the costs and benefits of compliance, which in the case of nuclear safety, are temporally fixed. Compliance costs must be paid in the short term, while the benefits only pay off in the future. Those evaluations determine whether or not elites will comply. A common argument within Western policy circles presents a counter to the approach offered in this study. Domestic safety culture has been a primary focus of Western programs designed to increase operational safety and improve compliance overall. This dissertation establishes the criteria for testing "rules effects" and safety culture as potential explanatory variables, and offers evidence to support the conclusion that the rules of the game more accurately explain compliance than does safety culture.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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