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Nuclear exports are an important and understudied part of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). Beijing plans to build and finance approximately 30 nuclear reactors in BRI countries in Asia, the Middle East and Africa over the next decade. This strategy has significant implications for international politics. First, the bigger China’s share of the nuclear market, the more say it will have in shaping rules and norms in global nuclear governance, sparking concern that it will challenge existing nonproliferation and nuclear export norms. Second, China’s nuclear exports will increase recipient countries’ reliance on China for decades, further increasing China’s influence over BRI countries at the expense of the US, and shifting the balance of power in the international system. Third, although nuclear energy is a clean alternative to carbon-emitting resources, as recipient countries mostly lack rigorous regulations and the necessary technology, know-how and personnel to handle the atoms safely, the Nuclear Belt and Road poses environmental concerns. My research will illustrate China’s ambitions for the Nuclear Belt and Road and analyze its implications for nonproliferation, the balance of power, and environment.
Lami Kim is an Assistant Professor at the U.S. Army War College, and an adjunct fellow at Pacific Forum. Her research interests include the intersection between civil and military uses of nuclear energy, China’s nonproliferation and nuclear export policy, and politics and security on the Korean Peninsula and in East Asia. Previously, Lami served as a South Korean diplomat and a research fellow at Harvard’s Belfer Center, Pacific Forum, Stimson Center and Seoul National University Asia Center. She has taught at Harvard University and Boston College. Her works have been published in The Washington Quarterly, the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, The Diplomat, PacNet, and Stimson Center, among others. Lami holds a master’s and a PhD degree in international affairs from the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University and a master’s degree in Middle Eastern studies from Harvard University.