The National Security Threat of Energy Dependence by Arthur Rizer

The National Security Threat of Energy Dependence: A Call for a Nuclear Renaissance

Arthur Rizer


The Gulf of Mexico oil spill spread like a cancer, devastating thousands of American livelihoods, and wrecking havoc on this country’s ecosystem. This disaster has brought into focus what many have for years called the greatest national security threat to the United States — its addiction to and utter dependence on oil to maintain the American way of life.

One only has to look out the window in any city in the United States to see that oil has a dramatic effect on how the United States does business. The people living near the Gulf now know this truth all too well. Consequently, energy dependence is a problem that can no longer be ignored or pushed off to the next generation, as American policy has done for the better half of a century. Because this dependence on oil enables the types of disasters seen in the Gulf and Alaska over a decade earlier, and fuels terrorism that can lead to a kinetic threat, the United States must change its mentality towards other energy sources. For the purposes of this article the focus will be nuclear energy. Specifically, the United States must develop and implement safe nuclear energy alternatives in order to reduce its dependence on oil and increase its national security from both terrorism and the environmental threat.

* Arthur Rizer is a prosecutor with the United States Department of Justice, Criminal Division. Mr. Rizer is also an Adjunct Professor of Law at Georgetown University’s Law Center. The views expressed in this article are his own and do not represent the views of the Department of Justice or Georgetown’s Law Center. The author would like to thank his family for their support in his career and Judge James Baker, United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces and David Jonas, General Counsel for the National Nuclear Security Administration, for their encouragement to write on this subject. The author would also like to thank editors Jonathan Abrams, Stephen Pezzi, and Mat Trachok, and their staff at the Harvard National Security Journal for their work on this article.

Copyright © 2011 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College and Arthur Rizer

This article will begin with an explanation of both the environmental and foreign threats that energy dependency poses to the United States. Next, this article will argue that a nuclear renaissance would greatly increase the national security of the United States. The evidence will demonstrate that turning to nuclear generated energy to meet more of this nation’s energy needs is a logical choice, because the technology to make large amounts of energy with a nuclear reaction is available now. But fully realizing such an energy renaissance requires dedicating more resources to nuclear technology and innovation. These resources, and the resulting innovation, will only come where there is demand. For example, Americans use lighter, faster, and more powerful computers today than they did ten years ago only because consumers demanded that such computers be built, which in turn motivated the industry to invent them. The same is true for nuclear energy: the non-critical reactor, which is the most promising nuclear technology available today, will only be built and improved upon if there is a demand for it.

Next, this article will discuss the three oft-cited drawbacks to nuclear energy: the disposal of nuclear waste, the safety of nuclear technology, and the threat of nuclear weapons proliferation. As this article will show, the benefit in increased national security to this country outweighs the potential problems that result from each of these concerns. Ultimately, this article will demonstrate how nuclear energy can help alleviate this threat by divesting America from foreign economies that hold the United States in contempt and shifting the oil-based national attitude toward nuclear energy. In addition, the probability of future oil spills like the one in the Gulf can be lessened if the demand for oil were reduced. Lastly, this article will conclude by exploring the energy decision-making process used in this country with regards to energy policy and suggest changes to that process in order to make America safer. More specifically, this article argues that more is needed then just a list of ideas and solutions to energy dependency — the United States needs to make a paradigm shift in the way it thinks and makes decisions about energy policy.

…Read More: Arthur Rizer. Energy Dependence


The National Security Threat of Energy Dependence: A Call for a Nuclear Renaissance by Arthur Rizer