HKUST PPOL Newsletter Fall 2023

21 On July 20th of this summer, the movie “Oppenheimer” was released in cinemas worldwide. Directed by Christopher Nolan, this film narrates the life and achievements of J. Robert Oppenheimer, the father of the atomic bomb, and it reminds the audience that humanity still lives with the aftermath of his creation: the promises of lowcarbon nuclear energy to mitigate global warming and the threat of total annihilation from a nuclear war. These formidable issues can only be addressed with approaches that combine bold policy ideas supported by strong technological insights. With its unique geographical position and relevance as a global center for ideas, Hong Kong and HKUST can be at the forefront of discussions on how humanity will deal with the legacy of the atom. Many people in Hong Kong might wonder what makes nuclear science and policy relevant in this city. The connection becomes clearer when one remembers that ¼ of the electricity consumed in Hong Kong comes from a nuclear reactor located on the mainland. Besides, with pressing objectives to decarbonize its electricity sector, Hong Kong is considering increasing the share of imported Hong Kong at the Frontstage of the Atomic Age nuclear electricity to more than 50%, making Hong Kong one of the most nuclear-dependent cities in the world. A look at the locations of nuclear power plants in the region also shows that Hong Kong and the Greater Bay Area are surrounded by nuclear power plants, making the megalopolis all the more vulnerable to a nuclear accident. Finally, China is on course to become the world leader in nuclear technology, a shift that will bring fundamental changes to the nuclear industry and its practices worldwide. Whether it is to better prepare for a nuclear future domestically or to understand the changes to come for the global nuclear sector under Chinese leadership, Hong Kong and HKUST have a unique role to play in participating in the peaceful use of nuclear energy. As the movie “Oppenheimer” shows, nuclear technology confronts us with existential threats. The Doomsday clock indicates how close humanity is to a nuclear apocalypse, is now set 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it has ever been to the fatal hour. Most concerning for experts is the rising confrontation between China and the U.S. and the nuclear arms race they have engaged in. Many