How Technological Lock-in Has Shaped the Nuclear Power Industry

2011.04.03 • After an earthquake and tsunami crippled the light-water nuclear power reactors in Fukushima, Japan, on 11 March, analysts have scrutinized design choices and risk management in the nuclear industry.

Last month, UNU-MERIT Professor Robin Cowan was cited in the Boston Globe and Atlantic magazine for his 1990 paper "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in" in The Journal of Economic History. That paper explored how US technology — dating back to the 1940s — came to dominate the nuclear market thanks to a blend of economic and political expediency and regulatory barriers.

In the attached podcast, UNU-MERIT editor Howard Hudson speaks with Prof. Cowan about the phenomenon of technological lock-in, particularly within the nuclear power industry, and its relevance to the nuclear crisis in Japan.

Prof. Cowan's original 1990 paper: "Nuclear Power Reactors: A Study in Technological Lock-in"


Message from the UNU Rector and UN Under Secretary-General, Konrad Osterwalder, on the Tohoku-Kanto Earthquake

2011.03.19 • On behalf of all staff of the United Nations University, I would like to express my sincere and heart-felt condolences for all those who have lost their loved ones and their homes in this unprecedented disaster affecting the entire Tohoku-Kanto region and beyond.

We have watched with deep sadness the events across north eastern Japan since the earthquake and tsunami on Friday. The loss of life has been tragic. Our thoughts are with those who have found refuge in the evacuation centres. We hope that relief supplies will have reached you by now and that your situation is improving gradually.

Applications Now Being Accepted

StEP E-waste Summer School to be Held in Europe in September

2011.03.22 • The theme of the 2011 StEP E-waste Summer School, scheduled for 11–22 September in the Netherlands and Belgium, is "Closing resource loops — Complexities and solutions in managing e-waste". The applications deadline is 1 May. For more information, see the announcement on the UNU-ISP website.


Cancellation of Public Lecture
by Dr. Peter Maurer, Swiss State Secretary for Foreign Affairs

We regret to inform you that due to the Japan earthquake on March 11, the upcoming Public Lecture by Dr. Peter Maurer, Swiss State Secretary for Foregin Affairs has been cancelled.

Our sincere apologies for any inconvenience.

Research Opportunities in Ghana

UNU-INRA Launches Visiting Scholars Programme

Through this programme, UNU-INRA will provide qualified scholars an opportunity to spend up to 4 months at the institute in Accra, where they will undertake research on topics related to the development and management of natural resources in Africa. The application deadline is 15 April.

About the UNU-INRA Visiting Scholars Programme (69 KB)

Notes for Applicants (21 KB)


UNU Postgraduate Programme

UNU-ISP Begins Postgraduate Courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change

Group photo at the opening ceremony of the 2011 Postgraduate Courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change. Photo: DNP Photo Service.

2011-03-01 • On Monday, 28 February, the UNU Institute for Sustainability and Peace (UNU-ISP) held an opening ceremony at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo for its credited postgraduate courses on Building Resilience to Climate Change.

The intensive 4-week courses were developed under the framework of the University Network for Climate and Ecosystems Change Adaptation Research (UN-CECAR), a collaborative initiative of more than 20 leading universities across Asia; UNU-ISP acts as the UN-CECAR secretariat. UN-CECAR is committed to developing postgraduate educational and research programmes on climate and ecosystems change, adaptation and sustainability science.

Presentation at UNU

Globalization at a Crossroad: Solidarity or War - Philippe Douste-Blazy

Philippe Douste-Blazy, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations speaking at UNU. Photo: Stephan Schmidt/UNU.

2011.02.24 • Philippe Douste-Blazy, Special Adviser to the Secretary-General of the United Nations on Innovative Financing for Development, and Chairman of the Executive Board of UNITAID, spoke at UNU headquarters in Tokyo on Thursday, 24 February 2011. His lecture, entitled "Globalization at a Crossroad: Solidarity or War" was intended to address how innovative financing mechanisms can support global solidarity and facilitate development efforts in the world's poorest nations.

Dr. Douste-Blazy started his presentation by expressing appreciation to the public and especially to the young people in the audience. He explained that the world is at a critical crossroad. World economies are suffering from the effects of the global financial crisis and official development assistance (ODA) is under tight pressure. Yet, the need for assistance to people living in the world's poorest regions has never been greater. Dr. Douste-Blazy highlighted that in 2009 alone, while the developed world battled with financial deficits, debts and rising unemployment incurred by the crisis, 200,000 to 400,000 children died as a consequence of the crisis.

UNU-IAS Seminar

The Benefits of Biofuels: Unrealistic Expectations?

Dr. Jason Hill speaks on "Biofuels Sustainability" at UNU-IAS in Yokohama. Photo: Makiko Arima/UNU-IAS.

2011.02.10 • On Friday, 4 February, the UNU Institute of Advanced Studies in Yokohama kicked off the UNU-IAS 2011 Seminar Series with a presentation on "Biofuels Sustainability: Lessons in Life-Cycle Assessment". The lecturer was Dr. Jason D. Hill, Assistant Professor in the Department of Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering, University of Minnesota (USA).

Dr. Per Stromberg, a UNU-IAS Research Fellow, opened the seminar by introducing Dr. Hill as an established and much-cited contributor to the field of biofuels. The presentation that followed centred on the key question that Dr. Hill has been pursuing for the past five years: "Does the use of biofuels in place of oil benefit society?"

UNU-INWEH Research

Pollutants in Aquifers Threaten Mexico's Riviera Maya

Cenotes (sinkholes) are a potential route for contamination of the flooded underground cave system aquifers of the Yucatan Peninsula. Photo: Hanneke van Lavieren/UNU-INWEH

2011.02.07 • Pharmaceuticals, illicit drugs, personal hygiene products, chemical run-off … these and other pollutants are contaminating the giant aquifers under Mexico's Riviera Maya district (a popular tourism district on the eastern portion of the Yucatán Peninsula), according to a recent UNU-INWEH study.

The area's highly permeable geology is characterized by numerous cenotes (sinkholes) that provide access to groundwater cave systems, making the aquifers very susceptible to contamination. While the level of pollution is not yet considered to be a health threat, the problem will almost certainly worsen, particularly since the district's population is predicted to increase by ten-fold in the next two decades.

UNU Press Seminar

Looking at Globalization's Dark Side

Prof. Ramesh Thakur signs copies of his co-edited book The Dark Side of Globalization. Photo: Curtis Christophersen/UNU

2011.01.31 • Prof. Ramesh Thakur of the University of Waterloo (Canada), a former UNU Vice-Rector, returned to UNU Centre in Tokyo on 27 January to present issues covered in his latest book, The Dark Side of Globalization (Heine and Thakur, eds.; UNU Press).

The book, a compendium of contributions from leading authors from around the world, catalogues the complex, often-negative forces that have derived from the rapid internationalization of global trade, finance and information flows.

UNU System News

UNU Named as a Global Top-Ten Government-Affiliated Think Tank

2011.01.19 • The United Nations University is ranked among the world's top-ten government-affiliated think tanks, according to the 2010 Global Go-To Think Tank Ranking report ("Think Tank Index"), and its World Institute for Development Economics Research (UNU-WIDER) is among the world's top-ten international development think tanks.

The 2010 Think Tank Index, released yesterday, ranks the global UNU system as number 7 in the "Best Government-Affiliated Think Tanks" category, and UNU-WIDER as number 7 in the "International Development Think Tanks" category.

UNU System News

UNU-CRIS to Participate in New EC Global Re-ordering Project

2011.01.17 • The UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS) welcomes the signing of the Global Re-ordering: Evolution through European Networks (GREEN) contract by the European Commission (EC).

This EC Framework Programme 7 integrated research project will be a four-year, 10-million-euro endeavour undertaken by 16 institutions from around the world, including UNU-CRIS. It will begin in March 2011 and run through February 2015.

UNU System News

UNU-IIST Reaffirms Host Country Commitment

UNU-IIST Director Peter Haddawy (left) and Mr. Kou Ming, Assistant Director of the Macao General Economic Affairs Department (right). Photo: UNU-IIST

2010.12.27 • A delegation from the UNU Institute for Software Technology (UNU-IIST) visited the Liaison Office of the Central People's Government in the Macao Special Administrative Region (SAR) of the People's Republic of China on 15 December 2010.

The two sides affirmed a commitment to forging a closer bond aimed at supporting economic and technology development in Macao and Mainland China.

UNU-WIDER Newsletter Article

Looking at the Role of Farm Size in Agricultural Growth

A sugarcane plantation in Brazil. Photo: visionshare (Lou Gold)

2010.12.24 • Globally, in both poor and rich countries, agriculture is one of the few industries that remains largely owner-operated and reliant on family labour. Family farms typically achieve a high degree of efficiency, benefitting from the commitment of family workers, a flexible labour supply to cope with seasonal and annual variability of production, and an intimate knowledge about local soil and climate.

In some countries, however, the limited success of smallholder-based efforts to improve productivity, among other factors, has led to policies that promote large-scale mechanized farming. Many crop-based farms in developing and transitional countries have operational units that exceed 10,000 hectares — often further horizontally integrated into "superfarms" that control hundreds of thousands of hectares.

Regional Migration and Free Movement

Prof. Deacon of UNU-CRIS Appointed to New UNESCO–UNU Chair

2010.12.20 • In late November, UNU and UNESCO agreed to establish a UNESCO–UNU Chair on Regional Integration, Migration and Free Movement of People. This new UNESCO–UNU Chair, to be located at the UNU Institute on Comparative Regional Integration Studies (UNU-CRIS; Bruges, Belgium) in cooperation with the University of Pretoria (South Africa), will be officially launched in February.

Dr. Bob Deacon, an Associate Research Fellow at UNU-CRIS and Professor of International Social Policy at the University of Sheffield (UK), will serve as the first holder of this UNESCO–UNU Chair.

University Governance

UNU Council Completes 2010 Annual Session

Group photo of Council members at the 57th UNU Council Session at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: Aki Goto

2010.12.10 • The Council of the United Nations University convened its 57th session at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo from 29 November though 2 December.

The Council, the governing board that formulates the principles and policies which guide the activities and operations of UNU, comprises 24 appointed members as well as the UNU Rector and three ex officio members (the United Nations Secretary-General, the UNESCO Director-General and the UNITAR Executive Director).

UNESCO Director-General Speaks at UNU

UNESCO's Role in Climate Change and Education

UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova delivers a lecture at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo. Photo: Curtis Christophersen/UNU

2010.12.01 • During her first official visit to Japan, Ms. Irina Bokova, Director-General of UNESCO, delivered the keynote address at a UNU Public Symposium on "Climate Change and Education: UNESCO's Role in the 2010s". In her presentation at UNU Headquarters in Tokyo, Ms. Bokova provided an overview on UNESCO's new initiatives through which the organization supports research in such areas as advancing knowledge about climate change, preserving biodiversity, coping with social aspects of climate change and minimizing disaster risks.

Ms. Bokova' s presentation focused on the importance of developing further educational activities in areas that are particularly vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change. She expressed UNESCO's commitment to further its work by expanding the role of the UNESCO Chairs and other initiatives.

News from November 2010

2010.11.24 - Solving the E-waste Problem:
StEP 2010 General Assembly Held in London

2010.11.19 - Japan Iceland Geothermal Forum:
Exploring the Potential of Geothermal Energy

2010.11.16 - APABIS Annual Conference:
Sustainable Decision-Making in a Time of Crisis: Public and Private Perspectives

2010.11.12 - UN University News:
UNU plans new "twin institute" in Germany, Mozambique

2010.11.03 - UNGA President Speaks at UNU:
Reaffirming the UN's Role in Global Governance

News from October 2010

2010.10.29 - Research, Testing, Analysis:
UNU-ISP and Tokyo Industrial Research institute Sign Cooperation Agreement

2010.10.29 - New actions and alliances
Erik Solheim Delivers 2010 Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture

2010.10.23 - United Nations Day
Celebrating UN Day 2010

2010.10.22 - Climate change and the Mayan vision
Guatemala President Colom Delivers Lecture at UNU

2010.10.22 - Mutually reinforcing in the long run
UNU Holds Governors' Biodiversity Summits at COP10 in Nagoya

SEFI Selects UNU Rector Osterwalder as 2010 Leonardo da Vinci Medalist

2010.10.04 - Trends and Innovations in Governance
Two UNU Books Launched at UNESCO

News from September 2010

2010.09.13 - Classes begin
Inauguration Ceremony Held for Students of UNU-ISP Postgraduate Programme

2010.09.10 - UN Security Council Resolution 1325, 10 Years On
Women Making Peace

2010.09.09 - "Environmental issues are global issues"
President Rafael Correa of Ecuador Delivers 17th U Thant Distinguished Lecture

2010.09.09 - 2nd NVMP-StEP Ewaste Summer School
Young researchers meet in Eindhoven and Hoboken to look at the future of e-waste

2010.09.03 - Inaugural Ceremony and Symposium
UNU-ISP Postgraduate Programmes Open

2010.09.02 - Japan-CARICOM Public Symposium
Climate Change and Biodiversity

2010.08.04 - Town Hall Meeting
Secretary-General Addresses UN Staff in Tokyo

New from UNU Press

Usable Thoughts

Michael H. Glantz and Qian Ye

Usable ThoughtsShort quotations are often used to stimulate thought and evoke discussion. The intention of this book is no less ambitious. Drawing upon a series of quotations taken from the World Meteorological Organization-sponsored publication, Climate: Into the 21st Century, the authors set out to encourage thought and discussion on the earth's climate system, including its interrelatedness to human society and the environment, the impact of climate variability, and climate extremes and change. Read more…

UNU Press Catalogue 2010-2011 Download our 2010-2011 catalogue
(9 MB PDF)

UNU Lectures

U Thant Lecture Series

U ThantThe U Thant Distinguished Lecture Series is a forum through which eminent thinkers and world leaders speak on the role of the United Nations in addressing the challenges facing the world's peoples and nations in the twenty-first century.

Nansen Lectures

Fridtjof NansenThe Fridtjof Nansen Memorial Lecture is held annually in a number of capitals around the world to commemorate the birth of the Norwegian explorer, scientist, humanist and Nobel laureate, Fridtjof Nansen (1861–1930).

Nagai Lectures

Fridtjof NansenNamed in honour of the late Dr. Michio Nagai, minister of education, science, and culture of Japan, these lectures provide a forum for eminent members of the international community to speak on issues related to education.


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