Nuclear Issues

20 Items

Discussion Paper - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

A Theory of Engagement With North Korea

| May 2019

At the Hanoi Summit in February 2019, the United States and North Korea reached a familiar impasse—diplomacy broke down over the appropriate order of near-term steps, and the world was left wondering whether any package of rewards would be enough to incentivize denuclearization.

In a new Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Christopher Lawrence outlines an alternative conceptual framework for engaging North Korea. Rather than offering rewards for nuclear rollback, the approach focuses on building credibility around the notion of a shared political future. Lawrence suggests that physical actions—such as shared investments in integrated rail, electricity, or mining infrastructure—speak more credibly about the political future for all the parties involved than do written commitments or more transient “carrots” and “sticks.” The international relationships created by infrastructure projects may alter North Korea's security calculus over time, and incrementally reduce its dependence on nuclear weapons. Drawing lessons from the 1994 Agreed Framework, Lawrence reinterprets the history of nonproliferation engagement with North Korea, and illuminates possible opportunities to break the diplomatic impasse after the Hanoi summit.

The nuclear archive warehouse outside Tehran (Satellite image via Google).

Satellite image via Google

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

In mid-January, a team of scholars from the Belfer Center’s Intelligence and Managing the Atom Projects traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to examine samples of, and receive briefings on, an archive of documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program. The large cache includes some 55,000 pages of documents and a further 55,000 files on CDs that included photos and videos. A clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited the materials out of Iran in early 2018.

The documents that the Belfer group were shown confirm that senior Iranian officials had decided in the late 1990s to actually manufacture nuclear weapons and carry out an underground nuclear test; that Iran’s program to do so made more technical progress than had previously been understood; and that Iran had help from quite a number of foreign scientists, and access to several foreign nuclear weapon designs. The archive also leaves open a wide range of questions, including what plan, if any, Iran has had with respect to nuclear weapons in the nearly 16 years since Iran’s government ordered a halt to most of the program in late 2003. 

This brief report summarizes the group’s conclusions about what the archive reveals about Iran’s program and questions that remain open.

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Discussion Paper - Nuclear Threat Initiative

The IAEA's Role in Nuclear Security Since 2016

| February 2019

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the key multilateral global nuclear governance body, describes itself as the “global platform” for nuclear security efforts, with a “central role” in facilitating international cooperation in the field. Long concerned with the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, the Agency began to ramp up its involvement in the broader issue of nuclear security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The series of Nuclear Security Summits, which ran from 2010 to 2016, drew high-level political attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism for the first time and boosted support for the IAEA’s nuclear security mission. The final summit, held in Washington, DC, in March 2016, lauded the Agency as “crucial for the continuing delivery of outcomes and actions from the nuclear security summits.” Participating governments agreed to a seven-page “Action Plan in Support of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Three years after the final summit seems an opportune time to assess how the Agency’s nuclear security work has fared since then. Given the complexity of the Agency’s nuclear security activities, this paper cannot provide a comprehensive assessment, but will highlight the most important nuclear security activities and the constraints and challenges the IAEA faces in fulfilling its nuclear security role.

FBI agents leave a raid in Trenton, N.J. on July 19, 2012

Julio Cortez/AP

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Long Arm

| February 2019

The networks of middlemen and intermediaries involved in the illicit procurement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related goods and technologies often operate outside of the United States, which presents several legal and political challenges regarding U.S. trade control enforcement activities. This report considers the extraterritorial efforts of U.S. law enforcement in counterproliferation-related activities and their implications. In other words, how does the United States contend with violations of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related trade controls in overseas jurisdictions, and what are the implications for broader U.S. and international nonproliferation efforts, as well as wider international security and economic concerns? 

A member of the Czech Army takes part in an anti-terrorism drill at the Temelin nuclear power plant near the town of Tyn nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, April 11, 2017.

REUTERS/David W. Cerny

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Revitalizing Nuclear Security in an Era of Uncertainty

| January 2019

Nuclear security around the world has improved dramatically over the last three decades—which demonstrates that with focused leadership, major progress is possible. But important weaknesses remain, and the evolution of the threat remains unpredictable. The danger that terrorists could get and use a nuclear bomb, or sabotage a major nuclear facility, or spread dangerous radioactive material in a “dirty bomb,” remains too high. The United States and countries around the world need to join together and provide the leadership and resources needed to put global nuclear security on a sustained path of continuous improvement, in the never-ending search for excellence in performance.

HMS Vengeance

Robert Sullivan/Flickr

Paper

Selling the Bomb: Making the Case for British Nuclear Deterrence in the Twenty-First Century

| Feb. 21, 2018

In July 2016, the British Parliament voted to replace the submarines carrying the United Kingdom’s strategic nuclear deterrent. Procurement of these new submarines—the Dreadnought class—will ensure that the United Kingdom remains a nuclear-armed state until the 2050s. The May government’s handling of the vote has been marred by the failure of a Trident missile test launch from a Royal Navy submarine days before the vote, and its delayed disclosure in January 2017. This led to allegations of a “cover-up” and familiar questions surrounding secrecy, transparency, and its effect on the public debates.

The Prototype Fast Breeder Reactor at the Kalpakkam Nuclear Complex, India.

Kirstie Hansen / IAEA

Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

India’s Nuclear Safeguards: Not Fit for Purpose

| January 2018

Currently, the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG) is considering India’s application for membership. In this context NSG members are reportedly discussing membership criteria for states not party to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), including a requirement for clear and strict separation of current and future civilian nuclear facilities from non-civilian nuclear facilities. In this paper, John Carlson examines India’s Separation Plan and safeguards agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), and shows that they do not meet this standard – that current arrangements create an unverified grey zone between military and civilian material, and are not sufficient to verify that India is not using safeguarded material to benefit military purposes.

Report - International Panel on Fissile Materials

China’s Fissile Material Production and Stockpile

| January 2018

China began producing highly enriched uranium (HEU) and plutonium for nuclear weapons in the 1960s and is believed to have halted production the 1980s. Despite the passage of thirty years there has been no official policy declaration in this regard. This report uses newly available public information from Chinese sources to provide an improved reconstruction of the history of China’s production of HEU and plutonium for nuclear weapons. This allows improved estimates of the amount of HEU and plutonium China has produced and of its current stockpiles.

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Paper

The United Kingdom's Experience in Developing and Delivering Physical Protection Workshops

| November 2017

This paper discusses the development and delivery of a workshop on the “Fundamentals of Physical Protection”, which has been run since the early 1990s, as part of the UK’s Global Threat Reduction Programme (GTRP). Over the years, the workshop has brought together a wide range of international practitioners – from operators, regulators and government bodies to share their nuclear security knowledge and experiences. 

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Paper

The History of Highly Enriched Uranium Production in China

| July 2017

China initiated its nuclear weapon program in 1955 and began to construct its fissile-material production facilities in the late 1950s. China has produced highly enriched uranium (HEU) for weapons at two complexes: Lanzhou gaseous diffusion plant (GDP, also referred as Plant 504) and Heping GDP (the Jinkouhe facility of Plant 814).

In 1958, China started the construction of the Lanzhou plant with advice from Soviet experts. Moscow withdrew all its experts in August 1960, however, forcing China to become self-reliant. On January 14, 1964, the GDP began to produce 90% enriched uranium, which made possible China’s first nuclear test on 16 October 1964.