Nuclear Issues

677 Items

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant sarcophagus (Petr Pavlicek/IAEA via Wikimedia).

Petr Pavlicek/IAEA via Wikimedia

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Chernobyl’s Effects Go Far Beyond What You’re Seeing on HBO. It Shook Up Geopolitics for Years.

| July 15, 2019

Chernobyl’s effects went well beyond radiation, rippling through the social and political fabric of a deteriorating society. Chernobyl helped to bring down the Soviet Union and constrained independent Ukraine’s nuclear options. It still reverberates today on the front lines of the war in eastern Ukraine and in Moscow’s denials that it is involved in undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The Iranian flag waves outside of the UN building that hosts the International Atomic Energy Agency

(AP Photo/Ronald Zak)

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Iran’s Nuclear Program Seems to Be Accelerating. Will Saudi Arabia Take a Similar Path?

| July 12, 2019

While most observers focus on the spiral of U.S. pressure and Iranian defiance, the situation has broader implications for nuclear programs elsewhere — specifically, whether Saudi Arabia could follow in Iran’s footsteps

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer uses a handheld GR135- Radiation Isttope Identifier to check a container that was stopped after passing through a radiation detection device at the port of Newark in February 2006 (AP Photo/Mel Evans).

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Combating Nuclear Smuggling? Exploring Drivers and Challenges to Detecting Nuclear and Radiological Materials at Maritime Facilities

| June 03, 2019

International concern over nuclear terrorism has grown during the past few decades. This has driven a broad spectrum of efforts to strengthen nuclear security globally, including the widespread adoption of radiation-detection technology for border monitoring. Detection systems are now deployed at strategic locations for the purported purpose of detecting and deterring the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. However, despite considerable investment in this area, few studies have examined how these programs are implemented or the operational challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This article seeks to address this with a focus on radiation-detection efforts at maritime facilities. Utilizing practitioner interviews and a survey, this article identifies the factors that influence the planning and use of these systems in this fast-moving environment. The results clearly demonstrate that the implementation of these systems varies significantly across different national and organizational contexts, resulting in a fragmented global nuclear-detection architecture, which arguably undermines efforts to detect trafficked nuclear-threat materials. Greater consideration should therefore be given to developing international standards and guidance, designing and adopting tools to support key parts of the alarm assessment process, and broader sharing of good practice.

Steam billowing from cooling tower of nuclear power plant

AP Photo/David Veis/CTK

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Proliferation and the Logic of the Nuclear Market

| Spring 2019

What explains the scale and speed of nuclear proliferation? One key factor is the level of competition among suppliers in the market for nuclear materials and technologies. When suppliers form a cartel, fewer countries can acquire what they need for a nuclear weapons program. If great power competition intensifies, suppliers will find it harder to cooperate and nuclear proliferation could accelerate.

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.

Monument for victims of Chernobyl in front of covef

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

Thirty-three Years Since the Catastrophe at Chernobyl: A Universal Lesson for the Global Nuclear Power Industry

| Apr. 25, 2019

The world will soberly commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophic accident on Friday, April 26, 2019.  Some may wonder why bother with a gone-by historical event that happened in a distant land — a country that no longer exists — the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine).  On the contrary, Chernobyl and its legacy, with its specters of lingering human toll, radiation contamination, and the massive new shelter ("New Safe Confinement") installed over the old sarcophagus encasing the reactor, will be with us for a long time.

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, watch as President Donald Trump shows off an executive order

AP/Evan Vucci, File

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

5 Very Important Things About the World Nobody Knows

| Apr. 02, 2019

Stephen Walt writes that the future will be determined by a handful of big questions: What is China's future trajectory; How good are America's cybercapabilities; What's going to happen to the EU; How many states will go nuclear in the next 20 years; and Who will win the debate on U.S. grand strategy?

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

cdc.gov/phil

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

How to Deal with Increasingly Complex Safety-Critical Technologies

| Mar. 28, 2019

The authors analyze the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident and the recent back-to-back crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jets and make policy recommendations for the regulation of increasingly complex technologies.

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India, built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom (Flickr/India Water Portal).

Flickr/India Water Portal

Journal Article - Sustainability

Nonproliferation and Security Implications of the Evolving Civil Nuclear Export Market

| Mar. 27, 2019

In recent decades, the nuclear export market has observed a marked shift of demand from traditional customers in the Western world to Asia. The lack of projects in the United States, the delay in the French construction of advanced reactors, and the Fukushima accident in Japan have also led to the declining export capabilities of their companies. In contrast, Russia has gained numerous contracts, and China will likely become another major exporter. In this paper, the evolution of the market was examined from both the supply and demand sides with issues including the more concentrated and uncertain market, the lack of full participation by emerging suppliers to the nonproliferation regime, and the lesser governance capabilities of the newcomers. Addressing these issues, a range of policy suggestions was made, including the reinforcement of market shares of Western suppliers, the encouragement of newcomers to adhere to international norms, and a better safeguards contribution scheme.

Book Chapter - Routledge

Nuclear Disarmament, Nuclear Energy, and Climate Change

| March 2019

Preventing nuclear war and avoiding catastrophic climate change are two of the most basic challenges facing human civilization in the twenty-first century. While these are separate issues, these challenges are linked in several ways, and both may be affected by the future of nuclear energy. For nuclear energy to provide any substantial part of the low-carbon energy needed in the second half of the twenty-first century would require dramatic growth. This chapter provides an overview of the constraints and risks of nuclear energy growth on that scale, and the necessary steps to address them. In particular, use of nuclear energy at that scale would place unprecedented demands on global systems for verification, control, and security for weapons-usable nuclear materials. Deep reductions in nuclear arms and their eventual prohibition will also require new approaches to managing the vast global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials. Politically, nuclear energy may not be able to grow on the scale required unless governments and publics are confident that it will not contribute to the spread of nuclear weapons, creating another link between climate mitigation and nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.