Nuclear Issues

979 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.

President Donald Trump, accompanied by Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin and Vice President Mike Pence, holds up a signed executive order to increase sanctions on Iran on June 24.

Alex Brandon/Associated Press

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

Deescalation Wanted: How Trump Can Steer Clear of a War

| June 26, 2019

The United States and Iran have engaged in a constant raising of the stakes as a means of securing leverage ahead of possible nuclear negotiations. This is a classic bargaining pattern but in the current context, such an approach is particularly risky due to the potential for misperceptions. The complexities of domestic and regional dynamics are also a factor. In such a situation, absent clear understanding of the other’s motivations and tactics, raising the stakes—rather than securing leverage for effective negotiations—could steer the United States and Iran towards a path toward war.

A water desalination plant near an Abu Dhabi beach in 1980.

AP Photo/Randy Taylor

Analysis & Opinions - LobeLog

Gulf Escalation Threatens Drinking Water

| June 26, 2019

The Persian Gulf is one of the most populous and environmentally-sensitive regions in the world. Consequently, it is no surprise that Gulf states are increasingly dependent on desalination for their drinking water. But that dependence carries severe risks in a region as volatile as the Gulf has been, especially in light of recent tensions between the United States and Iran. Any accident or military conflict in the Gulf could cause massive spills of long-lasting contaminants such as crude oil or radioactive material into its waters, which could seriously threaten the lives and well-being of millions of people in the region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, center, walks with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Steve Bondy, left, and United Arab Emirates Minister of State Ahmed al-Sayegh, right, upon arrival in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on June 24.

Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press, Pool

Analysis & Opinions - The Hill

How to Defuse Gulf Tensions and Avoid War with Iran

| June 24, 2019

The Trump administration has spent over a year attempting to pressure Iran back to the negotiating table to get a “better deal” than the 2015 nuclear agreement known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). That strategy has failed. Iran has demonstrated that it is willing to risk war rather than endure the humiliation of negotiating “withsomebodywho hasaknife inhishand.” And PresidentTrump has indicated he doesn’t want to go to war in the Middle East.

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.

President Barack Obama walks with John P. Holdren, Assistant to the President for Science and Technology and Director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, at the White House in Washington, Friday, March 7, 2014.

(AP Photo/Charles Dharapak)

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

John P. Holdren Receives Japan's Order of the Rising Sun

| May 22, 2019

The Government of Japan has announced that its prestigious Order of the Rising Sun, Gold and Silver Star will be awarded to John P. Holdren, Co-Director of the Belfer Center's Science, Technology, and Public Policy Program and former Assistant to the President for Science and Technology during the Obama administration. Holdren will receive the award for his "contributions to strengthening relations between the two countries in science and technology."

A DF-15B short-range ballistic missile as seen after the military parade held in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in 2015 (Wikimedia/IceUnshattered).

Wikimedia/IceUnshattered

Analysis & Opinions - East Asia Forum

China's Calculus After the INF Treaty

| May 08, 2019

It seems that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is coming to an end. The Treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or testing land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500–5500 kilometres, including both conventional and nuclear-armed missiles. On 1 February 2019, US President Trump said that he would suspend obligations under the INF Treaty and initiate the withdrawal procedure. After withdrawing, the United States might deploy conventional and nuclear missiles to the West Pacific against China. How would the potential deployment of each missile type impact China’s security?

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.