Nuclear Issues

179 Items

Missile Launch

Iranian Revolutionary Guard/Sepahnews via AP, File

Analysis & Opinions - The National Interest

How to Make the Iranian Nuclear Deal Durable

| Feb. 28, 2021

Abolghasem Bayyenat and Sayed Hossein Mousavian advise the United States and Iran to aim for reaching a modus vivendi that keeps their political conflict within manageable limits. Otherwise, another round of dangerous mutual escalation in the illusory hope of building leverage and extracting more concessions from each other is inevitable.     

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani addresses the nation in a televised speech in Tehran on Feb. 10, 2021 (Iranian Presidency Office via AP).

Iranian Presidency Office via AP

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

Reviving the Nuclear Deal Gives the U.S. More Leverage Over Iran

| Feb. 15, 2021

While U.S. sanctions have caused Iran’s economy major challenges and limited Iran’s access to financial resources, they have not succeeded in changing Tehran’s behavior regarding its nuclear program. Indeed, Iran has not offered additional concessions. Instead, it has engaged in its own leverage-building strategy by ramping up its nuclear activities, missile program, and regional activities. Iran is not only closer to having the capacity to build a bomb, but even the political discourse of key officials on whether to cross that threshold has been shifting.

nuclear power plant

Wikimedia CC/Korea Yonggwang NPP

Journal Article - Journal for Peace and Nuclear Disarmament

The Nuclear Fuel Cycle and the Proliferation ‘Danger Zone’

| May 27, 2020

Horizontal nuclear proliferation presents what is sometimes referred to as the "Nth country problem," or identifying which state could be next to acquire nuclear weapons. Nuclear fuel cycle technologies can contribute to both nuclear power generation and weapons development. Consequently, observers often view civilian nuclear programs with suspicion even as research on nuclear latency and the technological inputs of proliferation has added nuance to these discussions. To contribute to this debate, the author puts forth a simple theoretical proposition: En route to developing a civilian nuclear infrastructure and mastering the fuel cycle, states pass through a proliferation "danger zone."

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The Postponement of the NPT Review Conference. Antagonisms, Conflicts and Nuclear Risks after the Pandemic

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists has published a document from the Pugwash Conference on Science and World Affairs concerning nuclear problems and tensions in the time of COVID-19. The document has been co-signed by a large number of Pugwash colleagues and personalities.

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.

A North Korean military parade (Stefan Krasowski via Flickr).

Stefan Krasowski via Flickr

Journal Article - Defense and Security Analysis

An Evolving State of Play? Exploring Competitive Advantages of State Assets in Proliferation Networks

| Jan. 17, 2019

Illicit procurement networks often target industry in developed economies to acquire materials and components of use in WMD and military programs. These procurement networks are ultimately directed by elements of the proliferating state and utilize state resources to undertake their activities: diplomats and missions, state intelligence networks, and state-connected logistical assets. These state assets have also been utilized to facilitate the export of WMD and military technologies in breach of sanctions. While used in most historic proliferation cases, their role has seen limited consideration in the scholarly literature. This article seeks to systematically contextualize state resources in proliferation networks, arguing that their use lies between state criminality and routine activity in support of national security. Considering the competitive advantages of these assets compared to similar resources available in the private sector, the article argues that nonproliferation efforts have caused states to change how they use these resources through an ongoing process of competitive adaptation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin speaks during his annual news conference in Moscow

AP/Alexander Zemlianichenko

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

How the Next Nuclear Arms Race Will Be Different from the Last One

| 2019

All the world's nuclear-armed states (except for North Korea) have begun modernizing and upgrading their arsenals, leading many observers to predict that the world is entering a new nuclear arms race. While that outcome is not yet inevitable, it is likely, and if it happens, the new nuclear arms race will be different and more dangerous than the one we remember. More nuclear-armed countries in total, and three competing great powers rather than two, will make the competition more complex. Meanwhile, new non-nuclear weapon technologies — such as ballistic missile defense, anti-satellite weapons, and precision-strike missile technology — will make nuclear deterrence relationships that were once somewhat stable less so.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of the Treasury Steve Mnuchin provide an update on the Trump administration's Iran policy at the Foreign Press Center in Washington, D.C., on November 5, 2018 (State Department via Flickr).

State Department via Flickr

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Not very SWIFT

| Nov. 06, 2018

Not only would sanctioning SWIFT be a major escalation in U.S. sanctions policy, but an entirely reckless decision. Realistically, enforcing sanctions against SWIFT would have significant consequences for both the U.S. and global financial system—upending decades of international norms.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Security Science, July 2015

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

When Did (and Didn’t) States Proliferate?

| June 2017

In this Project on Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Philipp C. Bleek chronicles nuclear weapons proliferation choices throughout the nuclear age. Since the late 1930s and early 1940s, some thirty-one countries are known to have at least explored the possibility of establishing a nuclear weapons program. Seventeen of those countries launched weapons programs, and ten acquired deliverable nuclear weapons.