Nuclear Issues

398 Items

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.

An Iranian security guard walks past a gate of the Bushehr nuclear power plant in Iran in 2010 (AP Photo/Vahid Salemi).

AP Photo/Vahid Salemi

Paper - International Atomic Energy Agency

The Need for Creative and Effective Nuclear Security Vulnerability Assessment and Testing

| February 2020

Realistic, creative vulnerability assessment and testing are critical to finding and fixing nuclear security weaknesses and avoiding over-confidence. Both vulnerability assessment and realistic testing are needed to ensure that nuclear security systems are providing the level of protection required. Systems must be challenged by experts thinking like adversaries, trying to find ways to overcome them. Effective vulnerability assessment and realistic testing are more difficult in the case of insider threats, and special attention is needed. Organizations need to find ways to give people the mission and the incentives to find nuclear security weaknesses and suggest ways they might be fixed. With the right approaches and incentives in place, effective vulnerability assessment and testing can be a key part of achieving and sustaining high levels of nuclear security.

President Obama at the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin

Paper - International Atomic Energy Agency

Assessing Progress on Nuclear Security Action Plans

| February 2020

Participants at the final Nuclear Security Summit in 2016 agreed on “action plans” for initiatives they would support by five international organizations and groups—the International Atomic Energy Agency, the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism, INTERPOL, the United Nations, and the Global Partnership Against the Spread of Weapons and Materials of Destruction. These institutions were supposed to play key roles in bolstering ongoing nuclear security cooperation after the summit process ended. The action plans were modest documents, largely endorsing activities already underway, and there have been mixed results in implementing them. To date, these organizations have not filled any substantial part of the role once played by the nuclear security summits.

A drone Interceptor MP200, top, prepares to catch a drone DJI Phantom 2 with a net during a demonstration flight in La Queue-en-Brie, France, in 2015 (AP Photo/Francois Mori).

AP Photo/Francois Mori

Paper - Nuclear Threat Initiative

The Risks and Rewards of Emerging Technology in Nuclear Security

| February 2020

Nuclear security is never finished. Nuclear security measures for protecting all nuclear weapons, weapons-usable nuclear materials, and facilities whose sabotage could cause disastrous consequences should protect against the full range of plausible threats. It is an ongoing endeavor that requires constant assessment of physical protection operations and reevaluation of potential threats. One of the most challenging areas of nuclear security is how to account for the impact–positive and negative—of non-nuclear emerging technologies. The amended Convention on the Physical Protection of Nuclear Material (amended CPPNM) states it should be reviewed in light of the prevailing situation, and a key part of the prevailing situation is technological evolution. Therefore, the upcoming review conference in 2021, as well as any future review conferences, should examine the security threats and benefits posed by emerging technologies.

The 2010 Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C.

Chuck Kennedy/Official White House photo

Paper - International Atomic Energy Agency

The Past and Potential Role of Civil Society in Nuclear Security

| February 2020

Civil society has played a very important role in nuclear security over the years, and its role could be strengthened in the future. Some nuclear organizations react against the very idea of civil society involvement, thinking of only one societal role—protesting. In fact, however, civil society has played quite a number of critical roles in nuclear security over the years, including highlighting the dangers of nuclear terrorism; providing research and ideas; nudging governments to act; tracking progress and holding governments and operators accountable; educating the public and other stakeholders; promoting dialogue and partnerships; helping with nuclear security implementation; funding initial steps; and more. Funding organizations (both government and non-government) should consider ways to support civil society work and expertise focused on nuclear security in additional countries. Rather than simply protesting and opposing, civil society organizations can help build more effective nuclear security practices around the world.

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.

Nigeria's Miniature Neutron Source Reactor was the last operational research reactor in Africa to make the conversion from HEU to LEU. Here, the HEU once used in the reactor is loaded for shipment back to China, the supplier (IAEA).

IAEA

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

Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials Worldwide: Expanded Funding Needed for a More Ambitious Approach

| Apr. 19, 2019

The Trump administration budget request for programs to reduce the dangers of nuclear theft and terrorism is too small to implement the ambitious approach that is needed. Congress should increase funding in this critical area; direct the administration to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for improving security for nuclear weapons and materials worldwide; and exert expanded oversight of this effort. This brief highlights the importance of ongoing nuclear security work; describes the evolving budget picture; and outlines recommendations for congressional action.

A building at a Pakistani naval aviation base burns during an attack by a substantial group of well-armed, well-trained militants, apparently with insider help, in May 2011. Nuclear weapons and materials must be protected against comparable adversary capabilities and tactics (AP Photo/Shakil Adil).

AP Photo/Shakil Adil

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

Combating Complacency about Nuclear Terrorism

Complacency about the threat of nuclear terrorism—the belief that nuclear and radiological terrorism threats are minimal and existing security measures are sufficient to address them—is the fundamental barrier to strengthening nuclear security. Many factors can lead to complacency, but the most significant contributors are lack of knowledge about: events related to nuclear terrorism; weaknesses of nuclear security systems; and the capabilities demonstrated by thieves around the world. People will be more likely to take action to strengthen nuclear security if they believe that nuclear terrorism poses a real threat to their own country’s interests and their actions can significantly reduce the threat. There have been many incidents in recent years that demonstrate the need for strong and sustainable security at both military and civilian nuclear facilities.