Nuclear Issues

37 Items

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Russian Defense Ministry Press Service via AP, File

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

'What About China?' and the Threat to US–Russian Nuclear Arms Control

| 2020

The administration of President Donald J. Trump has consistently used fear of China to undermine nearly five decades of bipartisan consensus on US–Russian nuclear arms control. The negative consequences of these actions may last far beyond the Trump presidency. If generations of agreement between Democrats and Republicans on bilateral nuclear treaties with Russia erode, it will pose a significant setback to US national security and global stability. Future leaders may ultimately need to consider new approaches to nuclear risk reduction that preserve the benefits of the arms control regime.

A satellite image of Lanzhou Uranium Enrichment Plant in January 2015 (DigitalGlobe).

DigitalGlobe

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

The History of Fissile-Material Production in China

| Jan. 23, 2019

This article reconstructs the history of China’s production of highly enriched uranium and plutonium for nuclear weapons based on newly available public sources. It begins with discussion of China’s first set of fissile-material production facilities, which China started building in 1958. It then details the first and second “third-line” construction campaigns, initiated in 1964 and the late 1960s, respectively. Finally, the article considers the policy implications of the history of China’s fissile-material production, particularly its influence on China’s attitude toward negotiating a fissile-material cutoff treaty.

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.

Visitors look at the models of oil tanker shaped floating nuclear reactors and oil rigs showcased at the display booth of China's state-owned China National Nuclear Corporation during the China International Exhibition on Nuclear Power Industry in Beijing. April 27, 2017 (Andy Wong/Associated Press).

Andy Wong/Associated Press

Journal Article - Maritime Issues

China's Planned Floating Nuclear Power Facilities in South China Sea: Technical and Political Challenges

| Nov. 21, 2018

The operation of the fleet of Chinese floating nuclear power plants in the South China Sea carries with it numerous safety and security risks that may have widespread consequences to not only China but also to Southeast Asia and beyond.

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Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

China’s Nuclear Modernization: Assuring a Second-Strike Capability

| Feb. 11, 2018

Some experts are increasingly concerned that China’s modernization will lead to a Chinese nuclear “breakout”—a pursuit of a nuclear-warfighting capability or a “sprint to parity” with the United States. David Logan (“Hard Constraints on a Chinese Nuclear Breakout,” Vol. 24, Nos. 1–2, 2017, pp. 13–30) rightly suggests that such a nuclear breakout would be constrained not only by China’s “soft” nuclear policy but also by “hard” technical constraints. I would emphasize that it is the former that has been the first principle guiding China’s nuclear-force development. That some of the “hard” technical constrains have resulted from this “soft” guidance demonstrates China’s commitment to a small deterrent force. It is difficult to imagine that the future development of China’s nuclear force would eventually overthrow these first principles. In fact, there is no evidence that China will change its long-standing nuclear policy.

Journal Article - Taylor and Francis Science & Global Security

China's Uranium Enrichment Complex

| October 23, 2015

New public information allows a fresh estimate of China's current and under-construction uranium enrichment capacity. This paper uses open source information and commercial satellite imagery to identify and offer estimates of the capacity of China's 10 operating enrichment facilities, located at 4 sites, using centrifuge technology most likely based on adapting Russian technology. The total currently operating civilian centrifuge enrichment capacity is estimated to be about 4.5 million separative work units/year (SWU/year), with additional capacity estimated to be about 2 million SWU/year under construction. Also China could have an enrichment capacity of around 0.6 million SWU/year for non-weapon military uses (i.e., naval fuel) or dual use. These estimates are much larger than previous public estimates of China's total enrichment capacity. Further expansion of enrichment capacity may be likely since China will require about 9 million SWU/year by 2020 to meet the enriched uranium fuel needs for its planned nuclear power reactor capacity of 58 gigawatts-electric (GWe) by 2020 under its policy of self-sufficiency in the supply of enrichment services.

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Plutonium Reprocessing, Breeder Reactors, and Decades of Debate: A Chinese Response

| July 1, 2015

Some observers believe that plutonium reprocessing is on the verge of an expansion, while others argue that the end of the practice is in sight. The risk of nuclear proliferation has always been the chief objection to reprocessing but proponents argue that today, with uranium enrichment technology more easily available, reprocessing no longer represents an efficient route toward nuclear weapons...

Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Uranium Supplies: A Hitch to China’s Nuclear Energy Plans? Or not?

| May 6, 2015

China will triple the number of nuclear power plants it has in operation by 2020 according to official plans, and the country’s nuclear fleet will increase 20-fold by 2050 under some not-yet-approved proposals. But how and where will China get the uranium to fuel them all? Will China need to resort to breeder reactors and reprocessing, with all the proliferation problems they incur? Or is there another way? In this journal article for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Hui Zhang suggests that between China’s domestic uranium mining, uranium purchased on the international market, and uranium mined by Chinese-owned companies overseas, China could meet even the most ambitious target, thus avoiding the troublesome and dangerous path of reprocessing.

Journal Article - Arms Control Today

How to Strengthen Nuclear Security in China

| March, 2015

"China is a nuclear-weapon state and rising power entering an era of particularly rapid nuclear energy growth and fuel-cycle development. China’s approach to strengthening the security of its nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities is important because of the quantity of materials involved and the role that China plays in facilitating strong global action on nuclear security..."