Nuclear Issues

627 Items

Then-Defense Secretary James N. Mattis meets with Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman at the Pentagon on March 22, 2018.

Department of Defense/Navy Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Kathryn E. Holm

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Saudi Arabia’s Nuclear Program: Separating Real Concerns from Threat Inflation

| Oct. 08, 2020

In the highly charged political atmosphere surrounding nuclear initiatives in the Middle East, legitimate concerns are sometimes blown out of proportion, with potentially problematic results. This has been the case with recent coverage and commentary on Saudi Arabia’s nuclear activities, which have been characterized by a degree of what can be described as “threat inflation.”

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 Bavand, one of two stranded Iranian vessels, sits anchored at the port in Paranagua, Brazil on July 25, 2019. In defiance of U.S. sanctions, Brazil's top court ordered state oil company Petrobras to supply fuel to two Iranian vessels that were stranded off the coast of Parana state since early June (AP Photo/Giuliano Gomes).

AP Photo/Giuliano Gomes

Journal Article - Washington Quarterly

A Financial Sanctions Dilemma

| Winter 2020

Over the last two decades, there has been a dramatic increase in the popularity of financial sanctions as an instrument of US foreign policy to address security threats ranging from weapons of mass destruction (WMD) proliferation and terrorism to human rights violations and transnational crime. Washington’s policymakers have prized these tools for their ability to rapidly apply pressure against foreign targets with few perceived repercussions against American business interests. The problem, however, is that Washington is ignoring a growing tension between financial sanctions designed to support economic statecraft (with non-financial goals) and those designed to protect the international financial system. Confusing the two sends mixed signals to adversaries as well as allies and undermines US credibility and commitment to upholding international banking rules and norms. If Washington cannot reconcile these competing processes, it is unlikely that future administrations will enjoy the same foreign policy levers, leaving the United States at a significant disadvantage.

A container of uranium oxide and plutonium (MOX) is unloaded from a British plutonium transport ship at a port in Iwaki, Japan (AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File).

AP Photo/Shizuo Kambayashi, File

Journal Article - Journal of Global Security Studies

Supply to Deny: The Benefits of Nuclear Assistance for Nuclear Nonproliferation

| Dec. 12, 2019

Recent scholarship on nuclear proliferation finds that many forms of nuclear assistance increase the odds that recipient states pursue nuclear weapons programs. While these studies may help us understand select cases of proliferation, they overshadow the role of nuclear supply in bolstering global nonproliferation efforts. After the risks of nuclear assistance became well-known following India’s nuclear explosion in 1974, most major suppliers conditioned their assistance on recipients joining nonproliferation agreements. Case studies of states’ decision-making regarding these agreements illustrate how the provision of nuclear technology has been an effective tool in persuading states to join such agreements, the most important of which is the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). By joining the NPT, states strengthen the global nonproliferation regime and increase the costs of any potential future decision to proliferate. The offer of nuclear assistance has done far more to bolster global nuclear nonproliferation efforts than recent research suggests.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry hosts the Budapest Memorandum Ministerial on the Ukraine crisis with Ukrainian Foreign Minister Andrii Deshchytsia, right, and British Foreign Secretary William Hague, left,

U.S. State Department

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Impeachment Backstory: The Nuclear Dimension of US Security Assistance to Ukraine

| Oct. 29, 2019

Mariana Budjeryn recounts Ukraine's surrender of its inherited nuclear arsenal and the signing of the Budapest Memorandum by the United States, United Kingdom, and Russia. While the memorandum did not specify the assistance Ukraine was to receive if it became a victim of aggression, Ukrainians were led to believe that the United States would uphold its commitments to their security in the time of need, as Ukraine upheld its commitment to nuclear nonproliferation norms.

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.

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.