Nuclear Issues

119 Items

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."

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.

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.

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.

People at Seoul Train Station watch a a local news program reporting about a North Korean missile launch. Aug. 30, 2017 (Lee Jin-man/Associated Press).

Lee Jin-man/Associated Press

Journal Article - The RUSI Journal

North Korea’s Missile Programme and Supply-Side Controls: Lessons for Countering Illicit Procurement

| Oct. 17, 2018

Despite one of the most extensive sanctions regimes in history, including an embargo on missile technologies, North Korea has taken huge steps forward in its ballistic missile programme. Daniel Salisbury explores the limitations of, and challenges of implementing, supply-side approaches to missile nonproliferation. Considering North Korea’s recent progress and efforts to evade sanctions, the article highlights the continuing need to strengthen efforts to counter illicit trade in missile-related technologies.

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Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

The future of US–Russian nuclear deterrence and arms control

| June 19, 2017

During the latter part of the Cold War, many strategists thought of nuclear deterrence and arms control as two of the most essential stabilizing elements of the same strategy in managing an adversarial relationship. The renewed crisis between the West (the United States and NATO member states) and Russia demonstrates how critical these elements are to the strategic nuclear relationship. As a result of recent setbacks between Washington and Moscow in the past few years, arms control has taken a back seat, and the risk of conflict due to miscalculation is the highest it has been since the 1980s.

Reactor Building of the Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant

AP Photo/Mehr News Agency/Majid Asgaripour

Journal Article - Afkar/Ideas

Nuclear Energy in the Middle East? Regional Security Cooperation Needed

| Spring 2017

Nuclear power in the Middle East has appeared poised for dramatic growth for more than a decade.  Iran’s nuclear power plant at Bushehr, the first of its kind in the Middle East, began producing electricity in 2011. Tehran has plans or proposals for additional 11 reactors, according to the World Nuclear Association. Saudi Arabia has announced plans to build 16 nuclear power reactors by 2040. The UAE has four nuclear power reactors under construction, the first of which is expected to come online later this year.  Egypt, Turkey, and Jordan, are each pursuing the development nuclear energy at their own pace.  The appearance of activity is impressive. 

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Journal Article - Strategic Trade Review

A Resilience Framework for Understanding Illicit Nuclear Procurement Networks

| Spring 2017

Current approaches to global supply-side controls to curb the proliferation of nuclear dual-use goods and technologies fail to consider the mechanisms that drive non-state actors to adapt and innovate. Consequently, policymakers are left reacting to, rather than anticipating, new illicit procurement techniques and methods. This article proposes a new analytical framework based on the concept of resilience, which considers how illicit procurement networks change and adapt within environments characterized by risk and uncertainty.