Nuclear Issues

521 Items

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Paper - Institute for Nuclear Materials Management

IAEA Nuclear Security Recommendations (INFCIRC/225): The Next Generation

In 2011, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) released the fifth revision of its Nuclear Security Recommendations on Physical Protection of Nuclear Material and Nuclear Facilities. This update of IAEA nuclear security guidance was a significant improvement upon its predecessors, suggesting new and strengthened approaches to nuclear security in a range of areas. Nearly a decade later, however, the global nuclear security landscape has changed. Nuclear security regulations and practices have improved. International institutions and norms supporting global nuclear security architecture are stronger. Countries have made new political commitments to strengthening their nuclear security. Legally binding agreements are more widely subscribed than they were before. Meanwhile, new global threats have surfaced, presenting new challenges to physical protection systems. A range of emerging technologies creates new opportunities, but also new risks.

Nuclear test

Creative Commons/Pixabay

Report - American Nuclear Policy Initiative

Blundering Toward Nuclear Chaos

| May 2020

Edited by former Project on Managing the Atom (MTA) Associate Jon Wolfsthal and featuring papers authored by Wolfsthal and MTA Associate Nickolas Roth, this report from the American Nuclear Policy Initiative details the Trump administration's first three years of efforts on nuclear proliferation, strategic stability, nuclear modernization, Iran, and North Korea. The authors provide an objective summary of nuclear policy under the current administration and its record on protecting the United States and its allies against perhaps the greatest national security danger facing humanity.

Testimony

Public Testimony on Trump Administration Funding for Nuclear Theft Preventing Programs

| Mar. 31, 2020

A nuclear explosion detonated anywhere by a terrorist group would be a global humanitarian, economic, and political catastrophe. The current COVID-19 pandemic reminds us not to ignore prevention of and preparation for low-probability, high-consequence disasters. For nuclear terrorism, while preparation is important, prevention must be the top priority. The most effective strategy for keeping nuclear weapons out of the hands of terrorists is to ensure that nuclear materials and facilities around the world have strong and sustainable security. Every president for more than two decades has made strengthening nuclear security around the globe a priority. This includes the Trump administration, whose 2018 Nuclear Posture Review states: “[n]uclear terrorism remains among the most significant threats to the security of the United States, allies, and partners.”

A satellite view of Shigatse, Tibet, home to the PLA’s 6th Border Defense Regiment, near the China-India border.

Maxar Technologies / CNES Airbus via Google, used with permission

Report - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Strategic Postures of China and India: A Visual Guide

| March 2020

Fueled by aggressive rhetoric from both capitals, Indian and Chinese ground forces engaged in a standoff between June and August 2017. The Doklam crisis, as it became known, stimulated introspection among officials and experts in both states about the future of their relationship. Politically, both strategic communities largely concluded that the peaceful resolution of border disputes is now less likely, forecasting more rivalry than cooperation. Militarily, Indian discussions on the strength of its military position against China in their disputed ground frontier areas have converged on the view that China holds the conventional and nuclear edge over India in this domain.

Based on our analysis of data on the location and capabilities of Indian and Chinese strategic forces and related military units, we conclude that this assessment of the balance of forces may be mistaken and a poor guide for Indian security and procurement policies. We recommend that instead of investing in new nuclear weapons platforms that our analysis suggests are not likely to be required to deter China, New Delhi should improve the survivability of its existing forces and fill the gap in global arms control leadership with an initiative on restraint and transparency.

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.

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.

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.

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.