Nuclear Issues

1152 Items

A detail of the video board at the UN showing the votes in favor, against and the abstention after a vote to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer).

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Journal Article - Washington Quarterly

Addressing the Nuclear Ban Treaty

| Apr. 16, 2019

The Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT), a bedrock of international security, had the 50-year anniversary of its signing in 2018. While the existence of the treaty has not been able to prevent a handful of states from seeking nuclear weapons, for half a century the NPT has promoted norms of nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament. Only nine states possess nuclear weapons today, far below the number predicted early in the nuclear age. Nonetheless, a second nuclear treaty, adopted in 2017, represents a significant and growing crack in the foundation of the NPT and suggests that relations among its members need to change if the treaty is going to survive another 50 years.

Iran's heavy water nuclear facility

AP Photo/ISNA/Hamid Foroutan

Iran's Secret Nuclear Documents

| Spring 2019

In mid-January, a team of scholars from the Belfer Center’s Intelligence and Managing the Atom Projects traveled to Tel Aviv, Israel to examine samples of, and receive briefings on, an archive of documents related to Iran’s nuclear weapons program that a clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited out of Iran in early 2018. The Belfer team’s forthcoming report will explore both the conclusions that can be drawn and the mysteries that remain.

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News

Stop-Motion Video Shows How to Take Apart a Nuclear Missile

| Apr. 08, 2019

The Outrider Foundation has released a new stop-motion animation demonstrating the steps to take apart a nuclear-armed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile. Sébastien Philippe, a Stanton Nuclear Security Postdoctoral Fellow in the Belfer Center’s International Security Program and Managing the Atom Project, served as a technical advisor on the film.

Delegates at the United Nations give a standing ovation after a vote to adopt the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons on July 7, 2017 (Mary Altaffer/Associated Press).

Mary Altaffer/Associated Press

Journal Article - Arms Control Today

The Future of the Nuclear Order

| April 2019

Foreign policy pundits have bemoaned the unraveling of the post-World War II international order in recent years, describing threats to the multilateralism and liberalism enshrined in postwar institutions. An often overlooked component of that structure is the global nuclear order, which, like other parts of the postwar system, was created for magnanimous and selfish aims: reducing the dangers of nuclear weapons for all and serving the interests of the world’s most powerful states.

Three Mile Island nuclear power plant

cdc.gov/phil

Analysis & Opinions - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

How to Deal with Increasingly Complex Safety-Critical Technologies

| Mar. 28, 2019

The authors analyze the 1979 Three Mile Island nuclear accident and the recent back-to-back crashes of two Boeing 737 Max jets and make policy recommendations for the regulation of increasingly complex technologies.

The Kudankulam Nuclear Power Plant in India, built in collaboration with Atomstroyexport, a subsidiary of Rosatom (Flickr/India Water Portal).

Flickr/India Water Portal

Journal Article - Sustainability

Nonproliferation and Security Implications of the Evolving Civil Nuclear Export Market

| Mar. 27, 2019

In recent decades, the nuclear export market has observed a marked shift of demand from traditional customers in the Western world to Asia. The lack of projects in the United States, the delay in the French construction of advanced reactors, and the Fukushima accident in Japan have also led to the declining export capabilities of their companies. In contrast, Russia has gained numerous contracts, and China will likely become another major exporter. In this paper, the evolution of the market was examined from both the supply and demand sides with issues including the more concentrated and uncertain market, the lack of full participation by emerging suppliers to the nonproliferation regime, and the lesser governance capabilities of the newcomers. Addressing these issues, a range of policy suggestions was made, including the reinforcement of market shares of Western suppliers, the encouragement of newcomers to adhere to international norms, and a better safeguards contribution scheme.

FBI agents leaving a raid.

AP Photo/Julio Cortez

Journal Article - Contemporary Security Policy

Going it Alone: The Causes and Consequences of U.S. Extraterritorial Counterproliferation Enforcement

| Mar. 25, 2019

In 2004, the United Nations Security Council adopted resolution 1540, which acknowledged the non-state acquisition of weapons of mass destruction as a security threat and called on member states to implement “appropriate effective” domestic trade controls. The United States, however, has both promoted the multilateral implementation of strategic trade controls but has also increasingly resorted to extraterritorial enforcement of its counterproliferation rules. How can a multilateral, norms-based international regime like 1540 contend with extraterritorial enforcement based on national interests? We argue that increased U.S. extraterritorial counterproliferation policies are a consequence of the inconsistent implementation of resolution 1540, adaptive and resilient proliferation networks, and a history of expanding legal interpretations of jurisdiction. We find that while U.S. extraterritorial enforcement can effectively disrupt networks hiding in overseas jurisdictions, doing so creates disincentives for states to implement 1540 obligations and undermines broader nonproliferation objectives.

Book Chapter - Routledge

Emerging Non-Nuclear Technology and the Future of the Global Nuclear Order

| March 2019

The latest information revolution has driven the development of a new suite of non-nuclear military capabilities and a new technological context that together challenge our understanding of the global nuclear order. Long-held assumptions about strategic stability, deterrence, arms control and crisis stability are being challenged by increasingly capable ballistic missile defences, precision weapons across all military domains, cyber technologies and the introduction of Artificial Intelligence into the nuclear realm. Each of these systems is important and influential in its own right – particularly as counter-force weapons – but, taken together, the impact is magnified considerably. The time is therefore ripe to reassess the central tenets of how we think about and manage our nuclear world and unpack what this development could mean for the future of nuclear weapons, and how this might shape the prospect for the long-held goal of nuclear disarmament. This chapter argues that we stand on the cusp of a new era likely to be characterised by three pathways, only one of which might see us move towards a non-nuclear world.

Book Chapter - Routledge

Dim Hope for Disarmament and Approaching Risk of Build-Up

| March 2019

Further nuclear reduction under the current regimes seems unlikely. The US argues that Russia has violated the INF Treaty by developing and deploying a land-based cruise missile. Russia also makes the accusation that the Aegis Ashore missile defense system in Europe, capable of launching cruise missiles, has violated the INF. Furthermore, President Trump has repeatedly expressed his unwillingness to extend the New START Treaty for five more years after it expires in February 2021. The US-Russia bilateral disarmament process seems to have terminated. There have been some signs of nuclear build-up. The new US Nuclear Posture Review emphasizes the role of nuclear weapons while de-emphasizing strategic stability, reduces the threshold for nuclear use and calls for developing new low-yield SLBM and sea-launched cruise missiles. America’s nuclear policy might stimulate Russia and China to build new nuclear capabilities. North Korea’s advances in nuclear and long-range missile programs justify Washington’s investment in homeland missile defense, which in turn undermines China and Russia’s nuclear retaliatory capability and might result in a defense-offense arms race.

Book Chapter - Routledge

Nuclear Disarmament, Nuclear Energy, and Climate Change

| March 2019

Preventing nuclear war and avoiding catastrophic climate change are two of the most basic challenges facing human civilization in the twenty-first century. While these are separate issues, these challenges are linked in several ways, and both may be affected by the future of nuclear energy. For nuclear energy to provide any substantial part of the low-carbon energy needed in the second half of the twenty-first century would require dramatic growth. This chapter provides an overview of the constraints and risks of nuclear energy growth on that scale, and the necessary steps to address them. In particular, use of nuclear energy at that scale would place unprecedented demands on global systems for verification, control, and security for weapons-usable nuclear materials. Deep reductions in nuclear arms and their eventual prohibition will also require new approaches to managing the vast global stocks of weapons-usable nuclear materials. Politically, nuclear energy may not be able to grow on the scale required unless governments and publics are confident that it will not contribute to the spread of nuclear weapons, creating another link between climate mitigation and nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.