Nuclear Issues

47 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.

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Journal Article - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

China is speeding up its plutonium recycling programs

| July 20, 2020

Since 1983, China has had the objective of developing breeder reactors to run on recycled plutonium. Since 2004, it has been progressing through three stages of its plutonium recycling strategy: from pilot to demonstration to commercial facilities. At the first stage, in 2010, China began testing a pilot civilian reprocessing plant and running a small experimental fast reactor. Although those pilot facilities did not perform well, since 2015 China has moved forward to the second stage, which includes a demonstration reprocessing plant, a mixed-oxide fuel facility, and two demonstration liquid-sodium-cooled fast-neutron reactors. Recent satellite images and other information show construction of those demonstration facilities is actively underway. Meanwhile, the China National Nuclear Corporation is pushing toward the third stage by negotiating with France’s nuclear fuel cycle company Orano (formerly Areva) over the purchase of a large commercial reprocessing plant, and has proposed construction of large commercial fast-neutron reactors by 2028.

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.

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Magazine Article - H-Diplo/ISSF

Roundtable on Bargaining on Nuclear Tests: Washington And Its Cold War Rivals by Or Rabinowitz

| November 16, 2015

"In Bargaining on Nuclear Tests the historian Or Rabinowitz demonstrates the rare ability to engage with contemporary policy debates on nuclear proliferation and U.S. nonproliferation strategies on the one hand, and successfully utilize qualitative analytical frameworks in social science like prospect theory (19) on the other."

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 - Cold War History

'Wean Them Away from French Tutelage': Franco-Indian Nuclear Relations and Anglo-American Anxieties During the Early Cold War, 1948–1952

| October 2015

Based on multi-archival research, this article explores the significance of Franco-Indian nuclear relations against the backdrop of Anglo-American endeavours to censor information related to atomic energy and to secure control of strategic minerals during the early Cold War.