Nuclear Issues

469 Items

The Chernobyl nuclear power plant sarcophagus (Petr Pavlicek/IAEA via Wikimedia).

Petr Pavlicek/IAEA via Wikimedia

Analysis & Opinions - The Washington Post

Chernobyl’s Effects Go Far Beyond What You’re Seeing on HBO. It Shook Up Geopolitics for Years.

| July 15, 2019

Chernobyl’s effects went well beyond radiation, rippling through the social and political fabric of a deteriorating society. Chernobyl helped to bring down the Soviet Union and constrained independent Ukraine’s nuclear options. It still reverberates today on the front lines of the war in eastern Ukraine and in Moscow’s denials that it is involved in undermining Ukraine’s territorial integrity.

The nuclear archive warehouse outside Tehran (Satellite image via Google).

Satellite image via Google

Report - Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, Harvard Kennedy School

The Iran Nuclear Archive: Impressions and Implications

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. The large cache includes some 55,000 pages of documents and a further 55,000 files on CDs that included photos and videos. A clandestine Israeli intelligence operation spirited the materials out of Iran in early 2018.

The documents that the Belfer group were shown confirm that senior Iranian officials had decided in the late 1990s to actually manufacture nuclear weapons and carry out an underground nuclear test; that Iran’s program to do so made more technical progress than had previously been understood; and that Iran had help from quite a number of foreign scientists, and access to several foreign nuclear weapon designs. The archive also leaves open a wide range of questions, including what plan, if any, Iran has had with respect to nuclear weapons in the nearly 16 years since Iran’s government ordered a halt to most of the program in late 2003. 

This brief report summarizes the group’s conclusions about what the archive reveals about Iran’s program and questions that remain open.

Monument for victims of Chernobyl in front of covef

AP Photo/Efrem Lukatsky

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

Thirty-three Years Since the Catastrophe at Chernobyl: A Universal Lesson for the Global Nuclear Power Industry

| Apr. 25, 2019

The world will soberly commemorate the 33rd anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant catastrophic accident on Friday, April 26, 2019.  Some may wonder why bother with a gone-by historical event that happened in a distant land — a country that no longer exists — the former Soviet Union (now Ukraine).  On the contrary, Chernobyl and its legacy, with its specters of lingering human toll, radiation contamination, and the massive new shelter ("New Safe Confinement") installed over the old sarcophagus encasing the reactor, will be with us for a long time.

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.

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.

Trump’s Iraq Visit Alone Won’t Undo Damage He Did Last Week

The White House from Washington, DC/Wikimedia Commons

Analysis & Opinions - Bloomberg Opinion

Trump’s Iraq Visit Alone Won’t Undo Damage He Did Last Week

| Dec. 26, 2018

The move of President Donald Trump to visit Baghdad on Wednesday is a small, good one, amid a week of calamitous decisions. The press will understandably highlight the time that Trump spends with U.S. troops. Yet a key objective of the trip will have been to shore up the new Iraqi government's confidence in the U.S., as Iraqi officials must be high on the list of those shocked by the president’s recent decisions to rapidly withdraw U.S. forces from Syria and Afghanistan. Perhaps the president has realized that his administration has some hard work to do if there is any hope of keeping his latest determinations from dramatically strengthening Iran.

South Korean President Moon Jae-in.

Republic of Korea via Flickr

Journal Article - Georgetown Journal of Asian Affairs

An Analysis of Moon Jae-in's Nuclear Phase-out Policy

| Winter 2019

Although South Korea adopted nuclear energy later than countries like the United States, Russia, or France, the country, until recently, has been considered to have one of the most successful civil nuclear power programs in the world, with a fully-devel- oped supply chain, a remarkable record in constructing and operating nuclear power plants (NPPs), and the ability to compete and win contracts to supply NPPs abroad. The fortune of South Korea’s nuclear program has seemingly come to an end, however, with the election of Moon Jae-in. The new South Korean President promised to reduce the country’s dependence on nuclear energy, and has, since taking office, implemented measures to phase out this type of electricity generation.

In this paper, following a brief history of the development of nuclear energy in South Korea, the root causes that instilled public distrust of nuclear energy and Moon Jae-in’s phase-out policy are discussed. Subsequently, by analyzing the validity of Moon’s plan, I argue that this phase-out policy is not beneficial for the long-term sustainability of South Korea’s economy in general, and of the Korean nuclear industry in particular. The paper concludes with policy recommendations for a more balanced nuclear policy that can accommodate public opinion and, at the same time, ensure energy security and provide other economic and diplomatic benefits.