Nuclear Issues

917 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.

President Donald Trump and North Korea leader Kim Jong Un in the Demilitarized Zone

AP Photo/Susan Walsh

Analysis & Opinions - Fox News

Trump Takes Risky Gamble Meeting with Kim and Walking Into North Korea

| June 30, 2019

President Trump’s trip Sunday to the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea and his historic decision to cross briefly into North Korea was a made-for-TV diplomatic spectacular. But it was also a test of whether personal diplomacy can trump (so to speak) longstanding definitions of a country’s national interests by persuading North Korean leader Kim Jong Un to end his nuclear weapons program.

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.

Nigeria's Miniature Neutron Source Reactor was the last operational research reactor in Africa to make the conversion from HEU to LEU. Here, the HEU once used in the reactor is loaded for shipment back to China, the supplier (IAEA).

IAEA

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

Securing Nuclear Weapons and Materials Worldwide: Expanded Funding Needed for a More Ambitious Approach

| Apr. 19, 2019

The Trump administration budget request for programs to reduce the dangers of nuclear theft and terrorism is too small to implement the ambitious approach that is needed. Congress should increase funding in this critical area; direct the administration to develop and implement a comprehensive plan for improving security for nuclear weapons and materials worldwide; and exert expanded oversight of this effort. This brief highlights the importance of ongoing nuclear security work; describes the evolving budget picture; and outlines recommendations for congressional action.

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.

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.

A building at a Pakistani naval aviation base burns during an attack by a substantial group of well-armed, well-trained militants, apparently with insider help, in May 2011. Nuclear weapons and materials must be protected against comparable adversary capabilities and tactics (AP Photo/Shakil Adil).

AP Photo/Shakil Adil

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

Combating Complacency about Nuclear Terrorism

Complacency about the threat of nuclear terrorism—the belief that nuclear and radiological terrorism threats are minimal and existing security measures are sufficient to address them—is the fundamental barrier to strengthening nuclear security. Many factors can lead to complacency, but the most significant contributors are lack of knowledge about: events related to nuclear terrorism; weaknesses of nuclear security systems; and the capabilities demonstrated by thieves around the world. People will be more likely to take action to strengthen nuclear security if they believe that nuclear terrorism poses a real threat to their own country’s interests and their actions can significantly reduce the threat. There have been many incidents in recent years that demonstrate the need for strong and sustainable security at both military and civilian nuclear facilities.

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Discussion Paper - Nuclear Threat Initiative

The IAEA's Role in Nuclear Security Since 2016

| February 2019

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the key multilateral global nuclear governance body, describes itself as the “global platform” for nuclear security efforts, with a “central role” in facilitating international cooperation in the field. Long concerned with the physical protection of nuclear materials and facilities, the Agency began to ramp up its involvement in the broader issue of nuclear security after the 9/11 terrorist attacks. The series of Nuclear Security Summits, which ran from 2010 to 2016, drew high-level political attention to the threat of nuclear terrorism for the first time and boosted support for the IAEA’s nuclear security mission. The final summit, held in Washington, DC, in March 2016, lauded the Agency as “crucial for the continuing delivery of outcomes and actions from the nuclear security summits.” Participating governments agreed to a seven-page “Action Plan in Support of the International Atomic Energy Agency.” Three years after the final summit seems an opportune time to assess how the Agency’s nuclear security work has fared since then. Given the complexity of the Agency’s nuclear security activities, this paper cannot provide a comprehensive assessment, but will highlight the most important nuclear security activities and the constraints and challenges the IAEA faces in fulfilling its nuclear security role.