Nuclear Issues

191 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.

President Khamenei visit an Iran-Iraq war battlefield in August 1988.

Khamenei.ir/Wikimedia Commons

Journal Article - Intelligence and National Security

Arming Iran from the heart of Westminster? The Iranian military procurement offices, rumours and intelligence, 1981–1987

| June 10, 2020

During the Iran-Iraq war there were extensive rumours in the press regarding Iran’s use of Iranian Military Procurement Offices (IMPOs) in London to purchase arms. This article seeks to interrogate the facts behind these rumours: what was going on inside the IMPOs? How much intelligence did the British government have about this? Not a huge amount – largely a result of the IMPOs being a challenging target and Britain’s intelligence priorities in London lying elsewhere. More broadly the paper seeks to provide insights into the challenges of gathering intelligence from – and responding to the activities of – foreign government targets on home turf, as well as providing insights into an under-considered area of intelligence – that surrounding embargoes and sanctions.

Chinese military vehicles carrying DF-41 ballistic missiles roll during a parade to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the founding of Communist China in Beijing, Tuesday, Oct. 1, 2019. Trucks carrying weapons including a nuclear-armed missile designed to evade U.S. defenses rumbled through Beijing as the Communist Party celebrated its 70th anniversary in power with a parade Tuesday that showcased China's ambition as a rising global force.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Living with Uncertainty: Modeling China's Nuclear Survivability

| Spring 2020

A simplified nuclear exchange model demonstrates that China’s ability to launch a successful nuclear retaliatory strike in response to an adversary’s nuclear first strike has been and remains far from assured. This study suggests that China’s criterion for effective nuclear deterrence is very low.

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.

Chinese military vehicles in parade.

(AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Dangerous Confidence? Chinese Views on Nuclear Escalation

    Authors:
  • Fiona S. Cunningham
  • M. Taylor Fravel
| Fall 2019

China and the United States hold opposing beliefs about whether nuclear war can be avoided in a potential crisis or armed conflict. Taken together, these opposing beliefs increase the risk of nuclear escalation and can lead to greater crisis instability.

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.