Nuclear Issues

1745 Items

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer uses a handheld GR135- Radiation Isttope Identifier to check a container that was stopped after passing through a radiation detection device at the port of Newark in February 2006 (AP Photo/Mel Evans).

AP Photo/Mel Evans

Journal Article - Nonproliferation Review

Combating Nuclear Smuggling? Exploring Drivers and Challenges to Detecting Nuclear and Radiological Materials at Maritime Facilities

| June 03, 2019

International concern over nuclear terrorism has grown during the past few decades. This has driven a broad spectrum of efforts to strengthen nuclear security globally, including the widespread adoption of radiation-detection technology for border monitoring. Detection systems are now deployed at strategic locations for the purported purpose of detecting and deterring the smuggling of nuclear and radioactive materials. However, despite considerable investment in this area, few studies have examined how these programs are implemented or the operational challenges they face on a day-to-day basis. This article seeks to address this with a focus on radiation-detection efforts at maritime facilities. Utilizing practitioner interviews and a survey, this article identifies the factors that influence the planning and use of these systems in this fast-moving environment. The results clearly demonstrate that the implementation of these systems varies significantly across different national and organizational contexts, resulting in a fragmented global nuclear-detection architecture, which arguably undermines efforts to detect trafficked nuclear-threat materials. Greater consideration should therefore be given to developing international standards and guidance, designing and adopting tools to support key parts of the alarm assessment process, and broader sharing of good practice.

A DF-15B short-range ballistic missile as seen after the military parade held in Beijing to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the end of WWII in 2015 (Wikimedia/IceUnshattered).

Wikimedia/IceUnshattered

Analysis & Opinions - East Asia Forum

China's Calculus After the INF Treaty

| May 08, 2019

It seems that the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty is coming to an end. The Treaty prohibits the United States and Russia from possessing, producing or testing land-based ballistic and cruise missiles with ranges of 500–5500 kilometres, including both conventional and nuclear-armed missiles. On 1 February 2019, US President Trump said that he would suspend obligations under the INF Treaty and initiate the withdrawal procedure. After withdrawing, the United States might deploy conventional and nuclear missiles to the West Pacific against China. How would the potential deployment of each missile type impact China’s security?

Steam billowing from cooling tower of nuclear power plant

AP Photo/David Veis/CTK

Journal Article - Quarterly Journal: International Security

Proliferation and the Logic of the Nuclear Market

| Spring 2019

What explains the scale and speed of nuclear proliferation? One key factor is the level of competition among suppliers in the market for nuclear materials and technologies. When suppliers form a cartel, fewer countries can acquire what they need for a nuclear weapons program. If great power competition intensifies, suppliers will find it harder to cooperate and nuclear proliferation could accelerate.

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

A Theory of Engagement With North Korea

| May 2019

At the Hanoi Summit in February 2019, the United States and North Korea reached a familiar impasse—diplomacy broke down over the appropriate order of near-term steps, and the world was left wondering whether any package of rewards would be enough to incentivize denuclearization.

In a new Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Christopher Lawrence outlines an alternative conceptual framework for engaging North Korea. Rather than offering rewards for nuclear rollback, the approach focuses on building credibility around the notion of a shared political future. Lawrence suggests that physical actions—such as shared investments in integrated rail, electricity, or mining infrastructure—speak more credibly about the political future for all the parties involved than do written commitments or more transient “carrots” and “sticks.” The international relationships created by infrastructure projects may alter North Korea's security calculus over time, and incrementally reduce its dependence on nuclear weapons. Drawing lessons from the 1994 Agreed Framework, Lawrence reinterprets the history of nonproliferation engagement with North Korea, and illuminates possible opportunities to break the diplomatic impasse after the Hanoi summit.

Senator Lugar at a 2012 ceremony where he received the Distinguished Public Service Award, the highest award the Department of Defense can give a civilian, for his work to help denuclearize countries after the fall of the Soviet Union (DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo).

DoD photo by Erin A. Kirk-Cuomo

Analysis & Opinions - Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Senator Richard G. Lugar: An Appreciation

| Apr. 30, 2019

Sen. Richard Lugar—with his legislative partner, Sen. Sam Nunn—imagined the unimaginable. He championed a program to provide assistance to military forces in the former Soviet republics holding tens of thousands of nuclear, chemical, and biological weapons aimed at the United States and our allies, shortly after America’s existential enemy, the Soviet Union, expired. All told, the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction program provided more than $14 billion to, among other things, deactivate 13,300 nuclear warheads, eliminate 1,473 intercontinental ballistic missiles, and destroy almost 40,000 metric tons of chemical agents. The US departments of Defense and Energy also worked with Russia to improve security at 148 sites still holding nuclear weapons or weapons-grade material from Murmansk to Kamchatka.

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.

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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.

Vice President Mike Pence, left, and White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, right, watch as President Donald Trump shows off an executive order

AP/Evan Vucci, File

Analysis & Opinions - Foreign Policy

5 Very Important Things About the World Nobody Knows

| Apr. 02, 2019

Stephen Walt writes that the future will be determined by a handful of big questions: What is China's future trajectory; How good are America's cybercapabilities; What's going to happen to the EU; How many states will go nuclear in the next 20 years; and Who will win the debate on U.S. grand strategy?

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.