Nuclear Issues

122 Items

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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.

FBI agents leave a raid in Trenton, N.J. on July 19, 2012

Julio Cortez/AP

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

The Long Arm

| February 2019

The networks of middlemen and intermediaries involved in the illicit procurement of weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related goods and technologies often operate outside of the United States, which presents several legal and political challenges regarding U.S. trade control enforcement activities. This report considers the extraterritorial efforts of U.S. law enforcement in counterproliferation-related activities and their implications. In other words, how does the United States contend with violations of its weapons of mass destruction (WMD)-related trade controls in overseas jurisdictions, and what are the implications for broader U.S. and international nonproliferation efforts, as well as wider international security and economic concerns? 

A member of the Czech Army takes part in an anti-terrorism drill at the Temelin nuclear power plant near the town of Tyn nad Vltavou, Czech Republic, April 11, 2017.

REUTERS/David W. Cerny

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

Revitalizing Nuclear Security in an Era of Uncertainty

| January 2019

Nuclear security around the world has improved dramatically over the last three decades—which demonstrates that with focused leadership, major progress is possible. But important weaknesses remain, and the evolution of the threat remains unpredictable. The danger that terrorists could get and use a nuclear bomb, or sabotage a major nuclear facility, or spread dangerous radioactive material in a “dirty bomb,” remains too high. The United States and countries around the world need to join together and provide the leadership and resources needed to put global nuclear security on a sustained path of continuous improvement, in the never-ending search for excellence in performance.

Satellite Imagery facilities at the IAEA Department of Safeguards, March 2015.

Dean Calma/IAEA via Flickr

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

Future Directions in IAEA Safeguards

| November 2018

The IAEA safeguards system faces serious challenges, writes John Carlson in a new Managing the Atom Discussion Paper. The IAEA must not only contend with increasing tensions among the major powers and the growing salience of nuclear weapons, it must also confront a series of specific safeguards controversies.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

Regaining Nuclear Security Momentum

| July 2018

The 2010-2016 nuclear security summit process focused leaders’ attention on nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism. Momentum has waned since the final summit in 2016. Despite continuing nuclear security improvements in some countries, and ongoing efforts to maintain or strengthen the international nuclear security framework, serious vulnerabilities still exist in nuclear security systems around the world. Many nuclear facilities are not protected against all of the plausible threats adversaries might pose—especially in the case of threats from insiders. Nuclear materials remain unnecessarily vulnerable in too many locations. The culture within many nuclear organizations is insufficiently focused on security. Many nuclear security systems are not being exposed to sufficiently in-depth, creative, and realistic vulnerability assessments and testing. This paper will summarize the post-summit evolution of nuclear security efforts and offer recommendations for regaining international nuclear security momentum through combating complacency, improving implementation on the ground, strengthening frameworks for international cooperation, and maintaining nuclear security leadership.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

Preventing Nuclear Catastrophe: Strengthening DOE Nuclear Nonproliferation Programs

| July 2017

Department of Energy (DOE) nonproliferation programs are critical to U.S. national security, and have played central roles in initiatives ranging from securing high-risk nuclear weapons and materials around the globe to constraining Iran’s nuclear program. But nuclear proliferation and terrorism threats are constantly evolving, requiring new approaches to address them.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

Steps for Rebuilding U.S.-Russian Nuclear Security Cooperation

| July 2017

Cooperation between U.S. and Russian nuclear scientists and engineers represents an important opportunity for rebuilding U.S.-Russian relations. The United States and Russia possess more than 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons, the world’s largest stocks of weapons-usable nuclear material, and the world’s largest nuclear complexes, giving them a special responsibility for nuclear security and preventing nuclear terrorism.

Los Alamos National Laboratory, National Security Science, July 2015

Los Alamos National Laboratory

Discussion Paper - Managing the Atom Project, Belfer Center

When Did (and Didn’t) States Proliferate?

| June 2017

In this Project on Managing the Atom Discussion Paper, Philipp C. Bleek chronicles nuclear weapons proliferation choices throughout the nuclear age. Since the late 1930s and early 1940s, some thirty-one countries are known to have at least explored the possibility of establishing a nuclear weapons program. Seventeen of those countries launched weapons programs, and ten acquired deliverable nuclear weapons.

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

American Nuclear Diplomacy

| August 4, 2016

In this report, American Nuclear Diplomacy: Forging a New Consensus to Fight Climate Change and Weapons Proliferation, Former Deputy Secretary of Energy and Belfer Center Senior Fellow Daniel Poneman writes that we face two existential threats: nuclear annihilation and catastrophic climate change. Each, he says, stems from human origins. Both must be fought aggressively.

"Multiple studies confirm the grim truth that, even if all nations fulfill their Paris Climate Agreement emissions pledges, the world will still far overshoot the 2°C warming limit scientists say we must not exceed to prevent devastating climate impacts. Carbon-free nuclear energy can help close the gap. But can we expand its environmental benefits without increasing the risks of nuclear terror?"

Poneman outlines a diplomatic strategy and tough-minded, bipartisan policies to get us there.

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Paper - Institute of Nuclear Materials Management

Addressing Military Nuclear Materials Beyond the 2016 Nuclear Security Summit

| July 2016

Non-civilian or military nuclear materials comprise the vast majority of the world’s nuclear material stocks – yet they remain outside the scope of much of the existing global nuclear security architecture. Policymakers will need to consider ways to address this “military materials gap” by advancing new mechanisms and strategies in order to develop and sustain a comprehensive global nuclear security architecture. Particular attention should be placed on developing confidence building measures and other transparency tools to build international assurance in the security of military materials. This paper will discuss the various strategies for addressing military materials security and propose recommendations for how the international community can address the concept of comprehensiveness in the global nuclear security architecture going forward.