Nuclear Affairs

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Will Nuclear Weapons Make A Comeback?

Finally, we conclude with some observations about what is new and what is not new about current global nuclear challenges. With respect to climate change, it would, in theory, make relatively little difference which nations increase their use of nuclear energy and other non-carbon-producing energy technologies ; what matters is the overall global reduction in carbon emissions. With respect to the safety and security dimensions of the nuclear future, however, it will matter greatly which states acquire what kinds of nuclear technology.

Thus, there are three broad reasons to be concerned about an unconstrained spread of nuclear power to new nations that have not previously managed the technology. These characteristics include low degrees of corruption to avoid officials selling materials and technology for their own personal gain as occurred with the A. Fortunately, we have a great deal of information measuring these domestic good governance factors across the globe. Unfortunately, the data highlight the grave security challenges that would be created if there were rampant proliferation of nuclear energy production facilities to each and every state that has expressed interest to the IAEA in acquiring nuclear power.

The World Bank publishes annual aggregate data, derived from multiple sources, on each of these good governance characteristics, and, as shown in Figure 2, the average scores of the potential new nuclear- energy states on each of these dimensions is significantly lower than the scores of states already possessing nuclear energy.

Second, all NNWS under the NPT must accept IAEA safeguards inspections on their nuclear power facilities in order to reduce the danger that governments might cheat on their commitments not to use the technology to acquire nuclear weapons; therefore, it is illuminating to examine the historical record of NNWS violating their NPT commitments.

Here there is one very important finding about how domestic political characteristics influence the behavior of NPT members: each known or strongly suspected case of a government starting a secret nuclear weapons program, while it was a member of the NPT and thus violating its Article II NPT commitment, was undertaken by a non-democratic government. It is therefore worrisome that, as Figure 2 shows, the group of potential new states seeking nuclear power capabilities is on average significantly less democratic than the list of existing states with nuclear energy capabilities.

Third, states that face significant terrorist threats from within face particular challenges in ensuring that there is no successful terrorist attack on a nuclear facility or no terrorist theft of fissile material to make a nuclear weapon or dirty bomb. Figure 3 displays data from the United States Counterterrorism Center comparing the five-year totals of terrorism incidents in the existing states that have nuclear power facilities and the iaea list of aspiring states.

Why Nuclear Weapons Don't Matter

India and Pakistan, both of which have nuclear weapons and nuclear power facilities and which face severe terrorist threats from homegrown and outsider terrorist organizations, clearly lead the pack. Asterisk denotes aspiring nuclear power state. These figures clearly represent worst-case estimates about the security implications of the spread of nuclear power, for as a number of authors in these volumes note, many of the aspiring states will not be able to progress with nuclear power development programs any time soon due to financial or other constraints.

Indeed, most of the growth in nuclear power over the coming decade is likely to come from new plants in states that already operate nuclear power plants. But the figures do dramatically highlight the intertwined political, technical, and economic challenges we face if the world is to see both the expansion and spread of the use of nuclear power on a global scale. It seems almost certain that some new entrants to nuclear power will emerge in the coming decades and that the organizational and political challenges to ensure the safe and secure spread of nuclear technology into the developing world will be substantial and potentially grave.

The proposals in these two volumes — for international control of the fuel cycle, for sharing best practices for physical security, and for enhancing the international nuclear safety regime — are designed to mitigate the inherent security risks that the nuclear renaissance will bring. The new nuclear order that will emerge years hence will be the result of the interplay of state motives for pursuing nuclear power and constraints on that pursuit. Contributors to the volumes consider in detail the changing technical, economic, and environmental factors that are making nuclear power seem more attractive around the globe.

But they also address factors inhibiting the growth of nuclear power: enormous capital costs, the need for public subsidies, limited industrial capacity to build power plants, inadequate electricity grids, the possible emergence of alternative energy technologies, concern about the cost and risks associated with nuclear wastes, public fear of nuclear technology, as well as concern about the security risks created by the possible spread of weapons- usable nuclear technologies.

When the constraints are taken into account, it may well be that the spread of nuclear power will be neither as fast nor as extensive as many anticipate. Concerns about proliferation whether to states or terrorists arise at the intersection of nuclear power and nuclear weapons. Indeed, the connection between power and weapons is somewhat inevitable because key technologies in the nuclear sector — notably, uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing capabilities — are relevant to both. In the nonproliferation context, this is the dual-use dilemma: many technologies associated with the creation of a nuclear power program can be used to make weapons if a state chooses to do so.

When a state seems motivated to acquire nuclear weapons, a nuclear power program in that state can appear to be simply a route leading to the bomb or a public annex to a secret bomb program. Depending on what capabilities spread to which states, especially regarding uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing, a world of widely spread nuclear technologies could be a world in which more states, like Iran, would have the latent capability to manufacture nuclear weapons.

This could easily be a world filled with much more worry about the risk of nuclear proliferation — and worse, a world where more states possess nuclear weapons. A fundamental goal for American and global security is to minimize the proliferation risks associated with the expansion of nuclear power. If this development is poorly managed or efforts to contain risks are unsuccessful, the nuclear future will be dangerous. What can be done to limit future proliferation risks? The contributors to these volumes explore two fundamental answers to that question.

First, some authors discuss policies that could create a world in which the incentives to acquire nuclear weapons are minimized. If nuclear weapons remain the currency of the realm, if they are the ticket to the high table of international politics, if they are believed to confer enormous diplomatic and security benefits, if the existing NWS insist on the necessity to retain their nuclear weapons for the indefinite future, then it will be very difficult over the long run to make the case that for all other states nuclear weapons are unnecessary and undesirable. On the other hand, the context for future nuclear decision-making will be very different if that context is a world where nuclear weapons are being devalued and marginalized and where the NWS are reducing their arsenals and perhaps even heading meaningfully in the direction of eliminating nuclear weapons altogether.

This is why the nuclear disarmament debate comes into play in considering the future global nuclear order.


The disarmament-nonproliferation connection is formally codified in the famous Article VI of the NPT, which calls for the NWS and all other states to make good faith efforts to achieve nuclear disarmament. Under the general rubric of arms control, work over several decades has gone toward efforts to regulate, constrain, reduce, and eliminate nuclear weapons — efforts that have helped contain the dangers of nuclear rivalry.

Nevertheless — and despite their obligations under Article VI and their repeated rhetorical commitments to nuclear disarmament — the NWS have not, in the opinion of many observers, moved genuinely and significantly in the direction of nuclear disarmament. The current debate over nuclear disarmament is crucial to the evolution of the global nuclear order for two reasons.

Nuclear Policy Studies

One way or the other, the debate will influence future incentives to acquire nuclear weapons, and it will have significant implications in terms of preserving, effectively managing, and strengthening the NPT regime. Yet much can be done in the interim to constrain nuclear forces and reduce their role in international politics; such steps can help to address the concerns that have commonly arisen in the nonproliferation context.

Future proliferation risks can also be limited in a second fundamental way: by preserving and improving the nonproliferation regime, that system of rules and institutions that is meant to allow the use of civilian nuclear power while providing reassurance against the use of nuclear technology for weapons purposes. As the protracted nuclear crises of recent decades — Iraq, Iran, North Korea — have shown, the system is not perfect or foolproof even today.

But looking to the future, will the nonproliferation regime be adequate in a world where there is more nuclear knowledge and technology spread across more states? The essays collected in the second volume confront that question. Some of the essays explore various ways in which the nonproliferation regime could be improved: transparency could be enhanced, safeguards bolstered, the IAEA further empowered to monitor nuclear programs and explore suspicious activities.

India's Nuclear Doctrine and Policy - Threats and Capabilities

NPT rules can be more uniformly and universally enforced, with exceptions like the U. The nuclear fuel cycle can be organized in a way that minimizes the spread of sensitive dual-use technology; various schemes for assuring fuel supplies could reduce the need and incentive for individual states to acquire enrichment capabilities, for example.

Any fuel-cycle arrangement or agreed norm that limits the spread of enrichment and reprocessing technology will greatly circumscribe the proliferation risks associated with expanded nuclear power. It would also be desirable to find more effective methods of enforcement when instances of noncompliance are discovered.

These ideas and more are examined in volume two. But the NPT is a nearly global regime — all but four states are members Israel, India, and Pakistan never joined, and North Korea withdrew in — and none of the ideas for improving the regime will be feasible if they do not inspire wide assent among NPT members. The regime therefore must be considered from a diverse set of national perspectives in order to gauge what steps might be possible and what constraints will need to be addressed in order to adapt the nonproliferation regime to the emerging global nuclear order.

It is far from certain that key NNWS will share the diagnoses and support the remedies preferred by the Western nonproliferation community. The growth and spread of nuclear power raises a set of concerns about the risk of nuclear proliferation and nuclear terrorism; working on the problem of nuclear proliferation raises the issue of nuclear disarmament. These topics do not completely overlap, but it is not possible to think comprehensively about the future of the global nuclear order without considering them together and without appreciating the extent to which they are interrelated. It is valuable to look back on the articles in these volumes, and the strategic issues upon which they focused, in order to appreciate the significant successes that have occurred in the past, as well as to understand the enduring nature of many of the problems we face and the novelty of some emerging challenges.

The volume, a product of a special summer study at the American Academy, is widely recognized as a seminal contribution to the development of arms control as a tool to reduce the danger of nuclear war and to manage Soviet-U. Again, this was an innovative argument coming at the end of the Eisenhower administration, which had widely distributed nuclear power technology under the Atoms for Peace program and was considering providing nuclear weapons to U.

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