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  • Author: Eva M. Lisowski
  • Publication Date: 05-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) was formed in 1957 to promote the peaceful use of nuclear energy and to inspect civilian nuclear materials and activities to deter military diversions. To decide the frequency of inspections and inspection criteria, the IAEA set its safeguard standards with the objective of assuring “timely detection of diversion of significant quantities of nuclear material from peaceful nuclear activities to the manufacture of nuclear weapons.” The two nuclear weapon designs developed and detonated during World War II were the “gun-type” and “implosion” designs. Because implosion device technology requires much less fissile material than guntype technology, the IAEA significant quantity6 (SQ) values were determined based on the fissile material requirements of nuclear implosion devices like the plutonium-based “Fat Man” detonated over Nagasaki in 1945. Utilizing implosion designs perfected in the late 1940s, however, the explosive yields achieved in 1945 can be produced with much less fissile material. Table 1 lists the fissile material requirements of contemporary nuclear weapon technology. “Low Technical Capability” in Table 1 refers to the Mark III implosion device set off at Nagasaki. “Medium Technical Capability” refers to implosion designs perfected in the late 1940s and “High Technical Capability” in Table 1 refers to the implosion technologies the United States perfected in the 1950s.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Nonproliferation, Nuclear Energy, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA)
  • Political Geography: Middle East
  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 04-2021
  • Content Type: Book
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: Sometimes, slow, steady changes produce revolutionary results. A case in point is missile and space technologies, which Space and Missile Wars: What Awaits will examine. Long-range missiles, satellites, and space launch vehicles used to be high technology exclusive to the superpowers. Now, scores of states have both. As for ballistic missiles and drones, even non-state actors have them, and these systems are far more accurate than anything the superpowers had even at the height of the Cold War. Then, long-range missiles could only be certain of destroying their targets if they were nuclear-armed and wiped out areas as large as cities. Now, drones are so accurate they can pinpoint and kill single individuals. As for space satellite launchers, they originally were derived from nuclear delivery missiles. None were privately owned. Similarly, almost all space satellites were government property and, until 1965, the owners were only American and Soviet. Now, the French, Chinese, Japanese, British, Indians, Israelis, Ukrainians, Iranians, and North Koreans have all launched satellites of their own. In addition, more than 60 nations own and operate their own satellites and increasingly, satellites are launched, owned, and operated entirely by private entities. These developments are nontrivial. They will define the military competitions with China, Russia, and other hostile states for the next two to three decades. Will the spread of accurate missiles embolden weak actors – small states and terrorist organizations – to threaten stronger states with missile attacks against key civilian targets (dams, reactors, petrochemical plants)? Will weak actors be tempted to use accurate drones to assassinate their adversaries’ key leaders? Will such attacks catalyze war, producing modern Sarajevos that draw in nuclear-armed states (e.g. Israel, Pakistan, India, North Korea, or the superpowers)? With so many new space actors, will anyone be able to attribute hostile actions in space? Will states attack satellites mostly in low Earth orbit or geosynchronous orbit? Will the most important attacks come from antisatellite systems based on Earth, in low Earth orbit, or on or near the moon? This volume is designed to answer these questions.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Non State Actors, Military Affairs, Drones, Nonproliferation, Space, Missile Defense, Satellite, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: Global Focus
  • Author: Henry D. Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 03-2021
  • Content Type: Research Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: Although much has been said about the fusion of China’s civilian and military sectors, no detailed, unclassified analysis has been done of how Beijing’s “peaceful” nuclear efforts might be exploited to make more nuclear warheads. Even the U.S. Department of Energy’s own explanations of the export restrictions it imposed on “advanced” nuclear exports to China failed to discuss this. This volume is dedicated to clarifying just what the connection could be. Much of it focuses on China’s advanced fast breeder reactor program and its related plutonium recycling efforts. As explained in this volume’s first chapter, “How Many Nuclear Warheads China Might Acquire by 2030,” the least burdensome way for China to achieve nuclear weapons parity with the United States is simply to use the weaponsgrade plutonium that its planned “peaceful” fast breeder reactor and reprocessing programs will produce to make primaries for the two-stage thermonuclear weapons designs they already have perfected. By exploiting this weapons plutonium and the highly enriched uranium and tritium that China can easily access or make, Beijing by 2030 could conservatively assemble an arsenal of 1,270 warheads (nearly as many as the US currently has deployed on its intercontinental missiles).
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Science and Technology, Military Affairs, Nonproliferation, Missile Defense, Denuclearization, Nuclear Energy
  • Political Geography: United States, China
  • Author: Henry Sokolski
  • Publication Date: 02-2020
  • Content Type: Working Paper
  • Institution: Nonproliferation Policy Education Center
  • Abstract: In the next decade, it is all too likely that the past success of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) in preventing the further spread of nuclear weapons among the world’s nations will be reversed. Three trends make more proliferation likely. First is the decay of nuclear taboos. Second, and arguably worse, is renewed vertical proliferation—the increase in size and sophistication of nuclear arsenals by states that already have them. Third, the technical information to fuel nuclear breakouts and ramp-ups is more available now than in the past. These trends toward increased proliferation are not yet facts. The author describes three steps the international community could take to save the NPT: making further withdrawals from the NPT unattractive; clamping down on the uneconomical stockpiling and civilian use of nuclear weapons materials (plutonium and highly enriched uranium); and giving real meaning to efforts to limit the threats that existing nuclear weapons pose.
  • Topic: Arms Control and Proliferation, Nuclear Weapons, Treaties and Agreements, Nuclear Power, Disarmament, Nonproliferation
  • Political Geography: Russia, North Korea, Global Focus, United States of America