Eryn MacDonald

Analyst

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Ms. MacDonald received her MA in International Relations and Comparative Politics from Cornell University in 2009, specializing in China. Before coming to UCS in 2011 she worked at the MIT International Science and Technology Initiatives (MISTI) program, and was an instructor at Endicott College teaching courses on international relations. Areas of expertise: Nuclear weapons complex, China

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Eryn's Latest Posts

Cuts to the Fissile Materials Stockpile

The Final Countdown

The United States maintains stockpiles of weapons-usable fissile materials—plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU)—that are much larger than needed. This material is a security risk, and is also expensive to store safely. Some of this fissile material has already been declared “excess to military needs” and is awaiting disposition. Even after that excess material is disposed of, however, the United States will still have far more material than it needs for its current or future arsenal. President Obama should declare additional material excess and schedule it for disposition as soon as possible. If done correctly, this would reduce opportunities for nuclear terrorism. It would also be a step toward making nuclear reductions more difficult to reverse.

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Cuts to the Hedge

It’s Now or Never

One of the things President Obama could still do before leaving office is to cut the “hedge” force. These are nuclear weapons that the United States keeps in reserve for two reasons: technical and geopolitical. The argument for the technical hedge is that, if deployed weapons of one type experienced a problem, the U.S. could instead deploy weapons of another type from the hedge force. The geopolitical argument is that the international security situation could change, leading the United States to want to increase the number of deployed weapons. Read more >

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President Obama Can Still Reduce Stored Nuclear Weapons & Fissile Materials

It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over

During the summer and fall, reports appeared that President Obama was considering actions he could take to make a major impact on U.S. nuclear weapons policy before leaving office in January. While the situation has clearly changed since Trump became the president-elect, this still does not mean that Obama’s hands are completely tied. Read more >

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Money Problems for Minuteman Replacement

Cost estimates of the plan to replace the U.S nuclear stockpile continue to increase on several fronts. The latest Arms Control Today reports that the cost of the replacement for the Minuteman III (MMIII) missile, called the ground-based strategic deterrent (GBSD), may rise to $100 billion or more.

The article cites an “informed source” who says that this brings the total cost to acquire, operate, and sustain the system over its expected 50-year life span to $238 billion.

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On Nuclear Weapons, You Can Never Say Never

There’s been an unusual debate going on over the past couple of weeks in the United Kingdom after Jeremy Corbyn—head of the Labour party—declared that if he were to become Prime Minister, he would not use nuclear weapons. Not everyone was happy with his statement, but it also seems not everyone understands how nuclear deterrence works. Read more >

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