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Donald Trump: Serious about Arms Control?

, co-director and senior scientist

President Trump seems to understand a major lesson of the past 70 years of the nuclear age: Unconstrained arms races are dangerous and massively expensive.

The Washington Post reports that Trump “has ordered his administration to prepare a push for new arms-control agreements with Russia and China after bristling at the cost of a 21st-century nuclear arms race.” If one country builds more weapons to feel secure, this can cause other countries to feel less secure and lead them to build more weapons in response. This cycle is the classic arms race. Read more >

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Hopes for Nuclear Disarmament from Tokyo

, China project manager and senior analyst

April 23, 2019: UN Undersecretary General Izumi Nakamitsu discusses disarmament at the United Nations University in Tokyo.

The so-called “great powers” are not so great when it comes to nuclear disarmament. Forty-nine years ago they entered into a legally binding commitment, known as the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to “pursue negotiations in good faith … on a treaty on general and complete disarmament under strict and effective international control.” It’s hard to argue, though the great powers try to do so, that spending trillions to maintain and modernize their nuclear arsenals is an act of good faith. Read more >

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Pompeo Opens the Door to Deep US Nuclear Cuts (Or Large Chinese Increases)

, China project manager and senior analyst

April 10, 2019: Oregon’s Senator Jeff Merkley questions Secretary of State Mike Pompeo about new nuclear arms control negotiations with China.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee the Trump administration wants China to join negotiations on the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). The treaty, which caps the number of deployed US and Russian nuclear warheads at 1550 each, is scheduled to expire in 2021.

China has a no first use policy and is believed to store its warheads separately from its missiles. Under the definition of the current treaty, China would therefore have zero deployed weapons. Read more >

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Nuclear Weapons in the Reiwa Era

, China project manager and senior analyst

Japan will soon have a new emperor and a new dynastic name to mark the traditional Japanese calender: Reiwa (令和). Interminable commentary on the significance of the name is just beginning, but in the end it will be defined not by words but by deeds. Read More

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There are Faster, Cheaper, Safer and More Reliable Alternatives to the Energy Department’s Proposed Multibillion Dollar Test Reactor

, Acting Director, Nuclear Safety Project; Senior Scientist, Global Security Program

Department of Energy (DOE) Secretary Rick Perry recently announced the launch of the Versatile Test Reactor (VTR) project, flagging it as one of the department’s top priorities. The project, which would be the first new DOE test reactor in decades, would differ from the DOE’s operating test reactors because it would be cooled by liquid sodium instead of water, enabling it to produce large numbers of “fast” neutrons. The DOE says that such a facility is needed to develop new reactors that use fast neutrons to generate electricity. US nuclear plants today are light-water reactors, which use slow (“thermal”) neutrons.

The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) questions the need for a dedicated fast neutron test reactor and, more generally, has serious concerns about fast reactor safety and security, detailed in a critique it released last year. Fast reactors pose nuclear proliferation and terrorism risks in part because they commonly use fuels containing plutonium, a nuclear weapon-usable material. Most fast reactor concepts also involve reprocessing of their spent fuel, which separates plutonium in a form that is vulnerable to theft. Read more >

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