Thursday, March 19, 2009

Proliferation Concerns and Implications of GNEP

The March issue of The Nonproliferation Review includes an article that I wrote on the proliferation concerns and implications of the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP). The journal and its publisher have graciously made the full article available online here.

Cutting to the chase, I argue:

In sharp contrast to its stated goals, GNEP will not solve the problems associated with nuclear waste disposal and may actually increase the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation. The initiative has already sparked a newfound interest in a number of countries to acquire sensitive nuclear technologies, while doing little to restrict the spread of such technologies from partner countries that already possess them. And despite the “proliferation-resistant” label, all of the reprocessing technologies proposed under GNEP would actually make a proliferator's task comparatively easier.

The resumption of reprocessing domestically under GNEP would also likely have a long-lasting and detrimental impact on the nonproliferation regime. Breaking with its thirty-year position that has successfully limited the spread of reprocessing technologies around the globe would significantly hinder the ability of the United States to challenge the claim by other countries of the necessity of reprocessing. Combined with the softening of rules governing nuclear trade, this reversal threatens to further weaken the nuclear nonproliferation regime, with potentially disastrous consequences.

More than five decades ago, the United States launched an ambitious program to spread nuclear technology and knowledge for peaceful purposes throughout the world. Despite its best intentions, the program did not adequately weigh the various possibilities for misuse and consequently contributed to the nuclear weapons programs of several countries. As the United States today considers pursuing a program of comparable vigor, it must remember the lessons learned from the Atoms for Peace experience and realize that greater risk does not necessarily always yield greater reward.

You can find the full article here.

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