The role that nuclear weapons play in international security has changed since the end of the Cold War, but the need to maintain and replenish the human infrastructure for supporting nuclear capabilities and dealing with the multitude of nuclear challenges remains essential. Recognizing this challenge, CSIS launched the Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI) in 2003 to develop the next generation of policy, technical, and operational nuclear professionals through outreach, mentorship, research, and debate. PONI runs two signature programs—the Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the Annual Conference Series—to engage emerging nuclear experts in thoughtful and informed debate and research over how best to address the nuclear community’s most pressing problems. The papers included in this volume comprise research from participants in the 2017 Nuclear Scholars Initiative and the PONI Conference Series. PONI sponsors this research to provide a forum for facilitating new and innovative thinking and to provide a platform for emerging thought leaders across the nuclear enterprise. Spanning a wide range of technical and policy issues, these selected papers further serious discussion in their respective areas.
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Shannon Abbott | Improving Insider Threat Training, Awareness, and Mitigation Programs at Nuclear Facilities
In recent years, insider threat programs have become an important aspect of nuclear security and nuclear security training courses. However, many nuclear security insider threat programs fail to consider both the threat and potential of information technology (IT) systems for conducting and preventing insider attacks. This failure is critical because of the importance of information technology and networks in today’s world. IT systems offer an opportunity to perpetrate dangerous insider attacks, but they also present an opportunity to monitor and prevent them. This paper suggests a number of best practices, such as maintaining secure backup processes, managing access paths, and monitoring both physical and network exfiltration of important data. It also proposes the development of a new tabletop exercise for training nuclear security practitioners on how best to implement the aforementioned best practices. The development of IT insider threat best practices and a practical tabletop exercise will improve nuclear security training by integrating a critical element of insider threat prevention into the broader nuclear security system.
How can we better understand the contemporary nuclear weapons debate in the United States? Following a post–Cold War lull, nuclear weapons are back on the U.S. policy agenda. However, when it comes to crucial issues, it often seems like discussants are talking past one another. This paper proposes a new way of understanding the debates about nuclear weapons in the United States by developing five schools of thought that capture different ways of thinking about nuclear weapons. After briefly examining these five schools, this paper concludes by applying the schools of thought to the contemporary debate over the Long-Range Standoff (LRSO) missile.
Logan Brandt | Risk of Electromagnetic Pulse Attacks on the United States: Vulnerabilities and Motives
The United States’ conventional military superiority has driven potential adversaries to seek alternate means of countering U.S. power. A high-altitude nuclear electromagnetic pulse (EMP) attack could provide adversaries a means to exploit U.S. vulnerabilities and gain an advantage. There are three dif-ferent stages to a nuclear EMP, each with dif¬ferent effects. The first two, E1 and E2, cause damage to integrated circuits and personal electronics. The third, E3, can destabilize and potentially cripple the U.S. electric grid. The Commission to Assess the Threat to the United States from EMP Attack confirmed that the United States is vulnerable to an EMP attack. The war-fighting strategies and doctrine of potential adversaries may look to exploit these vulnerabilities through the use of a high-altitude nuclear detonation. Such an attack would be asymmetric in its effects and provide an advantage to both near-peer and regional potential adversaries. While the greatest vulnerabilities lie in a strategic attack on the U.S. homeland, a more likely scenario constrains the use of a nuclear EMP attack to a localized area to accomplish an operational objective for the adversary while staying below the threshold for retaliation.
Kit Conklin | Deterrence in the Age of Asteroid Mining: Nuclear Strategy and the Commercialization of Space
Emerging and disruptive commercial space technologies pose new challenges to U.S. space superiority and traditionally accepted nuclear deterrence doctrines. The growing business market in space systems is fueling a technology shift from government to industry. This shift is creating an influx of private-sector capabilities that were once monopolized by states. New capabilities include reusable space launch vehicles (SLVs), satellite repair systems, nanosatellites, and mineral exploitation platforms designed to rendezvous with asteroids. Even though the commercialization of space is in its infancy, private companies are already transforming the research, development, and acquisition of space systems. For example, SpaceX is developing SLVs 50 percent faster than the U.S. government, while Google plans to launch a constellation of 180 small satellites by 2020 to provide global imaging and Internet services.2 While some of these systems have purely commercial applications, other systems such as satellite repair and servicing systems represent a growing dual-use counterspace threat. These new dual-use commercial space platforms offer evidence to support claims outlined in the 2010 U.S. National Security Space Strategy that warned space is becoming increasingly congested, competitive, and contested.3 This research therefore assesses how emerging and disruptive commercial technologies will challenge U.S. space superiority through increased space congestion and competition. Understanding the new space environment helps prevent strategic surprise and provides the foundation from which it is possible to assess how disruptive dual-use commercial technologies could affect strategic deterrence.
Nuclear policy did not play a large role in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union. The ramifications of leaving, however, will affect all facets of nuclear policy in the United Kingdom. While some nuclear challenges have been examined since the referendum results were announced in June 2016, a number of topics remain underappreciated, including nuclear security. Although nuclear security ultimately remains the responsibility of individual states, the European Union has assumed an ever-growing role supporting the ability of its states to prevent, detect, and respond to the misuse of nuclear material. Losing this support would be contrary to the interests of the United Kingdom. To safeguard its best interests in nuclear security, the United Kingdom should, first, recognize the full role of the European Union in nuclear policy and, second, temper its approach to negotiations to better allow it to retain the cooperative elements of the relationship.
David N. Etim | Challenges That Arise from the Implementation of Distinctive Technologies within Nuclear Safety and Security
The development of recent nuclear security technology has entered a period of generational change that poses great challenges to the computing industry and to scientific users but also presents an exciting opportunity to raise the awareness of science and technology within the field and how work in various disciplines will help address rising challenges. The management and operation of nuclear weapons has changed over the years because of technology that has transformed our daily lives. Peer-to-peer software, infrastructure transition for machines, expanded memory storage, and massive data collection capabilities have changed computing for nuclear security tools. Scientific and technical challenges in nuclear security are enabled by the emergence of extreme-scale computing and the development of modern technology for nuclear safety and security resources. Over the past decade, high-performance computing (HPC) architectures and their software and hardware components have undergone transitions to avoid being technologically disruptive while on the path toward new HPC for extreme-scale or exascale systems. These architectures have required substantial improvements to keep up with the processing and storage of large amount of data generated (so called “big data”), each year. Mathematical models, numerical algorithms, programming models and computer languages have all gone through substantive changes to stay valuable in each system
Known for its robust reactor industry, South Korea is a leading producer of nuclear energy. However, given lasting tensions with its northern neighbor, it is possible that South Korea desires its own nuclear deterrent for national security. The U.S.-Republic of Korea Civil Nuclear Cooperation Agreement, more commonly known as the 123 Agreement, signed in June 2015, may allow South Korea to pursue nuclear reprocessing in the future. This will close the loop on South Korea’s nuclear fuel cycle and alleviate the burden of maintaining interim spent fuel storage pools, but also provide a pathway for the production of weapons-usable nuclear material. This paper evaluates steps in South Korea’s nuclear fuel cycle to show how they might overcome the technical barriers needed to acquire nuclear weapons if granted reprocessing privileges from the U.S.-South Korea Joint Fuel Cycle Study commissioned by the 123 Agreement. South Korea’s nuclear latency lies within its reactor industry, which produces a combined annual average of 10 tons of plutonium (Pu). Political considerations aside, South Korean advances in nuclear reprocessing may allow Seoul the technological knowledge to advance its nuclear ambitions.
Jeffrey J. Graham | Technological Approaches to the Problem of Counterproliferation in a Nuclear Energy Rich World
Nuclear energy is on the rise worldwide as countries look to provide large amounts of reliable, clean, and sustainable power to fuel their economies. Advanced fuel cycles could enable more energy independence and the reduction of operational burdens to new nuclear-employing nations. At the same time, the growing footprint of nuclear technology—with some 57 reactors under construction at the time of this writing—and the basic requirement of nuclear fuel increases the possibility for nuclear weapon proliferation. Reactor start-ups frequently tout their technologies as being proliferation resistant but often do not provide substantial evidence or arguments supporting their claims. This paper seeks to provide a high-level discussion of reasonable technical metrics for proliferation-resistant reactors, thereby offering general rules and background that may be used to determine relative assessments of reactor technologies. The paper then applies the resulting tools to several reactor types currently proposed and in development. Generally, there are advantages of proliferation resistance in the more advanced reactors, with some utility to be had in the less technologically aggressive reactors. All can have positive impacts on nuclear nonproliferation. Policies to support new reactors should be implemented, and include increasing public investment in converter and plutonium-utilizing reactors; developing and leasing small modular reactor technology; investing in waste reprocessing and solving the ongoing problems of waste management; and dramatically increasing public education on the advantages of peaceful nuclear energy
Chelsea Green | The Evolution of CNEN Regulation on Radiological Materials with Medical Applications before and after the Goiânia Radiological Accident of 1987
In September 1987, an abandoned teletherapy machine was dismantled by local scavengers in Goiâna, Brazil, and its radiation source, cesium-137 taking the form of iridescent blue powder, was distributed throughout the small community. The resulting deaths, injuries, environmental contamination, and cleanup, which occurred only one year after the Chernobyl disaster, made the Goiânia accident one of the first radiological accidents to garner worldwide attention. An International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report drawing lessons from the accident determined that Brazil’s regulatory framework on radiological materials was sound. However, this research casts doubt on that conclusion, particularly because several key changes were implemented in the two years immediately following the accident. A national legislative mandate expanded the responsibility of Brazil’s nuclear regulatory body, CNEN (Comissão Nacional de Energia Nuclear), to authorize oversight of activities already under the agency’s practical purview, suggesting that the regulatory body had operated outside of its legislated mandate for years. Furthermore, regulations that had been under consideration for years before the accident were implemented within the following year. These findings suggest a possible causal linkage between nuclear accidents and subsequent regulatory reform. They also deliver relevant lessons for regulators, policymakers, and experts striving to improve nuclear regulatory frameworks and, ultimately, radiological safety and security
Just over two decades since the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) opened for signature, a total of 183 states have signed and 166 have ratified the accord. However, the treaty cannot enter into force until all 44 “nuclear-capable” states listed in its Annex 2 deposit their instruments of ratification. Eight of these states have not ratified the test ban. In light of this situation, it is nearly second nature for academic and policy discussions of the CTBT to overwhelmingly focus on the political roadblocks obstructing its entry into force. By contrast, this paper contends that the politics of treaty ratification are not the only dimension to the test ban discussion. Instead, it highlights a series of overlooked or understudied aspects of nuclear explosion monitoring. States can undertake a number of scientific and technical initiatives to strengthen CTBT monitoring, even in the absence of entry into force. In turn, by engaging in these types of projects, states do not merely create a more difficult climate for evasive nuclear testing; they may also bolster long-term prospects for the treaty’s ratification. This roadmap lays out a number of complementary efforts that policymakers may pursue toward this end.
Strategic deterrence relies in part on second-strike capabilities. As the most survivable leg of the nuclear triad, strategic ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs) are vital to second strike. The production and sustainment of SSBNs is therefore an important concern for nuclear-armed states. National defense industrial base policy guides the production decisions that states make. This paper outlines the production decisions of SSBN-capable states and identifies the trade-offs involved in dif¬ferent choices to identify key considerations for U.S. policymakers in strengthening the U.S. industrial base. States face a set of core trade-offs in SSBN production. First, they face a trade-off in cost versus control of production, wherein states can leverage comparative advantages in production at the expense of domestic control or else seek a domestic supply chain at great cost. States also face both risks and benefits in choosing interdependent production or attempting exclusively domestic production, primarily in the degree to which they strengthen relationships with security partners. Each SSBN state has unique aspects to its defense industrial policies, but in general, trends such as technology proliferation and increasing indigenous production will define SSBN building for the coming decades. The paper draws on this analysis to identify the main challenges to U.S. and allied SSBN supply chains, which include cybersecurity, supply chain health and viability, and foreign acquisition of critical producers.
Nathan Powell | The Arihant-Class SSBN and the Advent of Sea-Based Nuclear Forces in India, China, and Pakistan
With the commissioning of the INS Arihant in 2016, India inaugurated the third leg of its nuclear triad and became the sixth country to possess a strategic ballistic missile submarine (SSBN). This chapter places the Arihant’s development into the context of development of India as a nuclear power along with its regional rivals, Pakistan and China. India’s development of an SSBN force is part of larger post–Cold War developments in the region that have resulted in India adopting a more proactive policy in countering Chinese military capabilities. The development of this SSBN force has already led to Pakistan’s own highly insecure sea-based nuclear force of conventionally powered submarines and cruise missiles. The Arihant class may also lead to changes in the nuclear posture of Pakistan’s land-based nuclear forces, such as mating nuclear weapons to launch vehicles. The trilateral nuclear competition between India, China, and Pakistan is strongly influenced by China’s nuclear relationship with the United States. Chinese nuclear developments are driven by the need to deter the United States, giving the United States the ability to influence Asian nuclear developments through China. The potential exists for the United States to reduce the possibility of a regional nuclear arms race at sea and promote strategic stability in Asia by building a more stable nuclear relationship with China.
As missile systems proliferate and states develop new doctrines for the use of nuclear weapons, missile defenses can contribute to resolving some of the security challenges the United States faces. An analysis of the role that missile defenses can play in offsetting the viability of anti-access/ area denial (A2/AD) strategies and doctrines of limited nuclear use gives insight into their potential usefulness in the modern security environment. While missile defenses cannot provide a perfect shield, they can raise the perceived costs of such strategies as part of a broader deterrence strategy. Thus, missile defenses, despite their costs and technical limits, are an important part of the future of American deterrence strategy.
Daniel Salisbury | Selling the Bomb: Making the Case for British Nuclear Deterrence in the Twenty-First Century
In July 2016, the British Parliament voted to replace the submarines carrying the United Kingdom’s strategic nuclear deterrent. Procurement of these new submarines—the Dreadnought class—will ensure that the United Kingdom remains a nuclear-armed state until the 2050s. The May government’s handling of the vote has been marred by the failure of a Trident missile test launch from a Royal Navy submarine days before the vote, and its delayed disclosure in January 2017. This led to allegations of a “cover-up” and familiar questions surrounding secrecy, transparency, and its effect on the public debates.
Using the missile test controversy as a jumping-off point, this paper places the government’s efforts to make the case for the deterrent to the public in 2016 in historical context. The paper argues that the government’s justification for Britain’s possession of nuclear weapons has evolved since the end of the Cold War from a deterrent against the Soviet Union toward “insurance” against an uncertain future. The British government has also started to exploit new mediums in its nuclear public relations efforts. The “cover-up” of the Trident missile failure shows that while the government has made much progress in its public relations efforts since the 1980s, official secrecy still presents barriers to effective public relations, and that poorly handled events can undermine the government’s justification of the United Kingdom’s nuclear status.
The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, adopted by a vote of 122-1-1 on July 7, 2017, at the United Nations, is not the first to seek to prohibit the use or possession of a category of weapons. Five other treaties and agreements—the 1925 Geneva Protocol, the Biological Weapons Convention, the Chemical Weapons Convention, the Mine Ban Treaty, and the Convention on Cluster Munitions—all attempted similar ambitious goals. The prohibition treaty joins the Mine Ban Treaty and the Convention on Cluster Munitions in its emphasis on the humanitarian impact of the weapons and the critical role of civil society in pushing for the ban. Like these treaties, advocates of the nuclear prohibition treaty maintain that the treaty will strengthen the norm against the weapon’s possession and use, leading to eventual complete disarmament. Some intend for the nuclear ban treaty to be an interim, norm-building prohibition to pave the way for a comprehensive nuclear prohibition convention, as the 1925 Geneva Protocol was for the Biological Weapons Convention and Chemical Weapons Convention. Like other prohibition treaties, one of the most challenging aspects of the nuclear prohibition was negotiating its verification clauses. In other ways, the nuclear prohibition treaty is distinct from those that came before, due to the unique role of nuclear weapons in security doctrines and existing legal architecture surrounding nuclear weapons.
How might new technical verification capabilities enhance the prospects of success in future nuclear arms control negotiations? Both theory and evidence suggest that verification technologies can influence the dynamics of arms control negotiations by shaping and constraining the arguments and strategies that are available to the involved stakeholders. The challenge of warhead authentication is one illustrative example of a verification issue where the current lack of technical capabilities has prevented certain measures of arms control from being implemented, and where a breakthrough in verification technologies could have a significant impact in shifting the dynamics of the political discussions. This report focuses on a set of emerging warhead authentication approaches that intend to solve prevailing technical challenges and that could create new opportunities for future disarmament scenarios that may address fewer warheads, limit new categories of warheads, and involve nuclear weapons states other than the United States and Russia.