Nuclear Security

CSTSP has hosted occasional nuclear security meetings that bring together interested and engaged staff from federal agencies, Congress, local universities, and non-governmental organizations to discuss current issues in science, nuclear security, and disarmament. Topics have ranged from the role of nuclear weapons in U.S. national security to nuclear terrorism, among others.

Ballistic Missile Defense: Technical, Strategic and Arms Control Challenges


The Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy, American Association for the Advancement of Science, and the Federation of American Scientists extend to you a cordial invitation to hear a panel of experts discuss technical, strategic, and arms control challenges for ballistic missile defense. These include issues such as ballistic missile defense capabilities, realistic testing for reliability and effectiveness, countermeasures, and strategic considerations such as the relationship of current and proposed programs to arms control with Russia and China.

Hon. Philip Coyle, Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation
Dr. George Lewis, Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies, Cornell University
Bruce MacDonald, Federation of American Scientists & Johns Hopkins University/ SAIS

Dr. Pierce Corden, American Association for the Advancement of Science
Dr. Charles Ferguson, Federation of American Scientists

Associated Presentations:
Coyle (PDF)
Lewis (PDF)
MacDonald (PDF)

Nuclear Medicine with Nuclear Reactors or Uranium Enrichment (2013)

13 July 2013

All commonly used medical radioisotopes can be produced without using nuclear reactors or enriching uranium, or can be replaced with other isotopes that can be produced without a fission reaction, or by alternative technologies.

Reactors not using natural uranium fuel require uranium enrichment, therefore justifying enrichment facilities that can be used for the production of weapons-usable highly enriched uranium (HEU). All reactors also produce weapons-usable plutonium as a byproduct of normal operation, although those using natural uranium fuel produce the most.

These reactors and enrichment facilities are not necessary for medical isotope production. Particle accelerators currently produce many medical isotopes. This report shows that all commonly used medical isotopes currently produced in reactors can be produced in accelerators, or replaced with accelerator-produced isotopes or alternative technologies. None of the accelerator options discussed herein would involve significant proliferation risk.

The extensive literature on production alternatives for the world's most widely used medical isotope, technetium-99m, makes possible an analysis of the cost and security aspects of these alternatives. While there is a good deal of uncertainty associated with cost data, since commercial accelerator production of Mo-99/Tc-99m has not yet commenced, the data suggest that accelerator production has the potential to be cheaper than reactor production, and at the very least will not prove prohibitively expensive.

For commonly used isotopes other than technetium-99m, a detailed cost estimate for accelerator production is beyond the scope of this paper. Nevertheless, it is clear that such alternatives are feasible. It seems unlikely that in the aggregate these alternatives would be prohibitively expensive. More R&D would support a full transition to commercial supply of isotopes other than Tc-99m using accelerator-based processes. Targeted investments in R&D for commercial production of the other isotopes, through contracts by NIH or DOE, could have substantial impact on the commercial availability of accelerator-produced medical isotopes, both in the US and abroad.

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Recent Developments in Laser-Isotope Separation (SILEX) for Uranium Enrichment: Program Update and Nonproliferation Aspects (2012)

July 17, 2012

On July 17, 2012 the Center for Science, Technology and Security Policy at the American Association for the Advancement of Science held a panel discussion on the current state of Laser Isotope Separation (LIS) technology, particularly the SILEX (Separation of Isotopes by Laser Excitation) process, and the nonproliferation implications thereof.

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Scientific Cooperation to Support Nuclear Arms Control and Disarmament (2010)

March 2010
As the international community prepares for the Review Conference of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT),taking place in May 2010, it is timely to highlight how the scientific community can support nuclear arms control and multilateral disarmament. Despite political challenges, progress can still be made through international cooperation on the scientific aspects of disarmament. Investing in such research has diplomatic benefits by providing concrete evidence of Nuclear Weapon States taking seriously their obligations to pursue disarmament under the NPT.

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A Global Cleanout of Nuclear-weapon Materials

Plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) are the essential ingredients in nuclear weapons. Reducing the number of locations where these materials can be found will therefore reduce the risk that they will come into the hands of terrorist groups. Eliminating materials recovered from excess nuclear weapons makes their elimination more irreversible.

Both these strategies are being pursued: the Global Cleanout of civilian HEU is converting research reactors around the world to low-enriched uranium, which is not weapon usable. And the U.S. and Russia are in the process of eliminating about one third of their Cold War stockpile of highly enriched uranium and are committed to making similar reductions in their stockpiles of weapon plutonium. The current programs are much more limited than they need be, however, and civilian reprocessing is increasing the global stock of separated weapon-usable plutonium. A more comprehensive approach will be discussed.

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Nuclear Weapons in 21st Century U.S. National Security (2008)

December 2008
During the Cold War, the purpose of the United States nuclear arsenal was to deter nuclear threats to the United States, primarily from the Soviet Union. Today, in the post-9/11 world, the most urgent nuclear weapon threats to the United States are not from another major power’s deliberate use of them, but instead are from non-state terrorist actors or from the regional proliferation of such weapons into unreliable hands. U.S. nuclear policy and strategy in this post-Cold War and post-9/11 security environment have not been well articulated and as a consequence are poorly understood both within and outside American borders. This situation has led to doubts and uncertainties about the roles and missions of nuclear weapons and their value against 21st century security threats, including allies’ uncertainties about U.S. assurances as they relate to emerging nuclear-armed neighboring states.

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Reducing Nuclear Threats and Preventing Nuclear Terrorism (2007)

October 2007

The U.S. needs a new strategy for reducing nuclear threats—a strategy that restores America’s traditional leadership role, relies on broad international cooperation whenever possible, ensures effective U.S. deterrence capabilities, builds on formal agreements and regimes as well as informal, ad hoc arrangements, and commands wide Congressional and public support.

The overarching goal of the new strategy should be to protect the United States, its allies, and its friends from nuclear attack and from coercive pressures by states possessing nuclear weapons.

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The Next Nuclear Agreement with North Korea: prospects and pitfalls (2007)

October 29, 2007

With the primarily positive developments of 2007, the potential for a long-term agreement between the United States and DPRK is greater now than at any time in the past five years. The February 13, 2007 agreement, and the follow-on meetings that have been held within the Six Party process and at the working group level, have led to continued, albeit halting, progress. The DPRK has begun the process of disabling its reactors and has pledged to provide the United States with a complete list of nuclear-related sites by the end of 2007. The United States has provided 50,000 tons of fuel oil, pledged to take the DPRK off the terrorism list and begin removing economic sanctions, and has alluded to a possible political relationship of some type in the future. The framework of the February 2007 agreement is rooted in the September 19, 2005 Joint Statement. The creators of the new deal intended to “sharpen” what was already agreed to in 2005 with respect to cultural exchange(s); normalization of relationships; status of DPRK vis-a-vis the U.S. State Department’s List of State Sponsors of Terror and the Trading with the Enemy Act; clarification of which party/parties would pay for disablement; and the delivery of heavy fuel oil.

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