Deterrence and Assurance: Reassessing the Nuclear Posture

Speech by Hans M. Kristensen
Director, Nuclear Information Project
Federation of American Scientists
To the Deterrence and Assurance Working Group
USAF Global Strike Command
Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana
May 7, 2013


Editor’s Note: The following remarks were presented to the Deterrence and Assurance Working Group at USAF Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in  Louisiana on May 7, 2013.


Let me begin by thanking General Kowalski for the invitation to come down here to Barksdale Air Force Base and address the Deterrence and Assurance Working Group.

I would be dishonest if I didn’t admit that for someone working in the NGO nuclear arms control community standing here today is somewhat akin to being in the lion’s den.

Be that as it may, few in my community discuss deterrence and assurance directly with the military community, which I believe is a significant problem for the public debate because it leaves an enormous gap in perceptions about the issues.

And I also understand that deterrence and assurance is not just – or even predominantly – about nuclear forces, but I have to limit my talk so the nuclear issue is what I will focus on today. And let me emphasize from the start: I do not have clearance. So this is an unclassified observer looking in from the outside.

In the public debate we assess nuclear force levels based on a very simple equation of how much terrible damage ought to be enough to deter anyone.

In the nuclear planning community the first issue is of course also deterrence, but it is as much about assessing what kinds of forces and scenarios are needed if and when deterrence fails.

This perception gap means that we – the arms control community on one side and the military on the other side – essentially talk about two different things.

Right now the public debate is very much dominated by the issue of costs. How much can we afford and for what purpose and how much and of what kind do we need to have sufficient deterrence and assurance?

Most people in my world feel that the nuclear posture is still far too dominated by Cold War thinking and out of sync with the world we live in today or can see on the horizon. I am not of the opinion that one can just do away with nuclear weapons in a heartbeat but I believe there are possibilities for significant responsible reductions that still leave more than enough for deterrence and assurance to work.

How much depends on the role and tasks the president assigns to the nuclear force. That can change. It has changed. And it will continue to change. Anyone can see that nuclear weapons states and allies have very different perceptions about how many and what types of nuclear weapons it takes to deter and assure sufficiently.

If you ask Russia and the United States, the answer is that several thousand nuclear warheads are needed for immediate tasks, technical hedge, and reconstitution in case of geopolitical surprises. But if you ask China, Britain and France the answer is a few hundred. In India, Pakistan and Israel the number required for national security is even lower.

Similarly, Russia and the United States also insist that a Quadrad (that is a Triad of strategic launchers plus non-strategic nuclear forces) is needed, each leg with unique attributes to provide sufficient flexibility and options for deterrence and assurance to work and the national leadership to have enough different options in a crisis. China, India, Pakistan and possibly Israel are also trying to build Triads, but theirs are much smaller and less capable. France used to have a Triad, but gave up its land-based missiles in the 1990s and now says that a Dyad is sufficient for its national security needs. Britain has gone even further to a Monad with a single weapon system and is even debating whether it needs that anymore.

Russia and the United States also say that deterrence and national security require that more than 1,500 of their warheads are deployed on launchers, and that several hundred of those warheads must be on high alert 24/7/365 and ready to launch in a few minutes. Britain and France say they can do with much lower readiness levels, while China, India, Pakistan and Israel don’t see a need to have warheads deployed on launchers or on alert at all.

In 2009, a newly elected President Barack Obama re-energized the international arms control community with a speech in Prague that committed the United States to “take concrete steps towards a world without nuclear weapons” and “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy” to “put an end to Cold War thinking.”

The speech scared the heck out of the nuclear community and had it not been for the Minot incident just two years earlier and the subsequent effort to reinvigorate the Air Force nuclear mission, the air-delivered nuclear posture both here in the United States and in Europe might have looked very different today.

The ultimate goal of eliminating nuclear weapons is not new but has been U.S. policy since the 1960s, regardless of whether the administration at the time was Republican or Democratic or whether they were increasing or decreasing the nuclear arsenal. But the pledge to “put and end to Cold War thinking” seemed new. Unfortunately, the president did not explain what he meant by that other than to “reduce the role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy.”

That role or prominence has of course already decreased significantly since the Cold War as missions and tasks fell away with the collapse of the Warsaw Pact, the demise of the Soviet Union, and improvements in conventional capabilities. The Quadrennial Defense Review, Ballistic Missile Defense Review and Nuclear Posture Review all hinted of further reductions in the role of nuclear weapons, but this appeared to depend on further improvements in non-nuclear capabilities.

Because of this change, the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review (NPR) determined that the United States “is now prepared to strengthen its long-standing ‘negative security assurance’ by declaring that the United States will not use or threaten to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear weapons states that are party to the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) and in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations.”

Previously, this long-standing policy depended on whether a non-nuclear adversary was in an alliance with a nuclear weapon state, but by issuing the new “strengthened assurance,” the NPR stated, ”the United States affirms that any state eligible for the assurance that uses chemical or biological weapons against the United States or its allies and partners would face the prospect of a devastating conventional military response…” (Emphasis added).

This language has been widely used by officials and interpreted by analysts and journalists as the NPR reducing the role of nuclear weapons against non-nuclear attacks. President Obama has even stated publicly that he has reduced the role. “As President, I changed our nuclear posture to reduce the number and role of nuclear weapons in our national security strategy,” he said in a speech at Hankuk University in South Korea last year. “We’ve narrowed the range of contingencies under which we would ever use or threaten to use nuclear weapons.”

The year before that, National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon declared that the NPR had created a “new doctrine” that “reduces the role of nuclear weapons in our overall defense posture by declaring that the fundamental role of U.S. nuclear forces is to deter nuclear attacks” (emphasis added) as opposed to deterring conventional, chemical and biological attacks.

But it is not clear to me how and to what extent a reduction in the role has happened because of the NPR. When has the “fundamental role” of U.S. nuclear weapons not been to deter nuclear attack? Moreover, the reduction in the role that has taken place appears to have occurred well before the NPR following the elimination of the Soviet and Warsaw Pact conventional threat to Europe and subsequent improvements in U.S. and allied conventional capabilities and counter-weapons of mass destruction capabilities. Even the “strengthened assurance” comes with a huge exemption. According to the NPR:

“In the case of countries not covered by this assurance – states that possess nuclear weapons and states not in compliance with their nuclear non-proliferation obligations – there remains a narrow range of contingencies in which U.S. nuclear weapons may still play a role in deterring a conventional or CBW attack against the United States or its allies and partners. The United States is therefore not prepared at the present time to adopt a universal policy that the ‘sole purpose’ of U.S. nuclear weapons is to deter nuclear attack on the United States and our allies and partners…” (Emphasis added).

Neither the public, allies, friends nor adversaries know much about U.S. nuclear war planning, except that the current strategic nuclear war plan is called OPLAN 8010-12 Strategic Deterrence and Force Employment, and that it is a “family” of plans with a myriad of options directed against half a dozen potential adversaries. But since all of these adversaries are exempt from the “strengthened assurance,” it is hard to see how the NPR has reduced the role of nuclear weapons.

In fact, according to one former White House official, the strengthened negative security assurances were “deliberately crafted to exclude countries like North Korea and Iran which threaten our allies – or countries that depend on us – with a range of potential nuclear, biological, chemical and conventional threats.”

Of course, President Obama also said in Prague that as long as nuclear weapons exist the United States will retain a safe, secure and effective nuclear arsenal. He also acknowledged that nuclear disarmament might not happen in his lifetime.

Not surprisingly, everyone has been cherry picking his or her favorite bit of the speech. The arms control community and State Department focus on the bit about reducing the numbers and role of nuclear weapons, the military focuses on the bit about maintaining and modernizing the nuclear arsenal, while conservative lawmakers have been focusing on preventing further reductions.

And in return for a yes vote on the New START Treaty, the administration agreed to significant nuclear modernizations – by some accounts $214 billion – over the next decade. In fact, it has been amazing to see the Obama administration securing more funding for nuclear modernization than the Bush administration was able to do. As a former administrator of the National Nuclear Security Administration commented a couple of years ago: “I would have killed for such a budget.”

The twin-commitments to reductions and elimination on the one hand and sustainment and modernization on the other hand have created a somewhat schizophrenic nuclear policy where it can be hard to see what the focus is.

Whether one likes it or not, however, the pledge to reduce the role of nuclear weapons is now a central element of U.S. nuclear policy and to the international community’s perception of what it is.

So it is very important for deterrence, assurance, as well as non-proliferation goals that the role – reduced or not – is not blurred or spun too much. It has to be real and genuine. There are two regions where this is particularly important.

One is the Korean Peninsula where the interaction between deterrence and assurance is particularly striking. The United States has for many decades sought to deter North Korea and assure South Korea, but with North Korea’s nuclear tests the mission has recently taken on new importance.

But with nearly 30,000 U.S. troops deployed in South Korea, large-scale joint exercises, bombers rotating through Guam, eight ballistic missile submarines patrolling in the Pacific with hundreds of nuclear warheads, annual joint U.S.-South Korean statements reaffirming the nuclear umbrella, and significant U.S. and South Korean conventional force modernization over the past two decades, how does one deter the North more or better? And if all of that does not assure the South, what will?

Yet when North Korea earlier this year set off a third nuclear test, launched a missile in defiance of the international community, and issued direct nuclear threats against the United States, all of the above capabilities, operations and statements didn’t seem to matter very much. So B-2 and B-52 bombers were deployed as well to demonstrate extra deterrence and assurance. But how do we know that they made any difference in Pyongyang or in Seoul? What we could see, however, was that they played directly into the North Korean brinkmanship by being used to justify the next outrageous threat. I think what worried me the most was how willing each side was to walk up the escalation ladder until someone finally said: “hold on a minute.”

But now we’re committed. So next time North Korea does something stupid and we do not send the bombers, then what are we signaling? And if sending bombers only makes North Korea ramp up its threats even more, will we then have to re-deploy non-strategic nuclear weapons to South Korea to be taken seriously?

In Europe the situation is very different. There is little need for nuclear deterrence but plenty of people who say they need assurance. After two decades of unilateral reductions of U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons in Europe and NATO saying Russia is not an adversary and the remaining weapons are not aimed at anyone, the 2010 Strategic Concept and 2012 Deterrence and Defense Posture Review concluded that the weapons in Europe should not be reduced more unless Russia was willing to reduce its inventory of non-strategic nuclear weapons.

Yet Russia is not a military threat to NATO and does not have the conventional capability to conduct a large-scale attack. So it is using non-strategic nuclear weapons to compensate for the much more advanced conventional forces of the United States and NATO.

Nor are the national security concerns of Eastern European countries and their need for assurance about Russian non-strategic nuclear weapons. They are about border security, organized crime, minority issues, and a general and understandable uneasiness about Russia after years of being occupied by the Soviet Union. Indeed, if Russian eliminated all of its non-strategic nuclear weapons tomorrow, the Eastern European NATO countries would probably have exactly the same security concerns that they say they have today.

So in Europe the challenge is how to transition the alliance out of the remnants of the Cold War posture of forward-deployed non-strategic nuclear weapons to something that better captures the essence of Europe’s security situation today and better expresses the direction NATO wants to take in the future. Right now the Alliance seems stuck in the mud. Indeed, non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed in Europe are probably the least credible form of assurance because they are the least likely to ever be used or needed for the security concerns that face Europe today or in the foreseeable future.

So in conclusion I want to say that there are obvious deterrence and assurance challenges but I believe that they are predominantly about non-nuclear capabilities. The nuclear mission is in the background and it can be reduced further. And I am pleased to see that despite a recent tendency to take advantage of Congressional opposition to further nuclear reductions and instead modernize the entire legacy Cold War posture, the military community is spending more time thinking and planning about non-nuclear missions in support of deterrence and assurance.

Although there are nuclear challenges and any nuclear use would be horrific, I think the current scaled-down Cold War nuclear posture is above and beyond what it needed for sufficient deterrence and assurance. In a report to Congress in May last year, the Office of the Secretary of Defense – in a coordinated assessment with the Intelligence Community – expressed an extraordinary confidence in the nuclear posture even against the most severe of all potential nuclear threats.

It concluded that even if Russia conducted a disarming first strike, even significantly above the New START Treaty limits, it “would have little to no effects on the U.S. assured second-strike capabilities that underwrite our strategic deterrence posture” (emphasis added). Moreover, the DOD report stated, the “Russian Federation…would not be able to achieve a militarily significant advantage by any plausible expansion of its strategic nuclear forces, even in a cheating or breakout scenario under the New START Treaty, primarily because of the inherent survivability of the planned U.S. Strategic force structure, particularly the OHIO-class ballistic missile submarines, a number of which are at sea at any given time.”

I want to end with this statement because when we in the public debate read such an official assessment, we find it hard to understand why it is necessary to retain the large nuclear force structure and alert posture that we have today – not least in the current fiscal environment. Despite the challenges with Russia, it would be helpful to reduce the asymmetry in strategic nuclear forces to help remove some of the drivers for worst-case planning and improve the incentives to reduce overall force levels.

The Pentagon and the White House already have decided that it is possible to meet deterrence and assurance requirements with fewer nuclear weapons than we have today. And the administration’s long-overdue NPR Implementation Review might reduce the targeting and alert requirements. So the nuclear force level is not going to go up or stay the same but it will decline further in the future. The challenge for Air Force Global Strike Command therefore is not how to fight reductions but how to sustain sufficient deterrence and assurance at lower levels.

Let me end here and open up for any questions you might have. Thank you.


Hans Kristensen is the Director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists where he provides the public with analysis and background information about the status of nuclear forces and the role of nuclear weapons. He specializes in using the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in his research and is a frequent consultant to and is widely referenced in the news media on the role and status of nuclear weapons.

His collaboration with researchers at NRDC in 2010 resulted in an estimate of the size of the U.S. nuclear weapons stockpile that was only 13 weapons off the actual number declassified by the U.S. government. Kristensen is co-author of the Nuclear Notebook column in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists and the World Nuclear Forces overview in the SIPRI Yearbook.

The Benefits and Challenges of Active Monitoring in Support of Future Arms Control Initiatives

As the United States remains on a path towards continued reductions of nuclear weapons in concert with Russia, there is a likelihood that future arms control initiatives may include individual warheads – strategic and tactical, deployed and non-deployed. Verification of such an agreement could prove to be challenging and costly under an inspection-oriented regime such as that employed by the New START Treaty. As such, the concept of actively monitoring warheads throughout their lifecycle is proposed as a potential solution. An active monitoring system could reduce the burden of inspection activities to achieve equivalent confidence that treaty obligations are being upheld by increasing transparency of operations. Concerns about the sensitivity of data generated are warranted, and generating sufficient trust in the validity of data produced by this system is challenging, yet they are not insurmountable with a thoughtful design. This article explores the active monitoring concept, in addition to highlighting both the challenges and solutions such a system would provide.


The Obama administration has clearly stated an interest in continuing reductions of the United States nuclear weapon stockpile in accordance with Russia and the other nuclear weapons states. The New START treaty1)New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), U.S. Department of State, Signed April 8, 2010,, signed in 2010 and ratified in 2011, limits strategic deployed warheads to 1,550 on 700 deployed delivery vehicles, with a total limit of 800 deployed and non-deployed delivery vehicles. In a 2009 speech in Prague, prior to the New START negotiations, President Obama brought a new focus to nuclear arms control by affirming “… America’s commitment to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.”2)Remarks by President Barack Obama, Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009, While also admitting that this is very much a long-term goal, this statement and others made in the same speech set the policy of the United States as seeking to advance arms control goals beyond New START. After stating his plan to negotiate New START, he said that “… this will set the stage for further cuts, and we will seek to include all nuclear weapons states in this endeavor.” Further cuts may happen in a similar fashion to the START and New START treaties – reductions in the numbers of strategic, deployed delivery vehicles and warheads – though as those numbers continue to drop, the numbers of non-deployed and non-strategic (tactical) weapon systems and warheads become more prominent in the debate.

According to the 2010 Nuclear Posture Review, “… the Administration will pursue discussions with Russia for further reductions and transparency, which could be pursued through formal agreements and/or parallel voluntary measures. These follow-on reductions should be broader in scope than previous bilateral agreements, addressing all the nuclear weapons of the two countries …”3)Nuclear Posture Review Report, U. S. Department of Defense, April 2010, Under New START, all strategic delivery vehicles (missiles, land-based launch tubes, submarine launch tubes, and bombers) are accountable and limited, whether they are deployed or not. A follow-on agreement to New START that limited nuclear warheads and bombs (whether they are deployed or not), would shift the focus from accounting for the delivery system to accounting for the warhead, whether it is mated to a delivery vehicle or not. In addition, an agreement that limited non-strategic warheads and delivery systems would increase the scope of limitations: mildly for the United States, and significantly for Russia.

The shift in focus from delivery systems to warheads and the inclusion of non-strategic systems will make verification of the treaty terms much more difficult. In general, strategic systems are much easier to see from a distance than non-strategic systems and especially individual warheads. In addition, the set of locations that warrants inspections when including non-strategic systems and warheads (in storage, maintenance, etc.) is much larger than the set of locations under New START. Increasing the scope and number of on-site inspections to account for all nuclear weapons may not be desirable due to the large expense to the inspecting nation and impact to operations of the host nation. Therefore, new technical approaches for verification could become useful to ensure that arms control agreements will be maintained and trusted when the scope extends to all nuclear weapons – deployed and non-deployed, strategic and non-strategic.

The Verification Challenge

The verification methods used for New START are essentially the same as those used under START: (1) national technical means, (2) data exchanges and notifications, and (3) on-site inspections.4)New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), U.S. Department of State, Signed April 8, 2010, National technical means includes all manner of viewing and sensing the actions of the treaty partner from a distance, relying on national intelligence capabilities. Data exchanges and notifications are declaratory tools used to communicate the numbers and locations of all treaty-accountable items (TAIs) at the beginning of the treaty enforcement, at periodic intervals, and when things change. On-site inspections are used to verify those declarations by sending an in person delegation to a limited number of sites in the treaty partner country to view the TAIs at that site. There are two types of New START on-site inspections: Type One inspections focus on sites with deployed and non-deployed strategic systems, while Type Two inspections focus on sites with only non-deployed strategic systems (sites without warheads). During Type One inspections, inspectors have the opportunity to count the number of deployed strategic delivery systems and verify for a single delivery system (including a bomber at an air base), the number of warheads emplaced on it.  The relevant inspections for this discussion are Type One.

The goal of verification is to generate a sufficient amount of confidence that the treaty partner is fulfilling their obligations expressed in the treaty. With effective national technical means, fewer and less intrusive on-site inspections are necessary to gain sufficient confidence. When the focus of reductions, and therefore of verification, shifts from strategic delivery systems to warheads and non-strategic systems, national technical means will be less effective. This result could mean that with more intrusive on-site inspections (and probably more inspections with the expanded set of locations of interest), the same amount of confidence can be generated in a new treaty as is generated by New START verification. However, with more inspections that are increasingly intrusive, costs for both sides  rise and the impact to host operations suffers, since operations will likely be suspended at the site being inspected for the duration of the inspection.

Passive tags and seals have been suggested as assisting in verification of warheads: a warhead in a container could be sealed, and if the inspector verifies a seal on inspection the inspecting party has some confidence in the integrity of that particular warhead going back to the time it was sealed. But passive seals can only indicate that a seal was broken or not broken. No additional information about a broken seal is available, such as when or why the seal was broken.

An alternative and more comprehensive approach is to use active tags and seals, along with fixed monitoring devices in facilities of interest to create trustable information about the location and integrity of all TAIs. An active monitoring system in support of a future arms control agreement that includes all warheads – strategic and non-strategic, deployed and non-deployed – could reduce the cost of generating sufficient confidence enough to make the agreement feasible, while providing an unprecedented level of transparency.

Active Monitoring Approach

In lieu of increasing inspection frequency and complexity, an active monitoring system could be used to generate sufficient confidence that treaty declarations are being upheld while lessening the burden associated with inspection costs and the impact on operations at military installations. The approach of active monitoring discussed here uses an active tag with a monitored seal, known as an item monitor, which communicates to a centralized data collection point. After being attached and sealed to a TAI, the item monitor and associated data management system provides an indication of where the TAI is at any given point within the nuclear security enterprise –in storage, staging, maintenance, transportation, or deployment. The seal is designed to monitor when the item is physically removed from its handling gear which can occur during shipment, maintenance, or when deployed on a delivery vehicle. The seal design precludes removal of the warhead from its handling gear without breaking the seal. Additional layers of monitoring such as motion detectors, cameras, and other sensors can be added into the system to gather supplemental data and improve transparency of operations, while providing greater confidence in the information generated by the item monitors.

While all nuclear weapons in each country would be accountable and thus part of the monitoring regime, each TAI might not be actively monitored in every stage of its lifecycle. Figure 1 illustrates the seven generic stages of nuclear weapons in the United States, along with the dispositioning stage, which may be of interest for monitoring to account for latent nuclear weapons beyond dismantlement.

The deployment stage shown in the figure specifically represents warheads deployed on a delivery vehicle, and not those in storage at a deployed base (which are still considered in the storage stage).

Refurbishment of a weapon occurs as part of a Life Extension Program in which many components are replaced, whereas weapon maintenance implies a less significant replacement or access to the weapon without replacement, which can be done at the deployment or storage location.

Staging indicates that a weapon is awaiting refurbishment or dismantlement.

Dispositioning is the stage in which the dismantled weapon components are rendered unusable without an effort equal to production of those components.


Figure 1: Generic Nuclear Weapon Lifecycle Stages

As indicated in Figure 1, TAIs in the staging and storage stages would be continuously and actively monitored. Any integrity breach or movement during these stages would be recorded by the system. The transitions from the production5)The production stage is theoretical only, since the United States no longer produces nuclear weapons, and is provided here for completeness of the abstraction. and to the dismantlement stages, as well as the transitions to and from the refurbishment, maintenance, and deployment stages would be recorded, though once the TAI is in any of those stages it would not be actively monitored.

Using the United States as a model, there are numerous sites where an active monitoring system would be installed to meet the requirements of a future arms control monitoring regime. Furthermore, within each individual site there could be multiple holding locations for weapons. At each site the information from each holding location would be aggregated and transmitted to a site-wide database. The information from the nation’s weapon sites would then be aggregated at the national level, reviewed, and periodically transferred to the treaty partner who would analyze it to verify declarations as well as discover undeclared activity. Thus, the concept of data exchanges and notifications currently used for New START verification would be retained,  albeit with much larger sets of data and potentially more frequent notifications. The treaty partner could then select a sampling of locations and TAIs to inspect to increase confidence and ensure proper system functionality. The concept of on-site inspections would also be retained from New START, though the active monitoring system would limit the number needed to achieve sufficient confidence. A simplified view of this system is shown below in Figure 2 for three separate sites, each with three discrete TAI locations (either storage or maintenance).


Figure 2: National Model of an Active Monitoring System

In Figure 2, looking at a particular site there is a single TAI that is sealed and tagged by an item monitor moving from a storage area to a maintenance area and back to a different storage area. While it is in the maintenance area, the seal is broken and the item monitor is removed so that the warhead can be accessed for maintenance. Following the work, the warhead is placed back in its handling gear, which is sealed once again. In each of these locations the item monitor communicates with a data collection unit in the room, sending information during entrance and exit, as well as periodically throughout its existence in the room. In addition, fixed monitoring nodes in each of these locations (such as door switches, motion detectors, and cameras) generate additional information to create layers of evidence. The information generated by the monitoring system in each location – by item monitors as well as fixed monitoring nodes – is passed to a central data aggregation point at the site that combines the information from all locations at the particular site. Each site then passes information to a national data aggregation point, which is then transferred to the treaty partner during periodic data exchanges and more frequently during notifications.

All nuclear weapons that are properly maintained will still require routine maintenance and refurbishment, and these activities will likely occur without inspectors present to avoid releasing weapon design information. In order for the monitoring system to increase the treaty partner’s confidence in the host nation’s declarations of TAI activity, they must first trust that the TAI being monitored is an authentic nuclear weapon – i.e., that the host nation is not playing a shell game. As shown in Figure 3, at the start of a future agreement all TAIs would need to be verified as authentic in what is considered a baseline inspection, and then sealed using the item monitor while the inspecting partner is present. This baseline inspection likely would include measurements of attributes that are agreed upon in negotiations.

Following the baseline inspection at all sites, every nuclear weapon would be entered into the monitoring regime. A TAI with  an item monitor attached (and sealed) goes from black to white. In the white (sealed) state, the treaty partner has confidence that that particular TAI is authentic, and thus trusts the information the TAI generated by the monitoring system. The TAI would then continue to move throughout the nuclear security enterprise as required by the host country, with its movements and the status of its seal being continuously monitored. Since nuclear weapons are not static items for the life of a treaty, seals will have to be broken and most likely TAIs will have to be removed from active monitoring for maintenance, refurbishment, and deployment. When performing a maintenance activity on a sealed warhead or preparing a warhead for deployment, the activity would be declared in the same dataset that is transmitted to the treaty partner. Normal operations would not require the presence of an inspector.

Once declared, the seal can be removed and the warhead operation can proceed. After the seal has been opened on a TAI, the authenticity of that item cannot be confirmed until it is inspected by the partner nation, which would likely include the same type of  measurements made during a baseline inspection. At that point, the combination of re-establishing the authenticity of the TAI with the record of the TAI being sealed back to a point in the past gives the treaty partner confidence in the TAI from the time of sealing (indicated by the cross-hatched TAI in the figure), even if the treaty partner did not witness that sealing.


Figure 3: Timeline of Trust for a TAI

A monitoring system that accounts for individual weapons under a new arms control regime must have two basic characteristics: reliability and trustworthiness. Reliability implies that the system will work as intended with little or no downtime and without generating false information. While reliability is an important attribute of any engineered system, it is especially important in an arms control monitoring system. Any unexpected system behavior or relatively long downtime is likely to raise suspicion in the treaty partner, and would likely require a host country explanation. Trustworthiness is more complex. A system can be trusted by the host if the individual components and software can be shown to not interfere with the safety, security, and reliability of the nuclear weapons or the facilities that house the nuclear weapons (the process of certification). The system can be trusted by the treaty partner if the data it generates can be authenticated, it is hard (i.e. expensive) to forge false data, and the hardware and software used can be verified to not have hidden functionality (the process of authentication). Hardware and software authentication is challenging due to the complexity of integrated circuits and modern programming languages. Authentication concerns could be eased through either a jointly designed system or random sampling of the active monitoring system’s components by the treaty partner to inspect, possibly destructively. Data authentication requires the ability to digitally sign and verify the signature of the data generated by individual item monitors and fixed monitoring nodes, which necessitates the use of cryptographic algorithms to greatly increase the difficulty in forging messages. The system must also take into consideration the usability of the data from the perspectives of both the host and treaty partner to ensure that it is easy to sort and analyze the large quantity of data that will inevitably be collected.

The extent to which each side will assess the system equipment during certification and authentication also depends on who designs and produces the equipment. With host-designed and produced equipment, certification will likely be easier but authentication may be harder. With inspector-designed and produced equipment, authentication will be easier, but certification will be much harder, maybe impossible. A third option (which needs more study), is joint design and third-party (monitored) production. For our analysis, we have assumed host-designed and produced equipment.

The level of transparency associated with the active monitoring approach described here goes beyond any previous sharing of information under former treaties and agreements. Achieving concurrence and buy-in from stakeholders will be challenging – particularly the military services whose base operations may be affected – though the impact of a monitoring system may be less than the impact of the number of on-site inspections necessary in its absence. Additionally, many sensitive and potentially classified characteristics of the nuclear security enterprise could be revealed through the data aggregation and analysis process. To maintain the high level of transparency required for such an arms control regime, it may be necessary to redact portions of the data prior to transmitting it to the partner country. This could be done without degrading the integrity of the remaining data, but still providing enough information to account for warheads in the regime.


Potential arms control initiatives that include limits on total nuclear warhead stockpiles (including non-strategic and non-deployed weapons) and monitoring of warheads awaiting dismantlement may require technical accountability measures that are distinct from the technical measures used in previous treaties. Accountability measures could include active monitoring systems that provide trustable information and assurances of the location and the integrity of nuclear weapons and its components throughout the nuclear weapons lifecycle. Better understanding of active monitoring capability options for declared warheads and potential operational impacts of such a monitoring regime will help prepare for possible future initiatives.

Many challenges to the development and use of a nation-wide monitoring system in the U.S. and its treaty partners in support of a future arms control initiative remain. The scope of technology necessary for this system is much larger than what is used today for New START verification. The sheer complexity will make negotiations long and challenging. Generating trust with this technology may not be easy. Trustable components and information will be a key system attribute to be factored into design. The inspectors must trust the system to generate authentic and correct information, and to be highly resistant to undetected tampering by the host party. In addition, the host must accept the use of this equipment on or near nuclear weapons in their custody, which requires mitigation of concerns about safety, security, and divulging sensitive information. Lastly, no matter how well designed the system, on-site inspections would still be required to verify that the data generated by these systems reflects reality. However, the number of inspections could be minimized while still creating a level of confidence that is statistically significant.

Active monitoring of all nuclear weapons by a system coordinated across all staging, storage, maintenance, and deployment sites may be a key step in building confidence in such an agreement and reducing the need for on-site inspections to the point where the agreement is realizable. While 100% confidence in verification will be difficult, a system can be engineered to increase confidence that an agreement is being upheld by identifying the location and status of each TAI in an assured and trusted way to the monitoring partner, as well as providing layers of evidence of monitoring activities using various sensors and imagers. A flexible system will allow weapons to be accounted for and actively monitored through various phases of their lifecycle, thus enabling verification and increased confidence in weapons reductions. Research into the concept of an active monitoring system, including the operational impacts of such a system – and technology to support the concept – should be an element of a research agenda to support future negotiations for a new bilateral or multilateral arms control agreement.


Jay Kristoffer Brotz is a Senior Systems Engineer in the Nuclear Monitoring and Transparency Department at Sandia National Laboratories in Albuquerque, NM. His work is primarily on the Chain of Custody project, in which he is the Hardware and Operations Design Lead. He is primarily concerned with the development and evaluation of candidate technologies to be used as monitoring nodes at the Chain of Custody Test Bed. Last year, Jay participated in the Next Generation Working Group on U.S.-China Nuclear Relations, a function of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Project on Nuclear Issues (PONI). Jay graduated with a B.S. in Computer Engineering from Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology and an M.S. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from Carnegie Mellon University, where he wrote a Master’s thesis on damping of mechanical resonators fabricated in a CMOS-MEMS process.

Justin Fernandez is a Senior Member of the Technical Staff at Sandia National Laboratories. Justin’s experience and expertise lies at the intersection of technology and policy, with a focus on international nuclear relations and arms control. For the past two years he has led test and evaluation activities between three national laboratories for nuclear monitoring and transparency technologies geared towards supporting future arms control initiatives. Prior to his current position, Justin worked for three years on testing and evaluating the compatibility of Sandia developed technologies with US Air Force and NATO aircraft platforms. Justin obtained his B.S. and M.S. in Mechanical Engineering from Rutgers University and Georgia Institute of Technology respectively.

Dr. Sharon DeLand is a System Analyst in the Nuclear Monitoring and Transparency Department at Sandia National Laboratories. She received her doctorate in experimental condensed matter physics from the University of Illinois in 1991. Sharon’s current research interests include developing and evaluating technical approaches for monitoring arms control agreements, especially approaches focused on item accountability. Her work focuses on systems approaches that integrate technical monitoring objectives with policy perspectives and operational constraints. She also applies systems analysis to the modeling and simulation of international relations, with an emphasis on nonproliferation and arms control.


The opinions expressed in this paper are the authors’ own and do not reflect the opinions or official policy of Sandia National Laboratories, the National Nuclear Security Administration, or the United States Government.

Notes   [ + ]

1. New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), U.S. Department of State, Signed April 8, 2010,
2. Remarks by President Barack Obama, Prague, Czech Republic, April 5, 2009,
3. Nuclear Posture Review Report, U. S. Department of Defense, April 2010,
4. New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START), U.S. Department of State, Signed April 8, 2010,
5. The production stage is theoretical only, since the United States no longer produces nuclear weapons, and is provided here for completeness of the abstraction.

Using Trade to Build Stability in South Asia

Former Pakistani Prime Minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto once said, “If India builds the bomb, Pakistan will eat grass, even go hungry, but we will get our own.”1)Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 7. Today, Pakistan has had the bomb for more than 13 years2)Ibid, yet according to expert estimates the Pakistanis are building nuclear weapons faster than anyone else in the world.3)Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces, 2011,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67, no. 4 (2011): 91-92. Meanwhile, Pakistan’s economy continues to deteriorate at such a rate that its people resorting to grass as sustenance may actually become a reality. Economists forecast that Pakistan’s GDP must expand at a minimum of 3 percent just to maintain current living standards and keep up with the rapidly expanding population.4)“Highlights of the Pakistan Economic Survey 2012-13.” Ministry of Finance. Government of Pakistan.

With the rapid spread of Islamic extremism and tensions growing daily between the civilian government, the courts, and the military, the prospect of an increasing number of nuclear weapons in Pakistan sparks fear that one of these weapons could fall into the wrong hands. Given the risks involved with a destabilized Pakistan, there is an obvious and pressing need to improve the security situation in South Asia, a region home to nearly one-fifth of the world’s population.

The tensions between India and Pakistan date back to their partition in 1947 into separate countries. Since then, the two have  fought a total of four wars, mostly over the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan has been suspected of supporting a militant insurgency in Indian administered Kashmir since the mid-1980s, while India is alleged to support an insurgency in Pakistan’s Balochistan Province.5)Nasreen Akhtar, “Baluchistan Nationalist Movement and Unrest in Pakistan,” South Asian Survey 18, no. 1 (2011): 131. Stern, “Pakistan’s Jihad culture,” Foreign Affairs (2000): 115-116. This strained relationship prompted the development of both countries’ nuclear weapons programs, while security concerns on Pakistan’s western and eastern borders – partly a legacy of Pakistani and U.S. support for militants along its western frontier during the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan in 19797)Steve Coll, Ghost wars: The secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 70-71. – have led to disproportionate military influence in Pakistan’s politics and administration. As a result, the country has experienced three periods of military dictatorship, which have severely limited the country’s ability to build and maintain viable democratic institutions.8)“Pakistan Profile,” The British Broadcasting Corporation, May 14 2013,

Given the bleak situation between India and Pakistan is it even possible to build better relations? Improving bilateral trade is one way to potentially foster collaboration between the two states, but the last 65 years have demonstrated how difficult it is for India and Pakistan to make progress on security related issues. Kashmir remains in dispute: thousands of Indian and Pakistani soldiers remain perched high on the Siachen Glacier, a desolate piece of ice where more soldiers die from avalanches than enemy fire. Nevertheless, there remains a real threat that conflict can erupt anytime at Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. Simultaneously, a significant portion of Indian and Pakistani society remains marred in poverty. The collaboration required to build better trade relations has the potential to positively impact the situation of both countries and perhaps bring India and Pakistan closer together.

South Asia Today

India and Pakistan face precarious times: millions remain in poverty on both sides of the border, as both countries face deteriorating rates of economic growth. Pakistan is forecasted to miss its target of 4.2 percent GDP growth rate this year, while India has had to cut its GDP growth forecast to 5 percent.9)Kundi, Imran Ali. “Pakistan to miss 4.2pc growth target: IMF.” The Nation. Apr 18 2013., Sudeep. “Fitch Ratings Cuts India GDP Forecast.” The Wall Street Journal. Mar 15 2013. At the same time, a continuing population boom means that this modest economic growth will most likely not be enough to improve upon or even maintain the quality of life for Indians and Pakistanis. With the anticipated U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan in December 2014 there is additional potential for instability in the region, as a reduction in Western engagement could spark greater unrest in the tribal belt separating Pakistan and Afghanistan. Instability and violence from this region could spread to the rest of Afghanistan and Pakistan, ultimately negatively impacting India as well.

Improving trade relations and engaging in greater trade could be a way for India and Pakistan to improve their economies. Although the situation they face is not promising, the domestic political situation in both countries suggests that now is the best time to make improvements in trade relations a reality. With the May 11,2013 Pakistani elections, Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League Nawaz (PML-N) has returned to power with a solid parliamentary majority.11)Rodriguez, Alex. “Nawaz Sharif may give Pakistan-India relations a boost.” The Los Angeles Times. May 25 2013. Sharif has already indicated his support for improved bilateral trade relations, reaching out to his Indian counterpart Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and inviting him to visit Pakistan.12)Ibid. Similarly, Singh has also expressed his intention to build better relations with Pakistan, specifically focusing on greater trade.13)Ibid. While these are promising signs for bilateral relations, it remains to be seen whether these two leaders will follow these initial overtures with real progress. Although Sharif launched a series of ambitious economic reforms during his first term, his previous two terms in office were characterized by corruption.14)Victor, Mallet and Farhan Bokhari. “Nawaz Sharif prepares for third term as Pakistan prime minister.” Financial Times. May 12.’s government has also seen several major corruption scandals, as well as an inability to implement key economic reforms such as further liberalization of the Indian economy to encourage foreign investment.15)Harris, Gardiner. “Indians Grow Impatient With Taciturn Premier Amid Troubles.” The New York Times. May 25 2013.

However, both leaders are under pressure to improve their domestic economic situation. Pakistanis elected Sharif with a wide margin of support, but will quickly become impatient if he does not deliver on his promise to improve the economic situation. Across the border in India, Singh and his Indian National Congress (INC) face parliamentary election in 2014 – signs of economic progress and reform are vital if they are to be reelected. Meanwhile, the INC’s main opposition, the Bharatya Janta Party (BJP), recently experienced a setback by losing a critical state election in Karanataka.16)Rai, Saritha. “Congress Party Sweeps Karnataka Elections.” The New York Times. May 8 2013.  Despite this, Singh and his government are still under immense pressure to improve India’s economy. Because of these domestic political situations, inaction on improving the economy is a risk that neither Nawaz Sharif nor Manmohan Singh can afford to take. Greater bilateral trade is one policy that both Sharif and Singh can adopt to improve the economies of their countries.

To boost trade from current levels, India and Pakistan must take several key steps.

1) Develop a uniform, jointly developed trade policy

Different policies govern trade at the Punjab crossing, the two Kashmiri crossings, and by sea – a common trade policy governing what goods can be traded and how trade is conducted across the various routes between India and Pakistan does not yet exist. The two countries need to establish a clear joint trade policy that outlines how present trade policies between India and Pakistan will evolve in the coming years, so that ultimately the same trade policies and practices are in place regardless of the border crossing used.

Figure 1: Indo-Pakistan Land Routes

2) Pakistan must grant MFN status to India

Setting a clearer and more cohesive bilateral trade policy depends on Pakistan extending “Most Favored Nation” status to India. MFN status is important in international trade because it means that one country will not discriminate against another country in terms of trade. India has granted Pakistan MFN status since 1996. Pakistan granted India MFN status briefly in 2011, but then retracted India’s MFN status due to opposition from several key domestic industries such as agriculture and automotive sectors. Granting India MFN status would mean that Pakistan must extend the same trade preferences to India as Pakistan currently does to other countries that it has granted MFN status.

To avoid retracting this MFN status as it did in 2011, Pakistan and India must adopt a gradual process with a concrete timeline, with the ultimate goal to extend MFN status to India. The gradual process of extending MFN status could be incorporated into the overall objective of developing a clear, unified Indo-Pakistan trade policy. With a clear timeline, domestic industries in Pakistan that could be adversely affected by liberalization of trade with India have a chance to prepare and adjust to these economic shifts. To take this preparation a step further, the two countries should establish cross-border collaboration in sectors that would be the hardest hit from further Indo-Pakistan trade liberalization. Through these joint collaborations, businessmen from both countries could work together to manage the impact of extending MFN status to India. Altogether, these steps would minimize the pain felt by those who would lose out from Indo-Pakistan trade liberalization.

3) Improve infrastructure linking India and Pakistan

Pakistan and India need to improve the infrastructure connecting the two countries. From extensive delays at the seaports to poor cross border road infrastructure in Kashmir, inadequate trade infrastructure is common to all routes connecting India and Pakistan.17)Based on extensive conversations with Kashmiri as well as Karachi, Pakistan and Mumbai, India based merchants.  To relieve strain on existing connections the two countries could open up more border crossings. Ideally, these crossings would be built with Integrative Check Posts (ICP), similar to the existing one at Wagah in Punjab. The ICP is a 120 acre facility that significantly expanded the customs and inspection facilities on the India side of the Wagah-Attari border crossings,18)“Open to the possibility of bringing Indian private banks in Pakistan Anand Sharma Shri Sunil Munjal to Co Chair Joint Business Council from India.” Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. 2012. allowing trade traffic between India and Pakistan to increase from 100-150 trucks per day to about 250 trucks per day.19)Haider, Mehtab. “Pakistan, India to ink three agreements.” The News International. 2012., Harpreet Singh.

Figure 2: Indo-Pakistan Trade across the Line of Control in Kashmir21)Maini, Tridivesh Singh. “Trade will place peace on the fast track” The Hindu. April 18, 2012.

At the same time, it is important to acknowledge that infrastructure improvements need to take place on both sides of the border to make them effective. Although the ICP at Wagah has increased processing capacity, no comparable improvement infrastructure has taken place on the Pakistani side of the Wagah crossing, and the true benefits of improved infrastructure will only be realized when improvements are implemented on both sides of the border. In addition to physical infrastructure, the two countries also need to build up banking and legal institutions. The virtual absence of these two components has made trade in Kashmir risky and difficult to accomplish. Building these vital linkages will ensure that future growth in Indo-Pakistan trade is sustainable.

4) Improve ties between the Indian and Pakistani business communities

India and Pakistan need to improve coordination between business communities on both sides of the border. The joint Chamber of Commerce in Kashmir was successful at linking the two business communities together, even though it has not been as successful as intended for its initial purpose of liberalizing cross-Line of Control trade.22)The Line of Control (LoC) is the unofficial and disputed border that separates Pakistani and Indian Kashmir. The governments of India and Pakistan need to expand these types of business oriented organizations in places like Punjab, Sindh and Gujarat.

Figure 3: Dried Date Merchant, Karachi, Pakistan23)Personal Photograph. Karachi Pakistan. December 2011.

Dubai, the UAE and other third party countries currently function as meeting grounds for the Indian and Pakistani business community. This is due to the fact that it is easier to travel to these third party countries than to go across the shared border. Additionally, Indo-Pakistan trade often flows through these indirect routes to circumvent the restrictive and often convoluted trade regulations across the Indo-Pakistani border. While India and Pakistan work to build better direct trade relations, they could engage members of the Pakistani and Indian business communities by establishing organizations to facilitate interaction between them. Eventually, as relations improve, these organizations could help expedite the shift of Indo-Pakistan trade back from these third party locations.


Imposing greater Indo-Pakistan trade solely through policy will not be sustainable in the long run. Rather, India and Pakistan must use policy to craft an environment where trade can freely occur. However, this trade will only be sustainable if there is greater cultural awareness between the people of the two countries. A prominent businessman from Kutch in Gujarat once asked me, “Why should we trade with those terrorists?” Only when Indians and Pakistanis break away from such false perceptions can trade truly evolve into a long-term road to lasting peace.


Ravi Patel is a student at Stanford University where he recently completed a B.S. in Biology and is currently pursuing an M.S. in Biology. He completed an undergraduate honors thesis on developing greater Indo-Pakistan trade under Sec. William Perry at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC). Patel is the founder and president of a student to student collaborative research program connecting leading Pakistani and American university students and also the president of a similar organization called the Stanford U.S.-Russia Forum which connects university students in Russia and the United States. In the summer of 2012, Patel was a security scholar at the Federation of American Scientists. He also has extensive biomedical research experience focused on growing bone using mesenchymal stem cells through previous work at UCSF’s surgical research laboratory and Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory. 


Notes   [ + ]

1. Feroz Hassan Khan, Eating Grass (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2012), 7.
2. Ibid
3. Hans M. Kristensen and Robert S. Norris, “Pakistan’s Nuclear Forces, 2011,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists 67, no. 4 (2011): 91-92.
4. “Highlights of the Pakistan Economic Survey 2012-13.” Ministry of Finance. Government of Pakistan.
5. Nasreen Akhtar, “Baluchistan Nationalist Movement and Unrest in Pakistan,” South Asian Survey 18, no. 1 (2011): 131.
6. Jessica Stern, “Pakistan’s Jihad culture,” Foreign Affairs (2000): 115-116.
7. Steve Coll, Ghost wars: The secret history of the CIA, Afghanistan, and Bin Laden, from the Soviet invasion to September 10, 2001 (New York: Penguin Books, 2004), 70-71.
8. “Pakistan Profile,” The British Broadcasting Corporation, May 14 2013,
9. Kundi, Imran Ali. “Pakistan to miss 4.2pc growth target: IMF.” The Nation. Apr 18 2013.
10. Jain, Sudeep. “Fitch Ratings Cuts India GDP Forecast.” The Wall Street Journal. Mar 15 2013.
11. Rodriguez, Alex. “Nawaz Sharif may give Pakistan-India relations a boost.” The Los Angeles Times. May 25 2013.
12. Ibid.
13. Ibid.
14. Victor, Mallet and Farhan Bokhari. “Nawaz Sharif prepares for third term as Pakistan prime minister.” Financial Times. May 12.
15. Harris, Gardiner. “Indians Grow Impatient With Taciturn Premier Amid Troubles.” The New York Times. May 25 2013.
16. Rai, Saritha. “Congress Party Sweeps Karnataka Elections.” The New York Times. May 8 2013.
17. Based on extensive conversations with Kashmiri as well as Karachi, Pakistan and Mumbai, India based merchants.
18. “Open to the possibility of bringing Indian private banks in Pakistan Anand Sharma Shri Sunil Munjal to Co Chair Joint Business Council from India.” Ministry of Commerce, Government of India. 2012.
19. Haider, Mehtab. “Pakistan, India to ink three agreements.” The News International. 2012.
20. Ibid., Harpreet Singh.
21. Maini, Tridivesh Singh. “Trade will place peace on the fast track” The Hindu. April 18, 2012.
22. The Line of Control (LoC) is the unofficial and disputed border that separates Pakistani and Indian Kashmir.
23. Personal Photograph. Karachi Pakistan. December 2011.

The History of the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile 1945-2013

Editor’s Note: The following text was prepared by Dr. Norris for a presentation at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s 2013 Summer Institute on the International History of Nuclear Weapons (SHARF) in Washington, DC. 

The primary goal of my presentation today is to reconstruct the nuclear order of battle of the Cold War, to see how nuclear weapons were integrated into military forces, to assess what influence they had, and finally with all of that as a backdrop, revisit some crucial events and decisions that may make more sense when viewed with this additional information and perspective.

Growth and Evolution of the U.S. Nuclear Stockpile

By my estimation, the United States has produced approximately 66,500 nuclear weapons from 1945 to mid-2013, of approximately 100 types.1)Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Warheads, 1945- 2009,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 2009, vol. 65, no 4, pp. 72-81. “ New production of U.S. nuclear weapons ceased in 1990, twenty-three years ago, though modifications and life-extension programs continue. The historic high of the U.S. stockpile was reached in 1967 with 31,255 nuclear warheads. This stockpile, beginning in the mid-1950s, has been characterized by great dynamism and turnover.  We now have official figures for the number of nuclear warheads in the stockpile from 1946 to 2009:  In 1993, Secretary of Energy Hazel O’Leary released figures for the years 1946-1961, and on May 3, 2010 the Pentagon released a fact sheet with stockpile numbers for years 1962-2009.

All U.S. warheads were developed at one of two nuclear design laboratories, Los Alamos or Lawrence Livermore, both supported by Sandia National Laboratories to weaponize the warheads. Los Alamos has designed 77 types and Livermore 23. All four military services have had nuclear weapons: the Air Force adopted 52 warhead types, the Navy 35 types, the Army 26 and the Marines 15.

Many of the cancelled programs make interesting stories by themselves in capturing the thinking of the day.  Some warhead types have had wide applicability, used in one configuration as a bomb and in another as a warhead for one or perhaps several kinds of missiles, an early example of this is the Mark 7. The profusion is even more extensive when modifications and yield options are added:  the B-61 bomb has come in eleven modifications (soon to be twelve) and a variety of yields.

If we break down the stockpile by delivery system the Air Force has made use of 42 types of nuclear weapons, the Navy and Marine Corps 34 types, and the Army 21 types. As technological advances were made in reducing warhead weight and volume the military services adopted nuclear weapons for almost every conceivable military mission.

The first delivery system was an airplane dropping a bomb: specifically the B-29 carrying a single Little Boy or Fat Man type bomb. Soon after the war, a great profusion of new types of aircraft appeared offering greater range and capable of carrying many bombs. There have been more than 40 different types of aircraft that the U.S. military has used to carry nuclear weapons: 11 varieties of Air Force bombers, a dozen types of Air Force fighters, 13 types of Navy/Marine corps fighters, three types of helicopters, and three maritime patrol aircraft.  There are also several types of allied non-American aircraft that were certified to carry U.S. nuclear weapons including the Canadian Argus, German and Italian Tornados, the British Shackleton and Nimrod and the Italian Atlantiques.

An almost equal technological marvel to the atomic bomb is the development of the missile, specifically the ballistic missile.  It did not take a great leap of imagination to see that missiles might eventually be mated to an atomic bomb and flown (either in the atmosphere or out of it) great distances to a target.  Eventually missiles would come in every conceivable size, shape, and range for every mission: air-to-surface missiles like the Hound Dog, SRAM, Walleye and Bullpup, and air-to-air missiles like the Genie and the Falcon. One cancelled program, Skybolt, was to have been an air-launched ballistic missile, quite a concept when you think of it.  Complementing ballistic missiles were cruise missiles of every sort: the Matador (and later the Mace), and sea-based Regulus. For intercontinental distances there was for a very short time the notorious Snark. After improvements in ballistic missiles by the late 1950s and early 1960s, the United States had a wide variety of ICBMs, SLBMs, IRBMs, and short-range ballistic missiles. These included Corporal, Sergeant, Lacrosse, Redstone, Little John, Honest John, Thor, Jupiter, Atlas, Titan, and Polaris. Later they would be replaced by Minuteman and MX, Poseidon, Trident, Pershing and by air-sea and ground launched cruise missiles.  Anti-ballistic missile missiles like the Sprint and Spartan were developed and deployed as well.

Not to be outdone, the army proposed a full range of weapons for the nuclear battlefield. This included several calibers of artillery, short range missiles, air defense missiles like the Nike Hercules, and atomic land mines.  A particular favorite in this category was the Davy Crockett, a jeep- or tripod-mounted bazooka-type weapon able to deliver a very low-yield W54 nuclear warhead (20 tons yield) to a range of between 600-4000 meters.  It is said that the probability of kill lethal radius for the Davy Crockett exceeded its range, which is not a good thing.

The Navy had many non-strategic types for the anti-submarine mission (ASW), including the Betty, Lulu, and B57 depth charges; the ASTOR torpedo; and ASROC and SUBROC missiles.  For the anti-air warfare mission the TALOS and Terrier missiles were deployed on a host of ships to defend the carrier battle group.

Each one of these systems is deserving of its own history.  The historical record will only be complete when we know and understand why they were proposed in the first place, how much was spent on them, how many were produced, where were they deployed, and when they were retired. These stories constitute the reality of the nuclear arms race: the research and development, the procuring, the transporting, deploying, training and maintaining and retiring of all of this weaponry. Even weapons that were not deployed merit at least a footnote as they give expression to the mentality of the day.

After almost seventy years, we now estimate that the United States built 66,500 nuclear warheads, but we should recognize that along the way there were other expectations and possibilities. For example, here are two contrary views: Bill Moyers made a TV program on the 40th anniversary of Los Alamos; in one scene he is riding in a car with I.I. Rabi (an adviser to Robert Oppenheimer during the Manhattan Project), and as they drive through Los Alamos Rabi looks out the window at the laboratories and building after building and says that, from the vantage point of the Manhattan Project (at least in his mind), we never intended this: meaning this gigantic ongoing complex that ended up mass producing nuclear weapons by the tens of thousands.

At the other extreme we have certain military figures such as Army Lt. General James M. Gavin, Deputy Chief of Staff for R&D under Maxwell Taylor, who said in hearings to the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy in 1956 and 1957 that the Army’s total requirement would be 151,000 nuclear weapons, 106,000 for tactical battlefield use, 25,000 for air defense, and 20,000 for support of our allies.  He estimated that a typical field army might use a total of 423 atomic warheads in one day of intense combat, not including surface to air weapons. Some Navy officers in early 1958 spoke of a Polaris fleet of 100 SSBNs. This goal later dropped to between 40 and 50 and 41 were originally bought, with eighteen more Ohio-class submarines since purchased.

The Air Force never proposed an exact goal for the size of its ICBM arsenal, but there were statements in the late-1950s of several hundred to many thousands. At the high end was General Thomas S. Power, CINCSAC from 1957-1964, who spoke of a requirement of 10,000 Minuteman ICBMs and is known to have personally suggested that figure to President Kennedy. Many Air Force officers were not very enthusiastic about missiles, a diversion and drain on resources for what really mattered — that is, manned bombers. The Air Force has never been shy about asking for new planes, and in large numbers.  Since 1945 they have purchased close to 5,000 bombers of 11 types whose primary mission was nuclear weapon delivery (385 B-36s, 142 B-45s, 370 B-50s, 2,041 B-47s, 403 B-57s, 116 B-58s, 744 B-52s, 294 B-66s). The original goal would have been higher than what was finally purchased, given finite budgets. This is true with the two recent bombers – the original program for the B-1 was 244 (the air force bought 100), and 132 B-2s (only 21 purchased).

Even with the Air Force’s lukewarm attitude towards ICBMs they still managed to purchase a total of 3,234 ICBMS: Atlas (381), Titan (286), Minuteman (2,433), and MX (134). The Navy bought 2,783 SLBMs:  Polaris (1,092), Poseidon (640), and Trident (595 and 456) their SSBN fleet. In total over 6,000 strategic ballistic missiles were purchased.

One concluding point needs to be made about all of these numbers. Whatever they were–large, medium or small — I contend they were arbitrary.  It is often made to seem, especially in Secretary of Defense Annual Reports or Congressional testimony, that civilian officials and military brass knew exactly what the number of bombers or missiles was that would deter the Soviets.  In 1979 and 1980 it was said that 200 MX missiles, to be shuttled around and hidden amidst 4,600 shelters in a 40,000 square mile area of the Great Basin in eastern Nevada and western Utah, was absolutely essential to the security of the United States. Anything less just would not do. The effort and money that went into trying to come up with a survivable basing scheme to solve the problem of the so-called “window of vulnerability” is astonishing.


Stimulants to Growth and Diversity

There are three factors that sustained the nuclear arms race and led to its growth and diversity:

1) The inter-service rivalry that existed (and exists) between the branches of U.S. armed forces. These clashes over roles and missions are not aberrations; they are only the more visible skirmishes of an ongoing and eternal war. Its daily manifestations need to be tracked better than they have been.  This competition was a main driver in the proliferation of missiles. At the time, nuclear weapons were the things to have. All sectors of the military became enraptured with them and tried their very best to integrate them into the various combat commands. They developed elaborate war plans, had extensive military exercises, and some may have even believed that one could actually fight wars with them. The love affair eventually ended, disillusionment set in, the bloom was off the rose, and nuclear mission after nuclear mission was terminated.

Because of their inordinate destructive power these weapons prevented good soldiering rather than advancing it. Many general and admirals felt that in the end, the weapons weren’t usable. They took away from other things that commanders would rather have had.  Nuclear weapons require inordinate amounts of security and many special procedures and were not worth all of the care and feeding they required. Twenty years ago, the Army got out of the nuclear business and the non-strategic navy abandoned the nuclear anti-submarine warfare mission. In a similar development, the Navy and Marine Corps abandoned the carrier strike mission with nuclear bombs, a mission that began in the late 1940s. For a time the non-strategic Navy retained only the nuclear Tomahawk cruise missile (stored ashore in weapons depots), but that too has now recently been retired. Many or most of the missions we once had have been abandoned, and we are in the process of trying to figure out how many and what to do with the ones we have left. The answers are still not in: Can we continue to afford three legs of the triad or will two be enough?

2) A second factor which sustained and perpetuated the arms race was the belief that our nation could attain security through technical superiority in nuclear weaponry, in 1950 Chester Barnard termed this, “a most deadly illusion” – but it was one we continued to pursue year after year. Technological imperative drove the United States forward; this edge would make the difference, we could gain the upper hand, we must have this new missile or that new plane. Each of these milestones- whether it was ’boosting’, the hydrogen bomb, improved yield-to-weight  ratios, miniaturization, longer range missiles and planes, or greater accuracy – these were all eventually matched by the Soviet Union and the vaunted superiority could never be sustained or taken advantage of. Each of the accomplishments by our adversary then drove the United States forward to try and find a fix for the new dilemma it put us in.

3) The third factor is what I call a hyperactive definition of deterrence. This definition equated the prevention of a Soviet attack with just achieving very high degrees of readiness on the American side.  The Soviets were portrayed as ready to pounce the moment the United States let down its guard: the Red Army was ever ready to surge through the Fulda Gap. The Bolsheviks were global in their march and thus we had to be everywhere to deter them. Because warning times had shrunk so much in the missile age we needed to put bombers on 24 hour airborne alert, carrying nuclear weapons and patrolling the borders of the Soviet Union. Very high patrol rates were established for U.S. ballistic missile submarines – a practice that still continues today, by the way. After airborne alert was stopped in 1968 due to two serious accidents in Spain and Greenland, strategic bombers were put on 15-minute ground alert.  Until the early 1990s about one-third of U.S. strategic bombers were configured in this way, with their crews in ready-rooms waiting for the klaxon to sound.  If and when it did they would be airborne before the first nuclear detonations destroyed the base.

The image of a coiled spring is an appropriate metaphor to describe the way the United States deployed and postured its forces. It is very fortunate that the Soviets did not follow the United States in this regard, as two coiled springs would have been extremely dangerous.  When crises did develop we saw both springs get tighter and tighter, there is a literature on how those coupled systems could have cascaded us into nuclear war. We can count ourselves lucky that something like the Cuban Missile Crisis did not happen later on when both sides, rather than just the United States had mature nuclear forces.

At the time, but even more so now, we can see that this coiled spring was very dangerous, costly, arbitrary, and basically unnecessary for the purposes for which it was said to be needed. The concept of deterrence was a perfect one for the arms race as it could be used for any purpose; it was elastic enough to cover everything, the perfect rationale for anything anyone wanted. The mantra of deterrence was invoked thousands of times; it was the automatic litany that prefaced Pentagon officials’ presentations before Congress at budget time.  In one of its more recent incarnations, during the Reagan years, we were told that to adequately deter the Soviet Union we needed to be able to fight and win a nuclear war since our opponent, it was claimed, believed that they could do so. This is just one of many examples showing that it was quite easy to get lost in a `wilderness of mirrors’.

Basic knowledge of the growth and evolution of the U.S. nuclear stockpile is essential for undertaking research in the nuclear security field. However, there is still much to be learned regarding the history of the stockpiles of the eight other countries which possess nuclear weapons: the Soviet Union/Russia, Britain, France, China, Israel, India and Pakistan.


Dr. Robert S. Norris is the Senior Fellow for Nuclear Policy at the Federation of American Scientists. Dr. Norris was a senior research associate with the Natural Resources Defense Council in Washington, DC.  His principal areas of expertise include writing and research on all aspects of the nuclear weapons programs of the United States, Soviet Union/Russia, Britain, France, and China, as well as India, Pakistan, and Israel. He has written articles for Arms Control Today and Security Dialogue, and has written a column for the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists since 1987.

Notes   [ + ]

1. Robert S. Norris and Hans M. Kristensen, “Nuclear Notebook: U.S. Nuclear Warheads, 1945- 2009,” Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, July 2009, vol. 65, no 4, pp. 72-81. “

President’s Message: Innovative Ideas to Reduce Nuclear Dangers

We at FAS are always looking for innovative thinking on reducing nuclear dangers. This issue features both emerging leaders in the field and seasoned practitioners who are advancing new ways of looking at nuclear education, arms control monitoring, deterrence, and lessons from historical perspectives. Three of the articles have lead authors from the younger generation.CDF

Erika Suzuki, who leads UC Berkeley’s Nuclear Policy Working Group, has joined with Dr. Bethany Goldblum, a younger faculty member, and Dr. Jasmina Vujic, a senior faculty member who has mentored dozens of Ph.D. and M.S. degree students. They describe a new model for educating students about nuclear technology and security policy. Their goals are to develop and sustain “an enduring nuclear security workforce,” to build bridges among “professionals from technical and social science fields,” and “to generate original policy recommendations and technical working papers.”  They want to extend their work to many universities and educational institutions. For PIR readers who are educators in the nuclear security and policy field, we encourage you to contact Erika and her co-authors to find out how you can help advance this important new project.

Ravi Patel, a talented, younger biologist from Stanford, worked last summer at FAS as a security scholar and began researching how to create stability between India and Pakistan. After travel to South Asia and extensive interviews and other research, Mr. Patel wrote the article in this issue on “Using Trade to Build Stability in South Asia.” He discusses four major steps: (1) forming a uniform, jointly developed trade policy, (2) having Pakistan grant Most-Favored-Nation status to India, (3) improving infrastructure linking India and Pakistan, and (4) improving ties between the Indian and Pakistani business communities. He points out that it is often easier to ship goods between the two countries through third party countries such as the United Arab Emirates because of the impediments to direct trade. Although his article does not directly address the nuclear arms race in South Asia, it provides advice on ways to indirectly reduce nuclear tensions.

Recently, I had the pleasure of meeting Jay Brotz at a conference at the University of California’s Washington, DC, Center and was impressed with the work that he and his co-authors Justin Fernandez and Dr. Sharon DeLand are performing at Sandia National Laboratories. As discussed in their article, they are developing and analyzing models for monitoring nuclear warheads in potential future arms control treaties or agreements.  Up to now, nuclear arms control agreements between Russia and the United States have primarily focused on inspecting and monitoring strategic weapon systems because of the relative ease of monitoring these objects that are much bigger than individual warheads. When individual warheads are monitored, the inspection system has to provide reliable information to the treaty partner but not reveal sensitive design information about the warhead. Brotz et al. discuss how to achieve that balance.

On FAS’s staff, we are privileged to have senior scholars such as Dr. Robert S. Norris and Hans Kristensen. For many years, they have co-written the Nuclear Notebook in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, which is the most authoritative, unofficial source of information on the status of worldwide nuclear forces. In this issue, they have separate articles. Dr. Norris, a leading historian of nuclear weapons, shines a spotlight on the three factors that stoked the nuclear arms race: (1) inter-service rivalry among the branches of the U.S. armed forces, (2) the tenet that the United States could achieve security through technical superiority in nuclear weaponry, and (3) the “hyperactive definition of deterrence,” which resulted in “very high degrees of readiness” to launch an attack. This historical legacy weighs heavily on contemporary nuclear policy as examined in the final article by Hans Kristensen.

The PIR presents Mr. Kristensen’s invited presentation to the Deterrence and Assurance Working Group at the U.S. Air Force’s Global Strike Command at Barksdale Air Force Base in Louisiana. He raises profound questions about how many nuclear weapons are enough, what are the roles and tasks for nuclear weapons, and whether and how the United States can continue to reduce nuclear targeting and alert levels of nuclear forces. He advises the Air Force Global Strike Command to not resist further reductions but instead “sustain sufficient deterrence and assurance at lower levels.”

We hope you find these articles enlightening. We are grateful for your support of FAS.


Charles D. Ferguson, Ph.D.

President, Federation of American Scientists

Building a Foundation for the Future of Nuclear Security

“The need for understanding of today’s evolving nuclear threats is critical to informing policy decisions and diplomacy that can move the world toward greater nuclear security. The scientific underpinnings for such an understanding are remarkably broad, ranging from nuclear physics and engineering to chemistry, metallurgy and materials science, risk assessment, large-scale computational techniques, modeling and simulation, and detector development, among others. These physical science disciplines must be combined with social science fields such as public policy, political science, international relations, international law, energy policies, economics, history, and regional studies in order to yield a deep understanding of today’s nuclear security challenges.”

-James Doyle, “Nuclear Security as a Multidisciplinary Field of Study,” Los Alamos National Laboratory, 2008

The future of domestic and global nuclear security depends on today’s university students and young professionals feeding the pipeline to supply the requisite scientific workforce. To develop the next generation of nuclear security experts, universities must not only train students in technical nuclear science but also provide a comprehensive educational platform including nuclear energy and weapons policy in the context of the current political science architecture. Nuclear-related education programs are gaining traction, bolstered by the 2010 Nuclear Forensics and Attribution Act and other government initiatives such as the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA)’s Global Threat Reduction Initiative (GTRI).1)National Nuclear Security Administration. (2013) GTRI: Reducing Nuclear Threats [Press release]. Retrieved from

However, many of these programs are geared towards training students already engaged in nuclear science graduate programs. To maintain a steady stream of experts in nuclear security, universities must also actively recruit students in the early stages of their academic career by incorporating undergraduate educational initiatives and pre-professional development through both traditional classroom-based and extracurricular programming.

A working group model established at the University of California, Berkeley provides a pathway through which educational institutions with an established nuclear science program can initiate and further enhance nuclear security educational programming targeting students from all academic career stages.

The PRI(M)3E Model

The PRI(M)3E model was developed by the UC Berkeley Nuclear Policy Working Group (NPWG) in October 2012.2)Goldblum, Bethany. “UC Berkeley Nuclear Policy Working Group.” 2013 Web. 19 Jul 2013.The model is derived from the three-fold mission statement of the NPWG. The first focus is to educate undergraduate students on important issues in nuclear security by providing supplementary education on nuclear technology and policy. The second aim is to foster collaboration between students and professionals from technical and social science fields. The third core goal of the NPWG is to generate original policy recommendations and technical working papers to contribute to the nuclear security field. From these primary objectives, the NPWG developed a foundational model to educate the next generation of nuclear scientists and policymakers.

The PRI(M)3E model features seven key components that are essential for developing and sustaining an enduring nuclear security workforce:

  • Pioneering
    • Group discussions, collaborative research, and open communities facilitate the innovation of novel techniques for strengthening nuclear security through technological advancements and action-oriented policy. This environment allows for the unconstrained development of best practices for the education of undergraduate and graduate students in nuclear security.
  • Research
    • A research-based working group allows members to collaborate on technical and policy-focused research projects addressing an array of critical nuclear security topics.
  • Interdisciplinary
    • Interactive workshops draw from both the physical and social sciences, encouraging students to develop a strong foundational knowledge base in nuclear security to best inform research projects and policy recommendations.
  • M3
    • Mentorship
      • Opportunities are made available for undergraduate and graduate students to work closely with senior mentors to share insight, career advice, and guidance on next steps towards a career in the nuclear security field.
    • Multi-level
      • Students at all stages of their academic career- from freshmen through senior-level undergraduate and graduate students, post-doctoral researchers, staff scientists from the university and the national laboratories, and non-academic professionals engage in collaborative needs- driven research in nuclear security and associated applications.
    • Multimedia
      • Participants use a variety of media including various audio-visual presentation platforms, workshops, expert panel discussions, student seminars, and digital electronic technology to convey important concepts and foster debate.
  • Education
    • Education of working group members, the campus community, and the general public via accurate, timely information on current developments in nuclear security technology and policy is central to the multistage mission.

Implementation of the PRI(M)3E model serves as a framework that enables the NPWG to fuel the nation’s nuclear security workforce pipeline. Each component of the PRI(M)3E model uniquely targets the recognized need for interdisciplinary training of nuclear experts, integrates a research unit into the overall educational platform, and translates multi-level interaction into mentorship to provide undergraduate and graduate students with career guidance in both the scientific and policy fields. The working group is designed to generate a cadre of experts with both well-rounded and in-depth knowledge of the technical and policy-oriented aspects of nuclear security through comprehensive, research-based, educational programming.

The NPWG is a low-cost, high-impact model. The budget for running a successful working group is minimal compared to the potentially substantial financial and institutional investment required to establish a certificate or degree program, while the organizational structure of the PRI(M)3E model allows for the achievement of comparable educational objectives. Should institutional priorities shift to the adoption of more traditional educational models, the PRI(M)3E model lays the foundation for the future development of degree programs. Further, the inclusive nature of the working group makes it accessible to students at all levels as well as to the general public. Student retention represents the primary challenge to the success of the PRI(M)3E model. The informal nature of the working group can result in difficulties maintaining a core group of students, many of whom may juggle numerous responsibilities and commitments, including academics, work, and other extracurricular activities. To reduce attrition, the NPWG strives to actively engage members using a variety of media and activities, and works with members to develop flexible working practices.

Beyond the Foundational Model: Practices and Results

The PRI(M)3E model is particularly instrumental at UC Berkeley, which has a highly divided campus layout like many research-oriented universities. Almost all of the social science departments are located on the southwest side of campus, while the physical sciences are based on the northeast side of campus. As a result, students from different disciplines often do not physically interact with one another, and opportunities for interdepartmental collaboration between the technical and social sciences at the undergraduate level are sparse. The NPWG serves as a bridge between these two spheres on campus, and establishes a space in which students from various disciplines can interact and collaborate on interdisciplinary research projects.

The principal goals of the PRI(M)3E model are institutionalized through the activities of the NPWG. At weekly research meetings, members discuss research progress and future direction, and contribute to colloquia where participants present on a nuclear security topic of their choice. The multidisciplinary nature of the NPWG is one of its greatest strengths, as students from the nuclear engineering, physics, astrophysics, electrical engineering and computer science, political science, and public policy departments share knowledge and draw on their individual strengths to contribute to joint research projects and weekly seminar presentations. This working group series provides students with opportunities to continually develop dynamic working relationships with other students, as well as senior mentors. The development of close, effective mentor relationships is highly beneficial to undergraduate professional development, as advisors encourage students to apply for internships at the national laboratories or other nuclear security institutions, impart career and internship advice, and support the academic growth of students throughout the learning process.

To expand its educational outreach initiative to the general public, the NPWG hosted its first annual Nuclear Security Panel in April 2013, which featured prominent nuclear security experts well versed in both the technical and social science aspects of the field (see Fig. 1). The panel event generated lively debate and educated the broader campus community on current issues in nuclear forensics. This interdisciplinary team of experts provided the UC Berkeley campus and the public with a multifaceted examination of the role of nuclear forensics in combating nuclear terrorism, and also served as a public forum for discussion.

Figure 1: Nuclear Security Panel featuring (from left to right) Ian Hutcheon, Michael Nacht, Jasmina Vujic (moderator), Raymond Jeanloz, Stan Prussin and Jay Davis.

The NPWG also showcased its practices and results at several technical and policy conferences to disseminate the PRI(M)3E methodology for student engagement and communicate contributions to the nuclear security field in the form of original policy recommendations (see Fig. 2). These events provided undergraduate and graduate students with professional development opportunities, occasions to cultivate and hone presentation skills, and networking opportunities with nuclear security professionals from around the globe. Feedback from these colleagues has been vital to the enhancement of working group practices and research project design.

Through these PRI(M)3E-based endeavors, the NPWG has trained a first-year cohort of fifteen members and conducted educational outreach on numerous occasions in both technical and public policy capacities.

Figure 2: Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation 2013 Winter Public Policy and Nuclear Threats Conference. NPWG Undergraduate Research Assistant Erika Suzuki with Ambassador Linton Brooks.

Institutional support has been critical to the success of the NPWG and is essential for the long-term efficacy of the working group model. The NPWG is currently supported through an educational programming grant provided by the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium (NSSC) through the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation. The NSSC is a $25 million grant with UC Berkeley as the lead institution that was awarded by the National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) to support its NA-22 Nonproliferation Research and Development mission. The purpose of the NSSC is to train and educate experts in the nuclear security field using “an end-to-end approach, from recruitment of undergraduates to early career phases,” – the SUCCESS PIPELINE (Seven Universities Coordinating Coursework and Experience from Student to Scientist in a Partnership for Identifying and Preparing Educated Laboratory-Integrated Nuclear Experts). The NPWG operates at the foundational level, recruiting and educating undergraduate students, providing them with opportunities to collaborate with and learn from advanced students and professionals actively engaged in the nuclear security field.

SUCCESS PIPELINE NSSC3)Vujic, Jasmina. “National Science and Security Consortium: SUCCESS PIPELINE.” 2013 Web. 19 Jul 2013.

At the input end of the pipeline, highly promising undergraduate and graduate students who have shown relevant interests are exposed to nuclear security. The program couples basic science research to technological developments relevant to the nuclear security mission. Student education includes hands-on training in a broad set of experimental disciplines—at university facilities and, as a formally constructed and supported aspect of their education, at the Lawrence Berkeley, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, or Sandia National Laboratories. Between the academic and the national laboratory partners exist an array of facilities including nuclear reactors, cyclotrons and other particle accelerators, as well as detector development and characterization facilities. Summer schools and seminars broaden student exposure to a wide range of topics in the nuclear security mission. This approach is designed to not only recruit but also retain top students by exposing them to a diverse and exciting research portfolio of critical importance to the U.S. nuclear security mission. The graduate will be a well-rounded professional ready to contribute to nuclear security and step into leadership roles in the field.

Future Vision

In an effort to further develop and sustain an enduring expertise pipeline, the NPWG will be launching its Nuclear Security Initiative (NSI) in the coming year. The purpose of the NSI is to extend the NPWG across NSSC partner institutions to engage a larger cross section of students in interdisciplinary nuclear security science, provide foundational knowledge on nuclear science and policy, and train students to work collaboratively on technical research projects and policy recommendations. The NSI is a refined version of the NPWG’s efforts based on the PRI(M)3E model, and expands on the NPWG’s research focus on nuclear forensics to include nuclear terrorism, nuclear material security and nonproliferation. The NPWG thus serves as a feeder for the NSSC’s SUCCESS PIPELINE at a micro-level, and duplication of its practices via the NSI will support the development of a robust national nuclear security network among universities, national laboratories, government agencies, and industrial institutions.


Universities are increasingly impacted by state and federal budget cuts, so the role of institutional support has intensified. Most prominently, the recent sequester cuts will reduce the available pool of research funds by an estimated $1 billion.4)Anderson, Nick. “Sequester Cuts University Research Funds.” Washington Post. N.p., 16 Mar. 2013. Web.This will not only affect the ability of researchers at universities and national laboratories to obtain grants from federal science-based organizations, but will also potentially decrease the number of graduate students admitted to science and engineering programs at universities that rely heavily on federal funding.5)Ibid. The loss in funding coupled with a reduced number of doctoral students in these fields may hinder scientific progress and shrink the pipeline as fewer students pursue advanced degrees in science and engineering. Cultivating the future scientific workforce is crucial to operations at the national laboratories, which will face a shortage of staff scientists in the coming years due to a combination of scheduled retirements and voluntary early retirement policies stemming from the sequestration budget cuts.

As we enter the new academic and fiscal year this fall, universities and other educational institutions will need to supplement losses in research and graduate programs with lower-cost, extracurricular modes of learning. The PRI(M)3E model is one such pathway to establish a rich environment for the generation of debate and novel direction on critical nuclear security issues while engaging students outside of a traditional classroom setting. This interdisciplinary approach to academic programming is crucial for securing the future of domestic and global nuclear security, as it provides a means for involving students from various disciplines to cooperatively address the multifaceted and vital nuclear issues that permeate the current landscape of national defense. Training future nuclear scientists and policymakers to collaborate on nuclear issues will forge better-informed and better-implemented nuclear policy and practices, and will ultimately result in the maintenance of a strong, sustainable nuclear security infrastructure.


Erika Suzuki leads the University of California, Berkeley’s Nuclear Policy Working Group in support of the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium. Erika has taught three student elective courses on human rights, the politics of genocide, and California/UC labor policy that she developed through the Democratic Education at Cal program. She has also interned for Democratic Leader and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 3299, and Berkeley Rent Board Commissioner Igor Tregub. She is an alumna of the 2012 Berkeley Haas School of Business Summer Program: Business for Arts, Science, and Engineering, and is a member of Delta Phi Epsilon, a co-ed, professional Foreign Service and international affairs fraternity. After graduating from UC Berkeley with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science and Public Policy, Erika aspires to work as a nuclear policy analyst focusing on nuclear counterterrorism and nonproliferation efforts, and obtain an advanced degree in international security studies.

Bethany L. Goldblum received a Ph.D. in Nuclear Engineering from the University of California, Berkeley in 2007. She served as a Clare Boothe Luce Chancellor’s Postdoctoral Fellow at Berkeley before joining the nuclear engineering faculty at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville in August 2010. In January 2012, she returned to Berkeley as a member of the research faculty. Her research interests are in the areas of fundamental nuclear physics for nuclear security applications, nuclear-plasma interactions, technical nuclear forensics, and nuclear energy and weapons policy. From 2004-2006 she held the National Science Foundation Public Policy and Nuclear Threats Fellowship. She was a Project on Nuclear Issues Scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies and a member of the United States delegation to the China-India-United States Workshop on Science, Technology and Innovation Policy in Bangalore, India. She is the founder of the Nuclear Policy Working Group at UC Berkeley, an interdisciplinary team of undergraduate and graduate students focused on developing policy solutions to strengthen global nuclear security.

Jasmina L. Vujic is Professor of Nuclear Engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. She received her Ph.D. in Nuclear Science from the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, in 1989. After working at Argonne National Laboratory she joined UC Berkeley faculty in 1992. From 2005 to 2009 she was the Chair of the Department of Nuclear Engineering at UC Berkeley and in 2009/2010 she chaired the Nuclear Engineering Department Heads Organization (NEDHO). Her research interests are in the areas of nuclear reactor analysis and design, neutronics and neutron physics, non-proliferation and nuclear security, and engineering aspects of medical imaging and cancer therapy. She is currently a Principal Investigator for two large research projects (over $30 million): the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium and the Berkeley Nuclear Research Center, involving close to 150 students, faculty and researchers from 7 partner universities and 4 national laboratories. Professor Vujic is the author of three books, the editor of 6 monographs and international conference proceedings, and the holder of one U.S. patent. She authored close to 300 research publications. Under her mentorship 24 students received the Ph.D. degrees and 22 received the M.S. degrees.


This article was prepared as an account of work sponsored by an agency of the United States Government. Neither the United States Government nor any agency thereof, nor any of their employees, makes any warranty, express or implied, or assumes any legal liability or responsibility for the accuracy, completeness, or usefulness of any information, apparatus, product, or process disclosed, or represents that its use would not infringe privately owned rights. Reference herein to any specific commercial product, process, or service by trade name, trademark, manufacturer, or otherwise does not necessarily constitute or imply its endorsement, recommendation, or favoring by the United States Government or any agency there of. The views and opinions of authors expressed herein do not necessarily state or reflect those of the United States Government or any agency thereof.

This material is based upon work supported by the Department of Energy National Nuclear Security Administration under Award Number DENA0000979. We also gratefully acknowledge support from the Nuclear Science and Security Consortium, the Institute on Global Conflict and Cooperation, and the Berkeley Nuclear Research Center.

Notes   [ + ]

1. National Nuclear Security Administration. (2013) GTRI: Reducing Nuclear Threats [Press release]. Retrieved from
2. Goldblum, Bethany. “UC Berkeley Nuclear Policy Working Group.” 2013 Web. 19 Jul 2013.
3. Vujic, Jasmina. “National Science and Security Consortium: SUCCESS PIPELINE.” 2013 Web. 19 Jul 2013.
4. Anderson, Nick. “Sequester Cuts University Research Funds.” Washington Post. N.p., 16 Mar. 2013. Web.
5. Ibid.

Presidential Directives Mostly Withheld by White House

If one is looking for a copy of a Presidential Policy Directive issued by President Obama, the last place to turn is the White House website.  In most cases, the Obama White House does not disclose presidential directives even when they are unclassified.

The Obama Administration has issued more than 20 Presidential Policy Directives (PPDs), many of which are collected or listed on the Federation of American Scientists web site.

But with few exceptions (PPD 14, PPD 19) most of these cannot be obtained from the White House.  PPD 1, for example, which established the “Organization of the National Security Council System” is not on the White House web site, though it can be found on the FAS site here.

This refusal to disclose basic policy information is not merely frustrating and antithetical to transparency.  By withholding current policy guidance, the White House may be inadvertently implying that obsolete guidance is still in effect.

Several of the Obama directives replaced previous directives issued by the George W. Bush Administration, particularly on homeland security policy. But while many of those Bush directives were publicly available, explained Christian Beckner of the Homeland Security Policy Institute at George Washington University, their successor directives from President Obama are not.

For example, he wrote, Obama’s PPD 18 on Maritime Security, which has not been released, replaced the Bush National Security Policy Directive 41, which was published on the Bush White House web site.  Under the circumstances, withholding PPD 18 is bound to create confusion, especially among non-federal stakeholders.

“Without its public release, key stakeholders are likely still assuming that NSPD-41 is the top-level federal policy directive on maritime security issues, when in reality it was rescinded nearly a year ago,” wrote Beckner.

Similarly, the Obama PPD 17 on Countering Improvised Explosive Devices, which has not been disclosed, replaced the Bush Administration HSPD 19, which was disclosed. The result is a deficit in current, accurate policy information.

“Why this lack of transparency for a category of documents that had been publicly released in the previous administration?” Beckner wondered.

“I suspect a primary cause of this is the integration of the Homeland Security Council (HSC) into the National Security Council (NSC) in 2009,” he suggested.  “The parts of the HSC that were absorbed into the new structure seem to have taken on the internal processes of the NSC, which has traditionally operated in the classified domain and worked on issues where federal agencies and international governments are the primary (if not sole) actors.  However, for nearly all homeland security issues, the participation of non-federal stakeholders is essential. It’s not serving anyone’s interests for these directives to be kept so close hold.”

See “Missing Homeland Security PPDs — why not online?” by Christian Beckner, Homeland Security Watch, July 11.

However, the White House presidential directive non-disclosure policy extends beyond homeland security.  Recently, the non-profit Center for Effective Government (CEG) sought to obtain a copy of Presidential Policy Directive 6 on Global Development.  Though unclassified, the Administration refused to release the document, which it says is privileged.

In response to a pending Freedom of Information Act lawsuit filed by CEG, the Administration said last month that the 2010 directive was exempt from disclosure because it is “a confidential communication from the President to a select and limited group of senior foreign policy advisors, cabinet officials, and agency heads concerning the global development policy of the United States.”

While unclassified Obama presidential directives are mostly unavailable to the public, at least one highly classified Obama directive is posted online for anyone who wishes to read it.  Presidential Policy Directive 20 on U.S. Cyber Operations Policy was apparently leaked by Edward Snowden and was published by the Guardian newspaper (“Obama orders US to draw up overseas target list for cyber-attacks” by Glenn Greenwald and Ewen MacAskill, June 7).


Reflecting on NATO Security in the Context of a Rising China

The future promises to be far more challenging than the past for international security analysts. The security challenges that we will face will be increasingly complex, transnational, and interrelated. This will make their mitigation all the more difficult. But, the reality of this changing security landscape should not cause us to give pause and adopt a Pangloss-like outlook toward our present condition. Insecurity is not a given – security can always be made by those with the will and intellect to do so. In any given context, making security simply requires accurately identifying and prioritizing threats to international security and then developing the requisite mitigations. In this respect, the profession remains largely unchanged from its Cold War origins.

What has changed is the theoretical disposition of international security analysts. Our current generation is far more open to the theorization of security as an essentially contested concept. This has transformed the nature of the international security discourse. It now openly embraces the notion that security is tied to the social construction of security threats. It is therefore valid to intervene in the debate over how China’s rise affects international security from a social constructivist perspective. Doing so requires recognizing that security is subjective and only meaningful in the presence of a referent object. As a consequence, we must start our analysis with the question: “Whose security are we talking about?”

For the purpose of this article, the discussion will be restricted to NATO member states.

From this perspective, China’s rise is but one of many important variables in the post-Cold War international security discourse. In fact, China is not alone in terms of rising power and prestige. Other important countries include the other BRICSI countries – Brazil, Russia, India, South Africa, and Indonesia. Their collective rise is shifting the global balance of power away from the NATO region and forcing major structural changes to global and regional security architectures.

To avert a systemic breakdown, the resident and emerging major powers will need to reach a strategic compromise. This might even require the construction of a new order that better accommodates the rising powers’ interests without sacrificing too much of the incumbents’. But, reaching such a compromise will not be easy.

If the two sides find themselves unable to forge an amicable solution, one or more of the emerging powers could make a revisionist move. In the decades ahead, international security analysts must therefore remain attentive to any signals that the rising power(s) are no longer willing or able to accept the notion that “international peace is more important than any other national objective.” In the end, it is the possible rejection of the status quo by one or more of these emerging powers that most threatens international peace and stability.

But there is far more to the story of international security in the 21st Century than just the rise of these emerging powers. The world is also witnessing other major changes across multiple levels and units of analysis in the international security domain. Chief among these are the Nanotechnology, Biotechnology, Robotics and Information and Communication technologies (NBRIC) revolution, the rise of non-state security actors, the emergence of high-end non-traditional security (NTS) threats (such as climate change and emerging infectious disease), the advent of new high-end countermeasures (like ballistic missile defense), the increasingly irrelevance of the chemical and biological weapons non-proliferation regimes, the ongoing threat posed by North Korea, and the appearance of high-end, non-lethal, destructive weapon capabilities (cyber and EMP). Any of these could potentially destabilize the current status quo.

From the perspective of China, these changes present both opportunities and challenges. For example, the rise of non-state security actors presents a threat to the traditional state monopoly on violence. This certainly does not benefit an authoritarian government that can now be brought under surveillance (or even strategically challenged) by non-state actors. However, it also provides China with new export buyers for emerging technologies (such as cyber, precision manufacturing tools, drones, etc.) that could promote domestic economic growth while at the same time empowering others to undertake activities abroad that serendipitously benefit Chinese interests. For these reasons, NATO member states will be watching to see how China responds.

However, China is only part of the story. NATO member states must contend with the larger set of resident and emerging security challenges that threaten the status quo. This has led NATO member states (and many others) to securitize against a widening range of possible security threats to ostensibly protect their security. At times, this has included even partnering with China. But, the consequences of these moves are not all positive. Whereas individual securitizations may increase the security of one referent object (states), they can at the same time increase the insecurity of others (individuals). This state-human security dilemma is itself a major challenge for NATO.

In fact, according to a recent report, global democracy is now at a standstill.  This is largely the result of the international community’s post-September 11th penchant for securitization. In the last decade, the transatlantic community has even witnessed major declines across a number of important democracy measures (such as freedom of the press) in key NATO member states and their allies. Efforts to counter the threat posed by NBRICs and traditional Chemical, Biological, Radiological and Nuclear (CBRNs) also threaten to undermine commercial innovation. This represents a serious challenge to NATO’s economic security in an age where the return to economic growth is necessary to pull Europe and North America out of the global recession.

These pose serious, although often overlooked, security challenges for NATO. The indirect effects of an increasingly securitized NATO might well lead to growing societal pressures within its member states to change course on certain national security policies. The failure by some governments to acquiesce to these calls for change in the name of security could further empower state and non-state actors to challenge the security policies of NATO member states. Not only would this undermine efforts to confront serious security issues abroad, but it could also lead to new security threats on the domestic front (like Anonymous).

Finding the right balance between security and civil liberties will be key for NATO. But, there is no certainty that its member states will be able to do so. If they cannot, NATO could be forced to contend with a growing domestic backlash against its securitizing moves. In that event, it would be even more difficult for NATO member states to counter a rising China. But, whether China could capitalize on such an opportunity is itself a matter of debate. To do so, China will need to overcome its own internal security challenges, which include declining economic growth, widespread environmental degradation, an aging population, and rising ethnic tensions – just to name a few.

So, what is the best path forward for NATO? The answer to this question hinges on the opening question to this article: “Whose security are we talking about?” This is a question that NATO needs to keep at the forefront as its member states respond to an increasingly complex international security landscape.


Michael Edward Walsh is the Director of the Emerging Technologies and High-End Threats Project at the Federation of American Scientists. He is also the President of the Pacific Islands Society, a Senior Fellow at the Center for Australian, New Zealand, and Pacific Studies of Georgetown University, and a non-resident WSD-Handa Fellow at Pacific Forum CSIS.

Building an Effective Nonproliferation Program: U.S. Support of IAEA Safeguards

To achieve our mutual goals of moving toward a world without nuclear weapons and expanding the peaceful use of nuclear energy globally, we must all give our financial, political, and technical support to a robust international safeguards regime.  A growing international safeguards regime, capable of detecting diversion at known facilities and providing assurances regarding the absence of undeclared activities, is a condition for achieving disarmament and making the world safe for nuclear energy.

The United States is committed to providing the support that the IAEA needs through our Member State Support Program and the Department of Energy’s Next Generation Safeguards Initiative. These programs provide over $25 million per year in extra-budgetary and in-kind support to the Department of Safeguards.

–Secretary of Energy, Steven Chu, at the 2012 IAEA General Conference

A central pillar of international efforts to stem the spread of nuclear weapons is the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards system.  From the inception of the IAEA, the United States has supported the development and evolution of both the safeguards system itself and devices and systems approaches used by inspectors.  The IAEA safeguards system comprises an extensive set of technical measures by which the IAEA Secretariat independently verifies the correctness and the completeness of the declarations made by States to the IAEA about their nuclear programs.  From Iran to Syria, to the more than 190 other countries that accept IAEA safeguards, the IAEA safeguards system enhances international security, seeking to assure compliance with international nuclear agreements. The cornerstone of the global nonproliferation regime is the Treaty on the Non-proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT). IAEA safeguards largely have evolved to ensure non-nuclear weapon state compliance with the NPT.

Because of the importance of the IAEA safeguards to international security and the facilitation of the peaceful uses of nuclear energy, the United States provides substantial assistance to the IAEA to improve the safeguards system.  Much of this assistance is provided by US national laboratories and coordinated by the International Safeguards Support Office at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  This article discusses the behind-the-scenes work of a network of U.S. Department of Energy national laboratories that support the IAEA and international safeguards.

The safeguards system is a complex verification system built on the reporting by States of their nuclear material inventories and on-site inspections conducted by the IAEA.  The goal of the system is to enable the IAEA to verify that these accounts are “correct” – everything has been reported correctly – and “complete” – everything that should be reported has been – and, thus, the accounts represent the facts on the ground: “all present and accounted for.”  The IAEA’s ability to do this with high confidence and to detect discrepancies in a timely manner is intended to deter States from diverting nuclear material and to sound the alarm promptly if States are not deterred.

An intrinsic tension exists between the pursuit of nuclear energy and the effort to prevent the illicit development of nuclear weapons – elements of the nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear material used to produce energy can also be used to produce nuclear weapons.  For example, the enriched uranium that fuels most power reactors is produced in facilities that have the capability to produce uranium at the enrichment levels needed for nuclear weapons.  Reprocessing of used reactor fuel assemblies proceeds in reprocessing plants whose output is separated plutonium in chemical and physical forms that are somewhat easily converted into the forms needed for nuclear weapons. Consequently, uranium enrichment plants and reprocessing plants are regarded as sensitive nuclear facilities.

This nuclear conundrum – the ability to use energy released from the atom as a weapon of war or as a tool for obtaining seemingly unbounded energy for powering homes, industry and development – was recognized at the dawn of the nuclear age. IAEA safeguards endeavor to make this conundrum manageable.  On the one hand, IAEA safeguards can deter diversion of nuclear material from peaceful programs to nuclear weapon programs. safeguards1

On the other hand, a positive conclusion by the IAEA of non-diversion can provide assurances to all countries in order to reduce regional and international tensions. The IAEA’s assurances allow States to engage in nuclear cooperation in medicine, agriculture and power with confidence that the materials and technology they supply will be used only for peaceful purposes.  Thus, the IAEA safeguards system is intended to encourage peaceful uses of nuclear energy and, at the same time, inhibit nuclear proliferation.1)This paragraph is drawn from the textbook, Deterring Nuclear Proliferation: The Importance of IAEA Safeguards.   The book was prepared by Dr. Michael D. Rosenthal and Dr. Leslie Fishbone from Brookhaven National Laboratory together with consultants.   It will be available for class-room use in late spring or summer of 2013.  Please contact Dr. Fishbone, [email protected], for information about the book.

IAEA safeguards measures are diverse.   For example, seals allow the IAEA to monitor access to States’ material or their own inspectors’ supplies while inspectors are absent from a facility.  Seals are applied to material stores, reactor hatches and office cabinets where inspection equipment is stored.  Seals are tamper indicating devices, meaning that if broken they indicate that an area has been accessed; they do not prevent access. Surveillance cameras are used in conjunction with seals to provide additional assurance of the lack of movement of materials within a facility or to verify that movements are related to scheduled operations. The foundation of nuclear material accountancy is a variety of destructive and nondestructive analysis techniques.  These accountancy techniques provide qualitative and quantitative information regarding the composition of nuclear materials at a facility.

The IAEA Safeguards System has evolved over the past decades in response to new challenges. Traditionally, international safeguards were focused on inspections, nuclear material accountancy, and nuclear material measurements.   After the first Gulf War in 1991, the IAEA Member States recognized the importance of enabling the IAEA to detect undeclared activities as well as confirm non-diversion of declared nuclear material.


In 1993, the Member States began a program called 93+2, to enhance the IAEA’s safeguards capabilities and authorities.  The results of this effort were a broad new set of inspection rights and techniques for the IAEA codified in a new legally binding document, the Additional Protocol to the Member State/IAEA Safeguards Agreement, and a host of new safeguards techniques.

The verification activities of the IAEA safeguards system would not be possible without international political and technical support over the decades to enhance the system, its technology and the training of its personnel and to accept the application of safeguards.  Because of the intrusive nature of international safeguards, international political support for their use has been vital.  Article III of the NPT lays out the obligation for States to accept international inspectors visiting their nuclear facilities.  These inspections may take place on a periodic or even unannounced basis to deploy cameras, seals and measurement equipment to verify States’ declarations.  This political support has been facilitated by a careful balance that is struck between the intrusiveness of the safeguards and their technical necessity to ensure verification is effective.

The IAEA’s budget (including the budget provided for international safeguards), is approved by its Member States.  While all Member States value the IAEA’s nonproliferation role, some have economic concerns and programmatic interests that result in the IAEA’s safeguards budget being constrained to a level that is widely considered lower than necessary to fully carry out its mission.  The IAEA’s 2014-2015 budget includes “unfunded activities” the IAEA is required to undertake that are not funded due to higher priorities.  Because of its budgetary situation, the IAEA requires assistance from Member State Support Programs in order to ensure it has the tools and skilled manpower that it needs. This extra budgetary support is in excess of $30 million per year of which the U.S. provides roughly half.

The United States Support Program (USSP) was established in January 1977 to respond to urgent needs of the IAEA Department of Safeguards more quickly than could be met through the IAEA’s administrative procedures. Although it was originally intended as a short-term program, the program has continued because it has been successful in transferring technology from the U.S. national laboratories and commercial equipment suppliers.2)Equipment to be used for IAEA safeguards is approved for use by the IAEA through a rigorous process that tests the safety, vulnerability, reliability, and operational performance of the equipment.  Member states also must approve the use of the equipment in their facilities. The USSP is supported by a network of national laboratories and private companies that perform the work requested by the IAEA and approved by the United States Government. The requests have included nondestructive and destructive analysis instrumentation and techniques, procedures and training, system studies, information technology, containment and surveillance, and management support. In addition, the USSP sponsors a small number of administrative tasks, involving subjects such as technical writing and quality assurance. The USSP assists the IAEA with three types of human resources support.  First, the USSP provides cost-free experts (CFEs) to work for the IAEA Department of Safeguards on specific projects for two or more years.   The CFEs are extra-budgetary positions where the salary and benefits are reimbursed by the United States. The USSP also provides the Safeguards Department with Junior Professional Officers (JPOs), who are given entry level positions to perform basic, yet essential, work and gain valuable professional and technical experience. Finally, the USSP sponsors a number of shorter-term consultants.  Typically about 100 USSP tasks are active at any given time.

Since 1977, the USSP has contributed funding in excess of $300 million and has funded over 1200 tasks.3)As a comparison, the IAEA’s Safeguards expenditures in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, amounted to €124.3 million in regular budget funds, equivalent to $160 million at the end of March 2013.   See  The USSP has provided significant human resources support through 188 CFEs and 25 JPOs representing an accumulated 688 man-years of effort. The USSP largely draws its funding from the Program on Technical Assistance to IAEA Safeguards (POTAS) which is funded through an Act of Congress under the Nonproliferation, Anti-Terrorism, Demining and Related Programs (NADR) account of the U.S. Department of State.  The NADR account includes the U.S. extra budgetary funding, called the U.S. Voluntary Contribution (USVC) to the IAEA. The USVC includes funding for safeguards, technical cooperation, nuclear safety and nuclear security.  In addition to POTAS, the USVC provides funding for the analysis of environmental samples, commercially available safeguards equipment, infrastructure improvement projects, CFEs and JPOs in the non-safeguards departments of the IAEA, and other activities.

The USSP activities are sometimes complemented by funding through other U.S. programs, such as the State Department’s Nonproliferation and Disarmament Fund for special projects, and the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Next Generation Safeguards Initiative (NGSI). Over the years, the U.S. Department of Energy, the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, and the U.S. Department of Defense have also contributed in-kind support.


The day-to-day management of the USSP occurs through the International Safeguards Project Office (ISPO) which is based at Brookhaven National Laboratory (BNL) and includes a liaison office in Vienna, Austria, in the IAEA section of the U.S. Mission to International Organizations in Vienna  (UNVIE). Brookhaven offers a unique open national laboratory campus outside of New York City with a 60-year history of science-based work related to U.S. arms control and nonproliferation goals. Brookhaven’s distinguished reputation in international safeguards precedes the establishment of the USSP.

One of ten national laboratories overseen and primarily funded by the Office of Science of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), Brookhaven National Laboratory conducts research in the physical, biomedical, and environmental sciences, as well as in energy technologies and national security. Brookhaven also builds and operates major scientific facilities available to university, industry and government researchers. Brookhaven is operated and managed for DOE’s Office of Science by Brookhaven Science Associates, a limited-liability company founded by the Research Foundation of the State University of New York on behalf of Stony Brook University, the largest academic user of Laboratory facilities, and Battelle, a nonprofit, applied science and technology organization.

In the 1960s, the Atomic Energy Commission selected Brookhaven to develop international safeguards principles. Brookhaven’s Technical Support Organization (TSO) became the home for many technical experts who developed their own reputations in the field through domestic safeguards activities with the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission, AEC, DOE, tours of duty with the IAEA, and work on international safeguards projects funded by U.S. government agencies.  It was Dr. Herbert Kouts, then the head of TSO, who originally proposed the concept of the USSP to U.S. government contacts in the mid-1970s.

In the early years of the USSP, BNL scientists and engineers designed a hand-held device called the Portable Multi-channel Analyzer that was eventually deployed by the IAEA for simple nuclear material measurements. This instrument became the workhorse for IAEA safeguards for many years until recently when it was replaced by more modern, advanced instruments.  Recently, BNL experts have become involved in NNSA’s NGSI and assist the IAEA with technology development, concepts and approaches, policy, human capital development projects, and outreach to other Member States. According to Dr. Doon Gibbs, Brookhaven’s Laboratory Director, “Support for the IAEA safeguards system is one of the most important activities the lab pursues. We are a science laboratory with a long tradition of supporting national security efforts, and we are very proud of the work we have done in this area for decades.”

an overhead photograph of Brookhaven National Laboratory
The central campus of Brookhaven National Laboratory. The National Synchrotron Light Source II, under construction at the time of this photo, is at bottom, right. The 3.8-kilometer circumference ring of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider can be seen in the distance at the top of the frame.

Over the last 15 years, BNL has become a safeguards training center, presenting courses for IAEA inspectors and Member States.  BNL made use of its expertise in reactor design to develop a course on Design Information Verification of Research Reactors.  This course teaches inspectors the safeguards significant attributes of research reactors and provides field exercises to help them practice associated skills.  From about 1995 to 2001, the course was held at BNL and used its research reactors for facility tours.  After a hiatus, the course was resurrected as a joint project with the Belgian Support Program, making use of expertise from BNL and facilities in Mol, Belgium.  BNL won the honor of conducting a course on Additional Protocol/ Complementary Access4)”Complementary Access” is a new form of inspection provided under the Additional Protocol which allows the IAEA greater flexibility in its inspection mission.  The IAEA Safeguards Glossary 2001 Edition (IAEA/NVS/3/CD) defines complementary access as “access provided by the State to IAEA inspectors in accordance with the provisions of an additional protocol for three purposes: 1) to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities at sites, mines, concentration plants and other locations where nuclear material has been declared to be present; 2) to resolve a question relating to the correctness and completeness of the information provided by the State pursuant to Article 2, or to resolve an inconsistency relating to that information; and 3) to confirm, for safeguards purposes, the declaration of the decommissioned status of a facility or a location outside facilities where nuclear material was customarily used.”  for IAEA inspectors and has delivered the training at BNL since 2006.  More recently, this training has been redesigned for delivery to IAEA Member States to teach them their responsibilities under the Additional Protocol.  Brookhaven’s open campus makes it an excellent venue to host IAEA staff members and officials from other countries for training activities.

scientistsatbrookIn addition, under the NGSI, Brookhaven has offered a course for the past five years that is intended to encourage qualified American and international students to enter the fields of safeguards and nonproliferation.  The three-week course “Nuclear Non-proliferation, Safeguards and Security in the 21st Century,” is designed to give students a sound under­standing of the foundations of the nuclear nonprolifera­tion regime, the IAEA safeguards system, and U.S. efforts to meet emerging nuclear proliferation threats. In addition to lectures, the course includes exercises and demonstrations that take advantage of Brookhaven’s unique facilities.  Above all, the course aims to give participants the knowledge, analytic tools, and motivation to contrib­ute to improvement of the international nonproliferation regime.

In recent years, the USSP sponsored many tasks designed to assist the Agency in implementing the Additional Protocol, including programs in environmental monitoring, remote monitoring, and information technology. For the IAEA’s remote monitoring program, the USSP funded field trials for testing communication technologies such as telephone, Internet, and satellite.  In addition, three engineers were sponsored as CFEs to help the IAEA develop its remote monitoring program, which is now operating effectively.  Similar assistance was provided to help the IAEA establish the open source information collection and analysis program. Field trials and training were conducted for environmental sampling and, as a result, the IAEA was able to quickly implement its environmental sampling program. The USSP has traditionally provided significant support in enhancing the non-destructive analysis (NDA)5)Non-destructive assay (NDA) refers to a measurement of the nuclear material that does not produce significant physical or chemical changes in the item being measured.   This is in contrast to analysis methods that destroy the sample in the course of measurement, e.g., by dissolution. NDA is generally carried out by observing the radiometric emission or response from the item and by comparing that emission or response with a calibration based on essentially similar items whose contents have been determined through destructive analysis. and containment/ surveillance capabilities6)Containment/surveillance refers to the IAEA’s use of tamper indicating seals and digital, integrated cameras to monitor the movement of material and equipment in a facility while inspectors are absent.  The data from these devices is either stored within the instrument for collection by inspectors or transmitted to IAEA Headquarters via remote monitoring technologies. of the IAEA.

ISPO works with a network of national laboratories and numerous companies to meet the challenges facing the IAEA Department of Safeguards. For example, Los Alamos National Laboratory develops equipment and provides training in nondestructive analysis principles and implementation. Argonne National Laboratory provides training in export controls.  Sandia National Laboratories has expertise in containment/surveillance, remote monitoring, and vulnerability assessments. Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory provides support in open source information and environmental sampling.  Oak Ridge National Laboratory assists the IAEA with safeguards of enrichment technology.  Companies working with ISPO include Aquila Technologies Group, Canberra Industries, and URS.  The list of suppliers is long; the USSP is a national team effort.

“The United States Support Programme has played a key role through its R&D and implementation support activities in ensuring the IAEA safeguards system is able to continue to provide credible assurances that States are honouring their safeguards obligations, at a time of increasing verification challenges and resource limitations,” according to Jill Cooley, the IAEA’s Director for Concepts and Planning. The IAEA outlines its objectives in short-term, medium-term and long-term strategic and research and development plans. Its technical needs are documented in its biennial Development and Implementation Support Program.7)

When the USSP was established, the U.S. government expected its $2.6 million investment to solve all the needs of the Department of Safeguards.  In reality, the Department of Safeguards’ workload and need for support has increased as national interests in nuclear technology increase.  In addition, as technology advances, so does the IAEA’s and Member States’ desire for better measurements and analysis.  The Development and Implementation Support Program of the IAEA lists 24 projects for which the IAEA needs extra budgetary assistance.  Despite having access to the extra budgetary resources of 21 Member State Support Programs, the IAEA’s technical needs outpace its resources.

Figure 1: U.S. Voluntary Contribution to the International Atomic Energy Agency

Because of the strong U.S. support for IAEA safeguards, the USVC portion for safeguards has increased substantially over the years. For example, Figure 1 shows an increase in total funding for the program over the past decade of 60%. At the same time, increasing security and economic concerns compete with and draw resources away from the IAEA and MSSPs.  It is not clear in the current environment of decreasing budgets whether and how the IAEA can achieve the right balance in safeguard’s technical effectiveness and cost efficiencies. The USSP has been able to maintain its high level of support to the IAEA Department of Safeguards through increased efficiency by the USSP,  prioritization of needs, and increases in other areas of the IAEA budget, such as direct support to large infrastructure projects.

The IAEA provides an important service to the world community in deterring the spread of nuclear weapons and enabling access for its Member States to the benefits of nuclear technology.  The USSP, and other Member State Support Programs sponsored by countries around the globe, provide the IAEA with financial and technical resources that help it in its mission.  Without these resources, the IAEA would not have obtained the advanced tools and developed the capabilities it needs to verify Member States’ compliance with the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.  Brookhaven National Laboratory is proud of its role in managing ISPO.  There is still much work to be done and new challenges ahead.  Brookhaven looks forward to assisting the U.S. government in future efforts to strengthen the effectiveness and improve the efficiency of safeguards.

Warren Stern is Senior Advisor in Brookhaven National Laboratory’s Nonproliferation and National Security Department.  In 2010, he was appointed by President Obama to lead the Domestic Nuclear Detection Office at DHS and before that, Head of the IAEA’s Incident and Emergency Centre.  He has also held a number of leadership positions at the U.S .Department of State, Arms Control and Disarmament Agency and CIA.

Susan Pepper is the Deputy Chair of the Nonproliferation and National Security Department at Brookhaven National Laboratory.  She has been the Coordinator of the U.S. Support Program to IAEA Safeguards since 1996 and she was the Head of the International Safeguards Project Office at BNL from 1999 to 2011.

Notes   [ + ]

1. This paragraph is drawn from the textbook, Deterring Nuclear Proliferation: The Importance of IAEA Safeguards.   The book was prepared by Dr. Michael D. Rosenthal and Dr. Leslie Fishbone from Brookhaven National Laboratory together with consultants.   It will be available for class-room use in late spring or summer of 2013.  Please contact Dr. Fishbone, [email protected], for information about the book.
2. Equipment to be used for IAEA safeguards is approved for use by the IAEA through a rigorous process that tests the safety, vulnerability, reliability, and operational performance of the equipment.  Member states also must approve the use of the equipment in their facilities.
3. As a comparison, the IAEA’s Safeguards expenditures in 2011, the most recent year for which figures are available, amounted to €124.3 million in regular budget funds, equivalent to $160 million at the end of March 2013.   See
4. ”Complementary Access” is a new form of inspection provided under the Additional Protocol which allows the IAEA greater flexibility in its inspection mission.  The IAEA Safeguards Glossary 2001 Edition (IAEA/NVS/3/CD) defines complementary access as “access provided by the State to IAEA inspectors in accordance with the provisions of an additional protocol for three purposes: 1) to assure the absence of undeclared nuclear material and activities at sites, mines, concentration plants and other locations where nuclear material has been declared to be present; 2) to resolve a question relating to the correctness and completeness of the information provided by the State pursuant to Article 2, or to resolve an inconsistency relating to that information; and 3) to confirm, for safeguards purposes, the declaration of the decommissioned status of a facility or a location outside facilities where nuclear material was customarily used.”
5. Non-destructive assay (NDA) refers to a measurement of the nuclear material that does not produce significant physical or chemical changes in the item being measured.   This is in contrast to analysis methods that destroy the sample in the course of measurement, e.g., by dissolution. NDA is generally carried out by observing the radiometric emission or response from the item and by comparing that emission or response with a calibration based on essentially similar items whose contents have been determined through destructive analysis.
6. Containment/surveillance refers to the IAEA’s use of tamper indicating seals and digital, integrated cameras to monitor the movement of material and equipment in a facility while inspectors are absent.  The data from these devices is either stored within the instrument for collection by inspectors or transmitted to IAEA Headquarters via remote monitoring technologies.

Energy and World Economic Growth


Rapid growth in the developing world has changed the economic center of gravity towards Asia, especially with regard to the world’s energy economy. World-wide demand for energy, especially energy that can propel automobiles, is increasing. High energy growth is producing two problems.  The first, widely recognized, is the increased greenhouse gas concentrations that result from burning fossil fuels. Barring a substantial reduction of fossil fuel use, world-wide temperatures could increase to dangerous levels. While the huge infrastructure of the energy economy rules out quick changes, if action is taken now, the necessary world-wide reduction of greenhouse gas emissions may still be possible. However, the required uptake of clean energy technologies will require strong government policies to offset initial investment costs.1)Including clean-energy research, commercialization subsidies, greenhouse gas pricing and regulations requiring improved energy efficiency and more clean energy supplies

The second problem is less widely recognized. The share of GDP that must be spent on oil supplies may also limit economic growth. At times, the price of oil is limited only by the strain it places on the world economy. We have seen episodes where high and rising oil prices precede an economic downturn. During the downturn, oil prices can drop to levels that, along with a weak economy, discourage investment in new oil production. When strong growth returns, we can see the cycle repeated.

These events are not surprising because oil has a very low elasticity of demand and supply with respect to price. That means very large price changes are required to increase supply or decrease demand. In addition, oil has a very high elasticity of demand with respect to income. That means economic growth strongly increases oil demand. Lastly, oil expenditures can be a large enough component of GDP to adversely affect economic growth if they grow too large. Added together, these interactions can produce the following cycle:

  • High GDP growth drives oil prices to high levels since high income elasticity increases oil demand while low price elasticities require high oil prices to balance demand and supply2)The price elasticity of oil supply and demand is very inelastic in the short run.  Consequently, large price changes are required to balance the oil market if there is an increase in demand or decrease of supply.;
  • The resulting high share of GDP spent on oil reverses GDP growth;
  • With lower GDP growth, high income elasticity reduces oil demand;
  • With lower oil demand, low oil price elasticities sharply lower oil prices; and
  • Low oil prices reduce oil production investments but encourage high GDP growth.

Oil prices are only one factor affecting the world economy. Nonetheless, world GDP growth and oil prices are periodically engaged in the cycle described above. Oil prices can also stabilize at levels that are not high enough to cause a downturn in GDP growth, while GDP growth is not high enough to push oil prices past the level where the share of GDP spent on oil reverses GDP growth.3)While not generally appreciated, commodity markets reduce oil-price volatility as traders anticipate the effects that a too-high oil price would have on future oil demand while also pricing future supply risks onto the current price of oil.  Without the liquidity provided by non-commercial traders, oil prices would be much more volatile.

The Clean Energy Challenge

High economic growth encourages more fossil fuel use and increased greenhouse gas concentrations.  High oil prices also provide an opportunity for clean alternatives to be more competitive. However, if high oil prices periodically blunt economic growth, it is more difficult to make clean-energy policies a government priority. Economies that are struggling with low growth and high unemployment are less likely to maintain strong clean-energy policies. Without these policies, we cannot hope to limit the increase of world-wide temperatures to 2oC above pre-industrial levels, the level deemed likely to avoid the more serious consequences of climate change and accepted by the G8 countries as a target to be achieved by international climate policies.4)Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, Editors: Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Wolfgang Cramer, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Tom Wigley, and Gary Yohe, Cambridge University Press, February 2006 and G8 Summit, L’Aquila, Italy, 2009

A recent IEA study5)International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, 2012, Paris estimated the increase in clean power-sector technologies that would be needed to prevent a world-wide temperature increase of over 2oC (Figure 1). They estimate that the future annual growth of nuclear power must be between 23 and 31 gigawatts (GW). To put this into perspective, the historic high in building nuclear power plants was 27 gigawatts per year (GW/yr).  Photovoltaic power must, after 2020, reach 50 GW/yr and, after 2030, exceed 100 GW/yr. Onshore wind investments must exceed 60 GW/yr from now through 2050. Offshore wind must exceed 20 GW/yr after 2020. After 2020, coal with carbon capture and storage would need to grow by more than 20 GW/yr.

The challenges to achieving the 2oC scenario in the transport sector are no less daunting, requiring that the world sales of electric vehicles double each year between 2012 and 2020. Advanced biofuel production must grow from ~ zero to 22 billion gallons by 2020. IEA estimates that the incremental energy-sector investment that would be needed to keep world-wide temperatures from increasing over 2oC is $37 trillion (cumulative investment between now and 2050). 6)International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives, 2012. The bulk of this investment would have to be made in the developing world.  It is not likely that these additional investments, over and above what is necessary to provide required energy supplies, will be made without strong government policies, even though they would produce offsetting savings in the long term. Without strong world-wide economic growth, it will be difficult, if not impossible, to implement the policies necessary to achieve the 2oC scenario.


Figure 1

Average Annual Electricity Capacity Additions to 2050

2012 IEA Energy Technology Perspectives 2oC Scenario


Source: IEA, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012


Oil and Economic Growth

World oil prices have, from time to time, reached levels that have impaired world economic growth such as the aftermath of the 1973 oil embargo. This first “energy crisis” accompanied a major change in the way petroleum was controlled and priced. Prior to 1970, world oil prices were managed by a relatively small number of large oil companies. These companies enjoyed liberal access to most countries’ oil resources. They could develop large oil fields in host countries with terms that allowed ample world supply at non-competitive but reasonable prices. These companies pursued a strategy to maintain affordable and stable oil prices that supported economic growth in the industrialized world and encouraged increased demand for oil. These arrangements were undone by reforms in the member-countries of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC). The reforms moved the control of the world’s largest oil resources from the international oil companies to OPEC and, given sufficient OPEC cohesion, the ability to control of world oil prices. OPEC’s control of oil prices was short-lived. The rapid price hikes associated with the 1973 embargo and the 1979 Iranian revolution stimulated new supplies, especially from the North Sea and Alaska. High oil prices also stymied demand as consumers turned to more efficient automobiles.

By 1981, oil prices began a steady decline. Saudi Arabia tried to maintain higher prices by cutting production until by 1985, its output had fallen to 3 million barrels per day (mmb/d), 70 percent lower than it had been in 1980.  In 1986, Saudi Arabia adopted netback pricing7)The netback price is based on a formula that subtracts from the price of petroleum products the value added of refining and transport. While having certain attractive features, it failed to be a practical method of pricing for oil. to regain market share. Oil prices collapsed to $10 per barrel (/b)8)$20/b in 2010$.. By 1988, the OPEC pricing regime was replaced by commodity market pricing, a system that remains in place today and for the foreseeable future. The London InterContinental Exchange (ICE) established a contract for Brent, a mixture of high quality North Sea crudes9)The selection of Brent and WTI as marker crudes reflected several factors: 1) the desirability of Brent and WTI to most refiners; 2) the sources of Brent (UK and Norway) and WTI (United States) relative to the world’s financial capitals, London and New York; 3) the supply of Brent and WTI would not be controlled by national governments or OPEC; and 4) Brent and WTI were produced in sufficient volume to be an important component of world oil supply..  Additionally, the New York Merchantville Exchange (NYMEX) established a contract for West Texas Intermediate (WTI), high-quality crude similar to Brent.

Only a small percentage of the world’s crude petroleum is WTI, Brent or other traded crudes.  Nonetheless, these marker crudes affect the contract price of other types of crude oil since most crude oil contracts are indexed to one or more marker crudes. Spot oil prices also respond to whether the oil commodity markets are in backwardation or contango10)The influence of commodity markets on spot prices is more indirect.  They can influence stock builds and draws by whether the futures contracts are in contango (encourages stock builds) or backwardated (encourages stock draws).  Petroleum spot prices respond to changes in petroleum stocks as well as changes in petroleum production or demand.

This new pricing regime did not entirely eliminate OPEC’s price setting role. A few OPEC countries maintain spare production capacity. Saudi Arabia, by far, keeps the largest production capacity in reserve. Saudi Arabia can increase or decrease its oil production in response to world market conditions. If Saudi Arabia believes that prices are too high, they can put spare capacity into production, putting downward pressure on market prices. Likewise, if Saudi Arabia believes that prices are too low, they can reduce production (increasing spare capacity) putting upward pressure on market prices.  Most other oil producing countries and all private oil companies are price takers. They only respond to higher or lower oil prices by increasing or decreasing planned investments in new production capacity. Whether or not these investments are made has little impact on current oil supplies or prices, but has a large impact on future oil supplies and prices.

Figure 2


The new pricing regime produced relatively stable oil prices until 1999 (except for a sharp increase in 1990 due to the Gulf War). In 1999, oil prices began a sharp upward trend culminating in an extremely sharp $40/b rise from January 2007 to June 2008. With record high oil prices, U.S. demand finally slackened and, soon after, failing financial institutions launched a world-wide banking crisis.  Oil prices plummeted reversing in one year the gains made since 2005.

Since 2008 there have been two rapid increases in oil prices. In early 2011, the Libyan civil war removed 1.5 mmb/d of light-sweet crude from the market. Oil prices spiked again in 2012 due to increased supply outages from Iran, Nigeria, Sudan and Yemen. The 2012 run-up was followed by a significant price slide due to a deteriorating economic outlook in the Eurozone and uncertainty whether the EU and the European Central Bank would take the necessary actions to prevent an unraveling of the euro.

Figure 3


Source: IEA, World Energy Outlook 2011

Figure 3 shows oil prices and annual changes in world-GDP. Each spike in oil prices was followed by a sharp drop in world GDP growth. The price rise from the 1973 oil embargo preceded a 4% drop in world GPD growth. Within two years, world growth slid from over 6% to 1%. The oil-supply outage resulting from the 1979 Iranian revolution doubled oil prices. Growth slid from 4% to 2% and, later, to below 1%.

The spike in oil prices resulting from the 1990 Gulf War led to a drop in world GDP growth from over 3% in 1990 to 1% in 1991. GDP growth did not reach 3% until 1994. The price spike from 1999-2000 was followed by a drop in world GDP growth from over 4% in 2000 to 2% in 2001. The world economy appeared to survive the long price rise from 2002 to 2007 until 2008, when the world suffered the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. World GDP growth dropped from over 4% in 2007, declined to less than 2% in 2008 and plummeted to -2% in 2009. While these high oil prices did not cause the world-wide recession, they were a contributing factor. High oil prices directly affected automobile sales and travel-related industries. High oil prices also reduced a household’s disposable income for other goods and services that remained after paying unavoidable fuel expenses.11)Fuel expenses are “unavoidable” in the sense that the elasticity of oil demand with respect to price is low.  Consumers believe that they have little choice except to consume travel and other energy services even when fuel prices are high.

While each oil spike has been followed by a sharp drop in world economic growth, since 198712)The year that the Brent benchmark began., there has been only one sharp reduction in world economic growth that was not preceded by an oil price spike.13)There was a sharp decline in growth from 1997 to 1998 (3.7% to 2.4%).  GDP growth has remained above 3%, apart from the 2nd or 3rd years following an oil price spike.

The world oil market has been subject to unplanned supply outages for quite some time. However, since 2011, supply outages have increased considerably from most prior years. They also reflect causes are likely to be chronic conditions as opposed to one-off events. During 2010, oil supply outages averaged less than 1 mmb/d; since 2011, they have averaged ~ 3 mmb/d and remain high today. Reports of insurgent attacks on oil-producing and distribution infrastructure, ethnic or sectarian conflict and civil war in the oil-producing states of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) are too common to enumerate. The security situation has caused private industry to withdraw personnel from regions that are not deemed to be safe. In addition to loss of trained personnel, insurgent attacks on infrastructure, political disputes concerning sovereignty, disagreements about the validity of oil-related contracts and other problems are not likely to be passing problems that we can assume will be resolved. While these may be necessary side effects as countries replace autocratic rule with democratic governments, they nonetheless pose a great risk for future oil supplies. The International Energy Agency recently warned that relatively stable oil prices should not conceal “an abundance of risk” as “much of the Middle East and North Africa remains in turmoil.” “The current stalemate between the West and Iran” is “unsustainable” and “sooner or later, something has to give.”  The political situation in the MENA region reflects a “precarious balance” that does not bode well for “clear, stable and predictable oil policies, let alone supplies.”14)IEA, Oil Market Report, 13 March 2013.

OPEC production capacity has been essentially flat for the last 30 years. Over that time, growing oil demand has been met by additions to non-OPEC capacity. A number of disappointing non-OPEC supply developments helped drive the sharp rise in oil prices from 2002 and 2008. During that period, the cost of oil and gas drilling equipment and support activities increased by 260%.15)IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012 More recently, the growth of Canadian oil sands and U.S. tight oil production has kept the world oil market in balance. Without increased oil production in the United States and Canada, non-OPEC production would have been in decline in recent years.

Sufficiently high oil prices are needed to sustain the growth on non-OPEC oil. The IEA estimates that the cost of oil sands and tight oil production ranges from $45/b to over $100/b. 16)IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012 As production moves from the most productive plays to less promising plays, costs will tend to move to the upper end of the IEA range. For example, Global Energy Securities estimates that the price of oil needed to generate an attractive internal rate of return increases from $67/b in Eagle Ford (Texas) to $84/b in Monterey/Santos (California).17)Mike Hunter, The Emergence of Saudi America, Developing Unconventionals, Fort Worth, April 2013 While current oil prices are higher than they need to be to justify increased investment, they are not that much higher than what’s needed to motivate the large investments needed to grow non-OPEC oil production.18)Increased investment is needed just to offset decline rates especially from the largest “super-giant” oil fields.  Investment has to surpass this “break-even” level to meet growing demand.

As long as world oil demand grows, so will the cost of oil. The only long-term pathway to lower oil prices is to reduce and reverse the growth of world oil demand.

World Economic Growth, Unemployment and Poverty

In OECD 19)Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Worldwide economic statistics are typically organized to show the differences between OECD (generally rich) countries and non-OECD countries (generally poorer or developing countries). economies, unemployment is the most serious consequence of limited GDP growth. Okun’s law describes a statistical relationship between an economy’s potential rate of growth, its actual rate of growth and changes in unemployment. According to this rough relationship, a 2% difference between a country’s actual GDP and its potential is associated with 1% more unemployment. Applied over time, unemployment will grow by 1% if economic growth is 2% below an economy’s potential.20)Ravi Balakrishnan,, “Unemployment Dynamics During Recessions and Recoveries: Okun’s Law and Beyond,”  IMF World Economic Outlook: Rebalancing Growth, 2009, Washington, DC: IMF The picture in developing countries is more complicated because of movements of labor between the agricultural and industrialized economies. Growth below a developing country’s economic potential limits or reverses the movement from the agricultural sector to the industrial sector causing underemployment.21)Lu Kangyin and WANG Wenjing, 2007, “Why Okun’s Law Misinterpret Economic Phenomenon in Jilin Province,” Northeast Normal University, Changchun, P.R. China

While increasing productivity within the agricultural sector is a development priority, it also leads to underemployment in the agricultural sector.

The relationship between economic growth and the movement of the population out of the agricultural sector is vividly illustrated in the recent history of China. By the late 1970s China possessed an inefficient agricultural economy with a rudimentary industrial sector. China possessed a population exceeding 1 billion people, of which the vast majority lived in poverty. Economic reforms produced a sustained GDP growth that has averaged 10.2 percent per year.22)National Bureau of Statistics of China, 1982-2112As a result, China has moved 400 million people out of poverty into the modern economy. Currently, ~ 650 million people still live in the agricultural sector, 450 million more people than are needed.

High Chinese economic growth would permit more people to move out of the underemployed agricultural economy to productive labor in the modern economy, as there are 450 million people living in poverty.23)High growth would also reduce poverty in China’s urban economy.Within one generation, emigration out of the agricultural sector can be the first step to careers in commerce, business, education, medicine, engineering, science and management.

Reducing Petroleum Demand

By 2014, more oil will be consumed outside the OECD than within.24)IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012 Increased personal income and increased auto ownership appear to be as inextricably linked in rapidly developing economies as it had been in the OECD after the Second World War. With economic growth, automobiles (especially luxurious automobiles), are likely to be purchased in increasing numbers. Domestic automobile consumption will also help developing economies move from export reliance to supplying domestic markets.

With a rapidly increasing consumption of energy for personal mobility, it is imperative to satisfy this growth with non-petroleum energy. If the world continues to rely on petroleum fuels for personal mobility, high oil prices are likely to cause periodic episodes of low growth causing significant hardships for hundreds of millions of people.

Energy Security Trust

The Energy Security Trust, proposed by President Obama,25)2013 State of the Union Address aims to make current electric vehicle technologies cheaper and better with $2 billion for research. In addition to advances in batteries, electric vehicles and ubiquitous electric refueling, it will also fund sustainable biofuels.26)Electrification of transport, use of advanced biofuels and improved vehicle efficiency are, by far, the most important technologies known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.  For example, in IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, to meet the 2oC scenario, it was estimated that 84% of world-wide vehicles would employ battery technologies (hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and all-electric vehicles). As stated by the White House; “In each of the last four years, domestic production of oil and gas has gone up and our use of foreign oil has gone down. And while America uses less foreign oil now than we’ve used in almost two decades, there’s more work to do. That’s why we need to keep reaching for greater energy security. And that’s why we must keep developing new energy supplies and new technologies that use less oil. The Secure Energy Trust will ensure American scientists and research labs have the support they need to keep our country competitive and create the jobs of the future.” The success of initiatives like the Energy Trust Fund would produce world-wide benefits as the uptake of competitive advanced clean energy technologies would be global. Competitive alternatives to petroleum-fueled personal transportation, combined with strong clean-energy policies, would go a long way to achieving the G8’s 2oC climate goal. They would also remedy an important impediment to world GDP growth.

Carmine Difiglio is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Policy Analysis, U.S. Department of Energy and may be reached at [email protected].  His work and publications include the first engineering-economic transportation-energy model, several other modeling projects including the International Energy Agency’s Energy Technology Perspectives project, studies of international oil and natural gas markets, and policies to promote energy security, energy efficiency, motor-vehicle efficiency and alternative transportation fuels.  Difiglio also serves as Co-Chair of the World Federation of Scientists’ Permanent Monitoring Panel on Energy and Vice-Chair of the IEA Standing Group on the Oil Market.  He was Vice-Chair of the IEA Committee on Energy Research and Technology, Chairman of the IEA Energy Efficiency Working Party and Chairman of the Transportation Research Board Committee on Energy and Transportation. Difiglio’s Ph.D. is from the University of Pennsylvania. The data and views expressed in this paper are those of the author and are not endorsed by the U.S. Department of Energy or the United States government.


Notes   [ + ]

1. Including clean-energy research, commercialization subsidies, greenhouse gas pricing and regulations requiring improved energy efficiency and more clean energy supplies
2. The price elasticity of oil supply and demand is very inelastic in the short run.  Consequently, large price changes are required to balance the oil market if there is an increase in demand or decrease of supply.
3. While not generally appreciated, commodity markets reduce oil-price volatility as traders anticipate the effects that a too-high oil price would have on future oil demand while also pricing future supply risks onto the current price of oil.  Without the liquidity provided by non-commercial traders, oil prices would be much more volatile.
4. Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change, Editors: Hans Joachim Schellnhuber, Wolfgang Cramer, Nebojsa Nakicenovic, Tom Wigley, and Gary Yohe, Cambridge University Press, February 2006 and G8 Summit, L’Aquila, Italy, 2009
5. International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, 2012, Paris
6. International Energy Agency, Energy Technology Perspectives, 2012.
7. The netback price is based on a formula that subtracts from the price of petroleum products the value added of refining and transport. While having certain attractive features, it failed to be a practical method of pricing for oil.
8. $20/b in 2010$.
9. The selection of Brent and WTI as marker crudes reflected several factors: 1) the desirability of Brent and WTI to most refiners; 2) the sources of Brent (UK and Norway) and WTI (United States) relative to the world’s financial capitals, London and New York; 3) the supply of Brent and WTI would not be controlled by national governments or OPEC; and 4) Brent and WTI were produced in sufficient volume to be an important component of world oil supply.
10. The influence of commodity markets on spot prices is more indirect.  They can influence stock builds and draws by whether the futures contracts are in contango (encourages stock builds) or backwardated (encourages stock draws).  Petroleum spot prices respond to changes in petroleum stocks as well as changes in petroleum production or demand.
11. Fuel expenses are “unavoidable” in the sense that the elasticity of oil demand with respect to price is low.  Consumers believe that they have little choice except to consume travel and other energy services even when fuel prices are high.
12. The year that the Brent benchmark began.
13. There was a sharp decline in growth from 1997 to 1998 (3.7% to 2.4%).
14. IEA, Oil Market Report, 13 March 2013.
15. IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012
16. IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012
17. Mike Hunter, The Emergence of Saudi America, Developing Unconventionals, Fort Worth, April 2013
18. Increased investment is needed just to offset decline rates especially from the largest “super-giant” oil fields.  Investment has to surpass this “break-even” level to meet growing demand.
19. Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development.  Worldwide economic statistics are typically organized to show the differences between OECD (generally rich) countries and non-OECD countries (generally poorer or developing countries).
20. Ravi Balakrishnan,, “Unemployment Dynamics During Recessions and Recoveries: Okun’s Law and Beyond,”  IMF World Economic Outlook: Rebalancing Growth, 2009, Washington, DC: IMF
21. Lu Kangyin and WANG Wenjing, 2007, “Why Okun’s Law Misinterpret Economic Phenomenon in Jilin Province,” Northeast Normal University, Changchun, P.R. China
22. National Bureau of Statistics of China, 1982-2112
23. High growth would also reduce poverty in China’s urban economy.
24. IEA. Mid-Term Oil Market Report, 2012
25. 2013 State of the Union Address
26. Electrification of transport, use of advanced biofuels and improved vehicle efficiency are, by far, the most important technologies known to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the transportation sector.  For example, in IEA’s Energy Technology Perspectives 2012, to meet the 2oC scenario, it was estimated that 84% of world-wide vehicles would employ battery technologies (hybrid, plug-in-hybrid and all-electric vehicles).