Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks

The United States and other countries with nuclear navies have benefited from having nuclear-powered warships. But do the continued benefits depend on indefinite use of highly enriched uranium (HEU)—which can be made into nuclear weapons—as naval nuclear fuel? With budgetary constraints bearing down on the U.S. Department of Defense, the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program is finding it difficult to address many competing needs including upgrading aging training facilities, handling spent nuclear fuel, and designing the next generation submarines to replace the Virginia-class attack submarines.

FAS convened an independent, nonpartisan task force of experts from the national security, nuclear engineering, nonproliferation and nuclear security fields to examine effective ways to monitor and safeguard HEU and LEU in the naval sector, and consider alternatives to HEU for naval propulsion so as to improve nuclear security and nonproliferation.

The results of the year-long task force study are compiled in the report, Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks. The task force concluded that the U.S. Navy has strong incentives to maintain the continuing use of highly enriched uranium and would be reluctant, or even opposed, to shift to use of low enriched uranium unless the naval nuclear enterprise is fully funded and the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program has adequate financial resources to try to develop a life-of-ship reactor fueled with LEU that would meet the Navy’s performance requirements. The task force endorses having the Obama administration and Congress allocate adequate funding for R&D on advanced LEU fuels no later than 2017 in time for development of the next generation nuclear attack submarine. “The United States should demonstrate leadership in working urgently to reduce the use in naval fuels of highly enriched uranium–that can power nuclear weapons–while addressing the national security needs of the nuclear navy to ensure that the navy can meet its performance requirements with lifetime reactors fueled with low enriched uranium,” said Dr. Charles D. Ferguson, Chair of the Independent Task Force and President of FAS.

Four companion papers written by task force members are also available:

Naval Nuclear Propulsion: Assessing Benefits and Risks can be read and downloaded here (PDF).

The task force members thank the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation for its generous support of this project.

Report Examines MANPADS Threat and International Efforts to Address It

ManpadsreportblogOn November 28, 2002, terrorists fired two Soviet-designed SA-7 man-portable air defense systems (MANPADS) at an Israeli plane destined for Tel Aviv as it departed from Moi International Airport in Mombasa, Kenya. The missiles missed their target but the incident was a wake-up call for governments around the world. Shortly after the attack, the United States created an inter-agency task force to counter the threat posed by MANPADS, with other countries following suit. These countries launched several initiatives aimed at securing and destroying surplus, obsolete and poorly secured stockpiles of missiles; strengthening controls on international transfers of MANPADS; and improving information sharing on the international trade in these weapons. But are these efforts enough?

In a new report,“The MANPADS Threat and International Efforts To Address It”, Matt Schroeder, Director of the Arms Sales Monitoring Project, assesses the terrorist threat from MANPADS, evaluates efforts by the international community to curb this threat, and proposes additional measures that governments can take to further reduce the illicit proliferation and use of MANPADS.

The Federation of American Scientists would like to thank the following individuals and institutions for their invaluable contributions to this report: James Bevan, Jeremy Binnie, Peter Courtney-Green, Gene Crofts, Alan Flint, Andy Gleeson, Jose Manuel Heredia Gonzalez, Paul Holtom, J. Christian Kessler, Stephanie Koorey, Jonah Leff, Cheryl Levy, Maxim Pyadushkin, Steve Priestley, Saferworld, Small Arms Survey and officials from the Organization of American States, the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, the United Nations Regional Centre for Peace, Disarmament and Development in Latin America and the Caribbean and the Wassenaar Arrangement , along with officials from numerous governments.  Without their talent and support, this study would not have been possible.

Read the report here (PDF).

Issue Brief: Regulating Japanese Nuclear Power in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident

The 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was preventable. The Great East Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed it were unprecedented events in recent history, but they were not altogether unforeseeable. Stronger regulation across the nuclear power industry could have prevented many of the worst outcomes at Fukushima Daiichi and will be needed to prevent future accidents.

In an FAS issue brief, Dr. Charles Ferguson and Mr. Mark Jansson review some of the major problems leading up to the accident and provides an overview of  proposed regulatory reforms, including an overhaul of the nuclear regulatory bureaucracy and specific safety requirements which are being considered for implementation in all nuclear power plants. Read the brief here.

Regulating Japanese Nuclear Power in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident

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The 2011 accident at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant was preventable. The Great East Japan earthquake and the tsunami that followed it were unprecedented events in recent history, but they were not altogether unforeseeable. Stronger regulation across the nuclear power industry could have prevented many of the worst outcomes at Fukushima Daiichi and will be needed to prevent future accidents.

In a new FAS issue brief, Dr. Charles Ferguson and Mr. Mark Jansson review some of the major problems leading up to the accident including the lack of regulation of the nuclear power industry and slow updates to safety requirements, such as using probabilistic safety assessment (PSA) methods to  improve accident management plans.

Additionally, the issue brief provides an overview of  proposed regulatory reforms, including an overhaul of the nuclear regulatory bureaucracy and specific safety requirements which are being considered for implementation in all nuclear power plants. These requirements including the establishment of earthquake resistant control centers, installation of filtered vents above reactor containment vessels and limitation of reactor life to no more than forty years.

Read the issue brief, “Regulating Japanese Nuclear Power in the Wake of the Fukushima Daiichi Accident” here (PDF).

New Report on Aftermath of Fukushima Nuclear Accident

The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group, co-chaired by FAS President Dr. Charles Ferguson, has released a new report recommending priorities for the Japanese government following the March 11, 2011 nuclear accident at Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant.

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The U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group is composed of bi-national experts who have come together to examine the broader strategic implications of the Fukushima accident. The mission of the group is to understand, articulate and advocate for shared strategic interests between the United States and Japan which could be impacted through changes to Japan’s energy program. In the past twelve months, the group has conducted meetings with industry leaders and policymakers in Japan, the United States and the nuclear governance community in Vienna to examine the implications of Japan’s future energy policy. As a result of these meetings, the group released a report of its findings and recommendations, “Statement on Shared Strategic Priorities in the Aftermath of the Fukushima Nuclear Accident”.

The report discusses specific issues that must be addressed regardless of Japan’s energy policy decisions, including:  strategy for reducing Japan’s plutonium stockpile, new standards for radiation safety and environmental cleanup and treatment of spent nuclear fuel.

The report also examines broader concerns to Japan’s energy policy including:  climate change concerns, emerging nuclear safety regulations and global nuclear nonproliferation leadership (as Japan is a non-nuclear weapons state with advanced nuclear energy capabilities). The group offers strategic recommendations for Japanese and U.S. industries  and governments regarding the direction of Japan’s energy policy, and how both countries can work together for joint energy security.

Read the report here (PDF).

For more information on the U.S.-Japan Nuclear Working Group, click here.

New Report Analyzing Iran’s Nuclear Program Costs and Risks

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Iran’s quest for the development of nuclear program has been marked by enormous financial costs and risks. It is estimated that the program’s cost is well over $100 billion, with the construction of the Bushehr reactor costing over $11 billion, making it one of the most expensive reactors in the world.

The Federation of American Scientists and the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace have released a new report, “Iran’s Nuclear Odyssey: Costs and Risks” which analyzes the economic effects of Iran’s nuclear program, and policy implications of sanctions and other actions by the United States and other allies. Co-authored by Ali Vaez and Karim Sadjadpour, the report details the history of the program, beginning with its inception under the Shah in 1957, and how the Iranian government has continue to grow their nuclear capabilities under a shroud of secrecy. Coupled with Iran’s limited supply of uranium and insecure stockpiles of nuclear materials, along with Iran’s desire to invest in nuclear energy to revitalize their energy sector (which is struggling due to international sanctions), the authors examine how these huge costs have led to few benefits.

The report analyzes the policy implications of Iran’s nuclear program for the United States and its allies, concluding that economic sanctions nor military force cannot end this prideful program; it is imperative that a diplomatic solution is reached to ensure that Iran’s nuclear program remains peaceful. Finally, efforts need to be made to the Iranians from Washington which clearly state that America and its allies prefer a prosperous and peaceful Iran versus an isolated and weakened Iran. Public diplomacy and nuclear diplomacy must go hand in hand.

Read the report:

Web version

PDF

Farsi Translation (PDF)

Issue Brief: Japan’s Role as Leader for Nuclear Nonproliferation

A country with few natural resources, first Japan began to develop nuclear power technologies in 1954. Nuclear energy assisted with Japanese economic development and reconstruction post World War II. However, with the fear of  lethal ash and radioactive fallout and the lingering effects from the 2011 accident at Fukushima-Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant, there are many concerns related to Japanese nonproliferation, security and nuclear policy.

In a FAS issue brief, Ms. Kazuko Goto, Research Fellow of the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology of the Government of Japan, writes of Japan’s advancement of nuclear technologies which simultaneously benefits international nonproliferation policies. Read the brief here.

Issue Brief: Sanctions and Nonproliferation in North Korea and Iran

The nuclear programs of North Korea and Iran have been, for many years, two of the most pressing and intractable security challenges facing the United States and the international community. While frequently lumped together as “rogue states,” the two countries have vastly different social, economic, and political systems, and the history and status of their nuclear and long-range missile programs differ in several critical aspects.

The international responses to Iranian and North Korean proliferation bear many similarities, particularly in the use of economic sanctions as a central tool of policy. Daniel Wertz, Program Officer at the National Committee on North Korea, and Dr. Ali Vaez, former Director of the Iran Project at the Federation of American Scientists, offer a comparative analysis of U.S. policy toward Iran and North Korea in a FAS issue brief available here.

New Report: Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons

On May 20-21, 28 NATO member countries will convene in Chicago to approve the conclusions of a year-long Deterrence and Defense Posture Review (DDPR). Among other issues, the review will determine the number and role of the U.S. non-strategic nuclear weapons deployed in Europe and how NATO might work to reduce its nuclear posture as well as Russia’s inventory of such weapons in the future.

Lack of transparency fuels mistrust and worst-case assumptions and the concerns some eastern NATO countries have about Russia have been used to prevent a withdrawal of the remaining U.S. nuclear weapons from Europe. The DDPR is expected to endorse the current deployment in Europe.

A new FAS report (PDF) concludes that non-strategic nuclear weapons are neither the reason nor the solution for Europe’s security issues today but that lack of political leadership has allowed bureaucrats to give these weapons a legitimacy they don’t possess and shouldn’t have.

Read the report Non-Strategic Nuclear Weapons (PDF).

New Report: The Future of Nuclear Power in the United States

In the wake of the devastating meltdown at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan, many Americans are now reevaluating the costs and benefits of nuclear energy. If anything, the accident underscores that constant vigilance is needed to ensure nuclear safety. Policymakers and the public need more guidance about where nuclear power in the United States appears to be headed in light of the economic hurdles confronting construction of nuclear power plants, aging reactors, and a graying workforce, according to a report (PDF) by the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and Washington and Lee University.

Read the report The Future of Nuclear Power in the United States (PDF).