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The Nuclear Renaissance: Nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism

The Nuclear Renaissance: Nuclear weapons proliferation and terrorism

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Published by IPPR
This report discusses some of the more serious security issues that will be associated with a nuclear renaissance, including:

* The shortage of high-quality uranium for use as nuclear fuel
* The consequences of the use of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and the widespread use of plutonium to fuel them
* The increased risk in a plutonium economy of the spread of nuclear weapons to both countries and terrorist groups.

Before discussing these security implications, the paper sets the context by describing important elements of the nuclear fuel cycle and by addressing issues related to uranium supply and the changing technology being used in nuclear power reactors.
This report discusses some of the more serious security issues that will be associated with a nuclear renaissance, including:

* The shortage of high-quality uranium for use as nuclear fuel
* The consequences of the use of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and the widespread use of plutonium to fuel them
* The increased risk in a plutonium economy of the spread of nuclear weapons to both countries and terrorist groups.

Before discussing these security implications, the paper sets the context by describing important elements of the nuclear fuel cycle and by addressing issues related to uranium supply and the changing technology being used in nuclear power reactors.

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Categories:Types, Research
Published by: IPPR on Sep 04, 2009
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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TheNuclearRenaissance:
Nuclearweaponsproliferationandterrorism
ApolicybrieffortheipprCommissiononNationalSecurityforthe21stCentury
byFrankBarnaby
EmeritusConsultanttotheOxfordResearchGroup
March2009©ippr2009
InstituteforPublicPolicyResearch
Challengingideas– Changingpolicy
WWW.IPPR.ORG
 
ippr|
TheNuclearRenaissance:Nuclearweaponsproliferationandterrorism
2
TheInstituteforPublicPolicyResearch(ippr)istheUK’sleadingprogressivethinktank,producingcutting-edgeresearchandinnovativepolicyideasforajust,democraticandsustainableworld.Since1988,wehavebeenattheforefrontofprogressivedebateandpolicymakingintheUK.Throughourindependentresearchandanalysiswedefinenewagendasforchangeandprovidepracticalsolutionstochallengesacrossthefullrangeofpublicpolicyissues.WithofficesinbothLondonandNewcastle,weensureouroutlookisasbroad-basedaspossible,whileourinternationalandmigrationteamsandclimatechangeprogrammeextendourpartnershipsandinfluencebeyondtheUK,givingusatrulyworld-classreputationforhighqualityresearch.
ippr,
30-32SouthamptonStreet,LondonWC2E7RA.Tel:+44(0)2074706100E:info@ippr.orgwww.ippr.org.RegisteredCharityNo.800065
ThispaperwasfirstpublishedinMarch2009.
©ippr2009
TheipprCommissiononNationalSecurityisanall-partyCommissionpreparinganindependentnationalsecuritystrategyfortheUK.Itisco-chairedbyLordRobertsonofPortEllenandLordAshdownofNorton-sub-Hamdon.ThefullCommissionmembershipincludes:
AboutippripprCommissiononNationalSecurity
•
LordPaddyAshdown,Co-Chair,formerleaderoftheLiberalDemocraticPartyandformerHighRepresentativeforBosnia.
•
LordGeorgeRobertson,Co-Chair,formerSecretaryofStateforDefenceandformerSecretaryGeneralofNATO.
•
DrIanKearns,DeputyChair,DeputyDirector,ippr.
•
SirJeremyGreenstock,DirectoroftheDitchleyFoundationandformerBritishAmbassadortotheUnitedNations.
•
SirDavidOmand,formersecurityandintelligencecoordinatorintheCabinetOfficeandformerPermanentSecretaryintheHomeOffice.
•
LordCharlesGuthrie,formerChiefoftheDefenceStaff.
•
LordMartinRees,PresidentoftheRoyalSocietyandMasterofTrinityCollege,Cambridge.
•
SirChrisFox,formerChiefConstableof NorthamptonshireandformerPresidentof theAssociationofChiefPoliceOfficers.
•
ProfessorMichaelClarke,Director,RoyalUnitedServicesInstitute,andProfessorof DefenceStudiesatKing’sCollegeLondon.
•
ProfessorTariqModood,DirectoroftheLeverhulmeProgrammeonMigrationandCitizenship,BristolUniversity.
•
ConstanzeStelzenmüller,DirectoroftheBerlinofficeoftheGermanMarshallFund.
•
ProfessorJimNorton,formerchiefexecutiveoftheRadioCommunicationsAgencyandnowattheInstituteofDirectors.
•
IanTaylorMP,ChairoftheConservativePartyPolicyTask-forceonScience,Technology,EngineeringandMathematics,ConservativeMPforEsherandWaltonandformerministerforScienceandTechnologyattheDepartmentofTradeandIndustry.ThispolicybriefisoneofaseriessupportedbytheEconomicandSocialResearchCouncil(ESRC).FormoreinformationontheworkoftheCommissionpleasegoto
www.ippr.org/security
Theviewsinthispaperarethoseoftheauthoraloneandarebeingpublishedhereinthehopeof advancingpublicdebate.TheydonotrepresenttheviewsoftheCommissionpanelortheviewsof anysponsoringorganisation.
 
ippr|
TheNuclearRenaissance:Nuclearweaponsproliferationandterrorism
3
Introduction
Globalclimatechangeisoneofthegreatestchallengeswefacethiscentury.Thereisanoverwhelmingconsensusamongclimatescientiststhattheworldisheatingupbecauseofhumanactivitiesthatemitgreenhousegases,particularlycarbondioxide,intotheatmosphere(seeIPCC2007),andfewseriouscommentatorsdoubtthaturgentactionisneededtopreventcatastrophicchangesintheclimate.
1
Therearetwoschoolsofthoughtaboutthebestwaytodealwithglobalwarming.Onewantstobringaboutasocialrevolution,tomakesocietylessconsumeristandlessmaterialisticandtolowertheconsumptionofenergyintheprocess.Theotherislessambitious,andperhapsmorerealistic.Itbelievesintheuseoftechnologytosolvetheproblembyexpandingtheuseofnuclearfissionreactorsandrenewableenergysources,bydevelopingawaytocaptureandstorecarbondioxideemittedbyexistingfossilfuelpowerstations,and,inthelongterm,bycreatinganewandrelativelycarbon-freesourceofenergysuchasnuclearfusion.Moreradicalideasinclude:reflectingsunlightbycreatingartificialcloudstoreducetheamountof sunlightreachingtheEarth’ssurface,mainlyattheArctic;growingphytoplanktonintheoceanstocapturelargeamountsofcarbondioxide;andusingmachines(‘scrubbers’)toabsorbcarbondioxidefromtheatmosphere.Eachofthesebroadsocialandtechnologicalsolutionshasitsdifficulties.Asustainablesocialrevolutionwouldtakegenerationstobringabout.Meanwhile,atechnologicalfix,thoughattractiveinsomerespects,willalsorequiretimeandconsiderablefinancialresourcestoovercomeverydifficulttechnicalproblems;namely,thefactthatappropriatetechnologyhasnotyetbeendeveloped.Britain’sPrimeMinisterGordonBrownisanenthusiasticadvocateofarelianceontechnology,backingbothnuclearpowerandcarboncaptureandstorage(CCS)technologiestogetherwithimprovementsinenergyefficiency(Grice2008).Manyotherpoliticalleadersarelookingtonuclearpowerasthebestwaytoreducetheemissionsofgreenhousegases.Wemustthereforeexpecttoseealargeincreaseintheglobaluseofnuclearpowerforelectricitygeneration:whathasbecomeknownasanuclearrenaissance.Atpresent,thereisasurprisinglackofacademicdebateandresearchabouttheglobal,regionalandnationalsecurityconsequencesofthespreadofnuclearknowledgeandtechnology,andabouthowtheinternationalandregionalcommunitiescancopewiththisspread.Thereisgeneralagreementthatinthenuclearrenaissancemanycountrieswillhaveaccesstoplutoniumthatcouldpotentiallybeusedtofabricatenuclearweapons,bothbycountriesandbyterrorists,sincetheinformationneededtoproducenuclearweaponsiswidelyavailable.Butthereisstillapoorunderstandingoftherangeof riskspresentinanunregulatednuclearworld.Researchisurgentlyneededonhowtocontroltheserisks.AnobviouscontrolmeasurewouldbetostrengthentheNuclearNon-ProliferationTreaty(NPT).Thiswillinvolvethequestions:Howcanthenuclear-weaponpowersbepersuadedtogiveuptheirnuclearweapons?Istheabolitionofnuclearweaponsfeasibleorapipe-dream?Shouldnon-nuclear-weaponcountriesbeencouragedtodevelopcivilnucleartechnology?Ifso,underwhatconditions?Whatmeasureswouldbejustifiedtopreventacountryacquiringnuclearweapons?Wouldmilitaryactioneverbejustified?Anotherareainwhichfurtherresearchisnecessaryisaroundthethreatofnuclearterrorism.Thispresentsalargenumberofquestions,including:Howlikelyisitthataterroristgroupwillacquirenuclearweapons?Whichterroristgroupswouldbeabletodevelopthem?Cannuclearterrorismbeprevented?Ifnot,whatmeasuresshouldbeputinplacetocopewithit?Howcanthelargeamountofradioactivematerialaroundtheworldbemadesecure?Howcannuclearterrorismbecountered?
1.ForanexampleofaviewdifferentfromtheconsensusseeSvensmarkandCalder2007.

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