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More of NPEC’s Work
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Asia, Pacific Rim
Aug 05, 2020 "Thinking Hard About Missile Defense," RealClearDefense
Last month, the Japanese canceled on a major US-Japan missile defense project, Aegis Ashore. Japanese officials cited cost and effectiveness as issues driving their decision. The question now is what Japan and the US might do next. Much of the discussion has focused on different kinds of offensive missile or active missile defense measures.  This is too narrow a focus. As Bryan Clark of the Hudson Institute and I argue in the attached Real Clear Defense piece, “Thinking Hard about Missile Defense,” a key part of the missile defense solution for Japan lies in perfecting passive defenses — mobility, camouflage, decoys...and hardening. These first three types of passive defense are hardly new. Hardening, however, is undergoing a quiet technical revolution with the advent of ultra high performance concrete, which is five to ten times more resilient than conventional reinforced concrete.  When combined with other more traditional forms of passive defense, ultra hardening can geometrically increase the number of weapons needed for an attack because an adversary has to assume each potential target is hardened. It also should reduce missile defense requirements significantly, making terminal limited foot-print active defense systems, like Patriot and other shorter range missile defense systems, sufficient where previously they might have been dismissed as inadequate. As Washington works with its allies to protect key overseas bases, how much missile defense of what type is going to be a major issue that will be easier to work if passive defenses and hardening are dialed in.      
Op-Eds & Blogs
Jul 23, 2020 The American Security Case for Seoul and Tokyo Not Going Nuclear
  In the midst of deteriorating security relations between Seoul and Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Shinzō Abe recently announced Japan was terminating its joint deployment of a land-based U.S. missile defense system, AEGIS Ashore. Meanwhile, Washington continues to lean on Japan and South Korea to pay billions more for the continued basing of American military forces in each country. It’s unclear how this story will end. One ending has Japan and Tokyo going nuclear and relying less on the U.S.. This option privately has backers in Washington, Tokyo, and Seoul. As the attached NPEC-commissioned study by Eric Heginbotham and Richard J. Samuels of MIT make clear, however, it’s less than a bad option; it’s dead wrong. As they note: Neither new allies [e.g., Australia, India, and South Korea] nor nuclear weapons would empower these states to balance Chinese power more broadly. Indeed, they might instead be accompanied by greater accommodation. This, in turn, would only increase the risk of Tokyo and Seoul parting ways with Washington or, worse, catalyzing East Asian tensions and war. Heginbotham and Samuels want none of this. Their study makes for useful reading as do their recommendations to adjust how our military works with Japan and South Korea on nuclear and other deterrence matters.
Occasional Papers & Monographs
Jul 16, 2020 How Much Nuclear Weapons Material Might China Make?
  As U.S. nuclear arms negotiators continue to call on Beijing to join control talks with Russia, one topic that has so far escaped most experts’ attention is just how much nuclear weapons material China might be able to make and stockpile. Since it has generally taken a decade to negotiate nuclear control agreements, NPEC asked the leading expert of China’s nuclear activities, Hui Zhang of Harvard, to project what the numbers might be for the next two decades.     Attached is his detailed analysis. The high numbers for separated plutonium and highly enriched uranium stocks and production capacity are sobering:  By 2030, China could have thousands of additional bombs’ worth of these materials on hand. How is this possible?  China has an extensive “peaceful” program to enrich uranium. It also is building a large domestic reprocessing plant, has a pilot plant it currently operates, and is still planning on importing a massive reprocessing plant from France. These plants can extract nuclear weapons explosive plutonium from China’s fleet of heavy and light water reactors and, soon, from the fast reactor now under construction.     China claims all of these fissile production activities are peaceful. Yet, Beijing has protested Japan’s plans to bring its own large reprocessing plant at Rokkasho on line in the fall of 2021. Chinese officials say this plant’s operation would be destabilizing as it is designed to make 1,600 bombs’ worth of plutonium a year.     Japanese and Chinese nuclear enthusiasts refuse to concede that producing and using plutonium-based fuels in power reactors is uneconomic compared to using low-enriched uranium in conventional reactors. The negativity of plutonium economics, however, is a lasting feature and, in fact, is only getting worse.   What does this suggest? Dr. Zhang recommends that, at a minimum, China make both its uranium enrichment and plutonium reprocessing and reactor programs and plans more transparent. Beyond this, he recommends that Beijing slow down on the commercial plutonium front.  “China,” he notes, “has no convincing rationale for rushing to build commercial-scale reprocessing facilities or plutonium breeder reactors. China should postpone the large reprocessing-plant project, and take an interim-storage approach.”   I and others have argued that in addition, the United States should open talks with Beijing and Japan on these programs and join in announcing a joint moratorium on commercial reprocessing and on the further expansion of uranium enrichment capacity until economic demand clearly requires it. Perhaps this is a topic that China would feel comfortable discussing even if, for the moment, it chooses to sit out three-way strategic arms control talks.    
Occasional Papers & Monographs
Jul 10, 2020 "Coping with the Ground-Based Laser ASAT Threat," Space News
As we approach the 75th anniversary of Hiroshima’s atomic bombing, the front lines of nuclear deterrence are moving from missile launch sites and air bases on earth to key satellites based in space. Knock out key satellites essential to command, control, communication, and informing military forces, and you can lobotomize any military no matter how powerful. In this regard, what China and Russia are up to deserves attention: Both are deploying a variety of anti-satellite weaponry to disable US and allied satellites. The latest development is their deployment of ground-based lasers that can dazzle US and allied imagery satellites. As Brian Chow and I detail in the attached Space News op-ed, “US satellites are increasingly vulnerable to China’ s ground-based lasers.” Chinese dual-use and dedicated military ground-based anti-satellite (ASAT) lasers can already temporarily blind US and allied imagery satellites. By the mid-2020s, the Chinese may have lasers powerful enough to damage the structures of the satellites they target. This threat will require the United States and its allies to operate differently in space. Up until recently, we and our allies assumed space was a sanctuary. It is no longer. As Brian and I note, the United States needs to operate its imagery satellites as if they will be damaged once a war begins. This means taking as much imagery in peacetime as possible, relying more on lower resolution images that can be taken from increasingly plentiful commercial satellite constellations, and pushing to diversify America’s source of images away from military-dedicated satellites.  It also suggests new diplomatic positions the United States and its allies should consider, including extending New START’s formal prohibitions on interference with “national technical means of verification,” which includes sensor-carrying satellites.  The next trick is getting China to adhere to such prohibitions. In our piece, Brian and I describe additional diplomatic initiatives to deal with future ground-based laser ASATs.      
Op-Eds & Blogs
Jun 25, 2020 "The Energy Department's Dangerous Plutonium Dream," The American Interest
Late last month, the Department of Energy (DoE) again floated the idea of chemically extracting or "reprocessing" nuclear weapons explosive plutonium from spent fuel reactor fuel. Why? To keep up with Russia and China in building multi-billion dollar fast "advanced" reactor commercial demonstration programs that make current expensive nuclear electricity look dirt cheap.  But as Victor Gilinsky and Henry Sokolski argue in "The Energy Department's Dangerous Plutonium Dream," published in The American Interest, following Moscow's and Beijing's command nuclear programs is a mistake. Russia and China are pushing fast reactors and reprocessing to "save" uranium left in spent reactor fuel, which they and DoE officials see as a resource that is being "wasted." This view, however, is like insisting that moonlight and ocean wave energy is going to "waste" because it has yet to be captured, while ignoring the fantastic costs needed to harness them. Uranium, in fact, is plentiful and dirt cheap. "Saving" it by reprocessing it and plutonium from spent fuel, on the ohter hand, is dangerous and extremely expensive.  Reprocessing and fast reactor proponents actually know this. That is why they are eager to internationalize commercial advanced fast reactor and fuel cycle demonstration projects. This includes exporting American spent reactor fuel to be reprocessed abroad in France, India, and even Japan. All of this will burn financial holes in our pockets and, if we are unlucky at all, help would be bomb makers. It surely is the wrong way to compete with Russia and China. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
Jun 16, 2020 Needed: Clear Conditions for Federal Financing Nuclear Exports
Last week, the Development Finance Corporation (DFC), a new federal financing organization that Congress created to help the developing world, announced it was lifting a prohibition on supporting US civilian nuclear exports.  This announcement triggered a 30-day public comment period. There’s only one problem:  There’s next to nothing to comment on. As I and former US Nuclear Regulatory Commissioners Victor Gilinsky and Peter Bradford note in a letter below to the House and Senate foreign affairs committee chairmen and ranking members, the DFC has yet to reveal what rules would apply to such nuclear projects.  This all but renders the 30-day comment period meaningless. To fix this, Congress needs to get the DFC to clarify what conditions, if any, the corporation plans to place on such projects. Would the DFC financially support nuclear reactor projects for countries that lacked full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards on their nuclear activities or were not members of the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT)?  Might the DFC use its new equity investment authority to purchase shares of foreign firms, such as the Saudi Nuclear Energy Holding Company based in Riyadh?  Would it matter how few American jobs a nuclear project produced compared to alternative investments? Would the DFC evaluate the energy investment it might make (nuclear or nonnuclear) by asking if it was the most economical way to meet a given country’s energy and environmental requirements?  Will the DFC secure such country-specific analyses in advance and, if so, how?  In the case of proposed nuclear projects, will the DFC rely on the assessments of nuclear lobbyists firms say? The Senate and House foreign affairs committees and their staff should find out. They oversee the BUILD Act that created the DFC. If they are still in the dark on these matters before the 30-day comment period runs out July 8th, the DFC should not proceed to make any nuclear-related decisions. This is all the more so since Congress lets the DFC operate behind closed doors.  
Official Docs & Letters
Jun 04, 2020 Something to Talk About: Missile Threats against East Asian Reactors 
  As Washington's strained relations with Beijing and Pyongyang continue to frazzle, it's unclear how bad things might get. The prospects of war with North Korea or China are still quite distant. It's certainly very difficult to imagine how a war with either might begin and what might be hit. To deter future conflict, however, requires imagining all possibilities.   In this regard, one target set that deserves more attention is nuclear plants in South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan. At a recent NPEC workshop on what new security threats Washington should work more closely with Seoul and Tokyo on, the increasing vulnerability of nuclear plants in the region was examined. A summary of the workshop's key findings is attached along with short video excerpts, selected graphics, and draft commissioned research. The workshop's key takeaways are that North Korean and Chinese missiles are now lethal and accurate enough to disable a variety of nuclear plant subsystems. China and North Korea can deter and shape U.S. and allied military resistance in a variety of ways by targeting these points. The good news is there are a number of steps South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan might take to mitigate these threats. Holding discussions clarifying how may have to be done in private but it's not too early to begin.  
Occasional Papers & Monographs; Audio & Video
Apr 21, 2020 "Nuclear Test Ban: Don't Test, Don't Ratify, Don't Unsign," The National Interest
Late last week, the State Department caused a stir raising suspicions that the Chinese have been violating the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT). There were two immediate responses: Some wanted to unsign the treaty, which would clear the way to resume nuclear testing, others pushed back and doubled down on their earlier calls to ratify the treaty. As I make clear in the following analysis I wrote yesterday for The National Interest, neither camp's advice should be heeded. "The United States can't fully verify small nuclear test violations and should not ratify the treaty until it can, but for the same reason," I wrote, "it shouldn't unsign the treaty until it has clear proofs that it can publicly share." As for resuming nuclear testing, it would only further slow our nuclear modernization program and increase its already sky-high costs. On this last point, I share the insights of Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory's top nuclear weapons designers. "There is something here to irk everyone," I conclude. "Resuming nuclear testing is for chumps; unsigning or ratifying the treaty is for the flamboyant. For now, steering clear of all three is America's best course."
Op-Eds & Blogs
Mar 16, 2020 Missile Wars: What's Coming
On March 16, 2020, NPEC's Executive Director, Henry Sokolski gave the following lecture at University of California: San Diego. Missile Wars: What's Coming Since the 1970s, military theorists have predicted wars would be waged with super precise missiles that would penetrate most defenses. Recent successful missile attacks against oil facilities at Abqaiq, Saudi Arabia, and Ain Assad Airbase in Iraq suggest that their predictions have come true. How real is this revolution? What new civilian and military targets might now be vulnerable that previously were not? In the case of civilian targets, such as nuclear power plants and cities, what are the moral and military considerations? This presentation will answer these questions.
Presentations; Audio & Video
Mar 13, 2020 "China's Nuclear Arms Are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery," Foreign Policy
While our attention on China today is focused on the short-term challenge of tracking the Coronavirus, there is a long-term quandary that also deserves attention. It's China's military strategic intentions. Just what are they?  China experts have tracked Beijing's nuclear doctrine statements, their nuclear and long-range missile programs, and their space access and anti-satellite efforts. Some imterpret these developments as being malign; others chatacterize them as being defensive. Which view is more correct? We don't know. As Michael Mazza of the American Enterprise Institute and Henry Sokolski argue in the attached Foreign Policy piece, "China's Nuclear Arms Are a Riddle Wrapped in a Mystery," we need to find out. In specific, Washington should engage Beijing in new strategic capabilities dialogue (not unlike the sort the United States currently conducts with Russia). For reasons we spell out in the piece, this should come before any negotiations on specific arms limits either with China or with China and any other nation. 
Op-Eds & Blogs
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The Nonproliferation Policy Education Center (NPEC), is a 501 (c)3 nonpartisan, nonprofit, educational organization
founded in 1994 to promote a better understanding of strategic weapons proliferation issues. NPEC educates policymakers, journalists,
and university professors about proliferation threats and possible new policies and measures to meet them.
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