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More of NPEC’s Work
A chronological listing by resource:

Articles | Working Papers & Monographs | Interviews | Official Docs & Letters | Op-Eds & Blogs | Press Releases | Presentations | Audio & Video | Testimony & Transcripts | Translations | Wargame Reports
 
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Asia, Pacific Rim
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.  
Working 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
Feb 03, 2020 North Korea's Nuclear Program: The Early Days, 1984-2002
Now that the President’s nuclear disarmament talks with Pyongyang are on the back burner, it’s worth reviewing how well Washington has generally faired in gauging the North Korean nuclear threat. Attached is such an excellent start covering the period from 1984 through 2002 by Torrey Froscher, a former senior Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) nuclear analyst and NPEC advisory board member. Showcased in the CIA’s latest issue of Studies in Intelligence, “North Korea’s Nuclear Program: The Early Days, 1984-2002,” details how U.S. intelligence analysts and policy makers initially underestimated the North Korean nuclear threat and then placed far too much faith in North Korea’s commitment to the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty. To avoid such excesses in the future, Mr. Froscher recommends that intelligence analysts and policy makers spend, “less time reporting current developments” and devote “more effort to thinking through possible future developments, how they might materialize, and what factors would affect their likelihood.” Developing such alternative nuclear futures was one of the key recommendations of NPEC’s Speaking Truth to Nonproliferation Project, which was spotlighted in a Studies in Intelligence cover story that was published in March of 2019. Mr. Froscher was an active participant in this project and has lectured at several universities as part of NPEC’s academic policy practitioner outreach program. His Studies in Intelligence article was developed from the NPEC lectures he gave over the last two years. His analysis is spot-on as the United States and like-minded nations work to prevent other nations from withdrawing from or violating the NPT.
Articles
Jan 23, 2020 Dealing Preventively with NPT Withdrawal
  Last week, Pierre Goldschmidt, former Deputy Director General of the International Atomic Energy Agency for Safeguards, spoke on theHill and visited senior officials in the executive branch. The NPEC-commissioned paper he presented (see below) focused on what’sneeded to deter additional withdrawals from the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT). His suggestions could not be more timely. In January, Iran’s foreign minister threatened to leave the NPT. His threat came only months after Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, complained at the United Nations General Assembly that the world’s recognized nuclear armed states should give up their nuclear weapons or allow all other nations to get them. Erdoğan’s complaint followed Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad Bin Salman’s public announcement that Riyadh would leave the NPT if Iran was found developing nuclear weapons. The last time a country withdrew from the NPT was North Korea in January of 2003. At the time, Pyongyang was able to withdraw, expelled all resident IAEA nuclear inspectors, and was not even sanctioned. Only after North Korea exploded a nuclear device did the United Nations impose economic sanctions. This is not a model to follow. Instead, as Mr. Goldschmidt recommends, the United States should work with like-minded states to promote country-neutral rules before the next state gets its first bomb. The United States should also take up Mr. Goldschmidt’s recommendations with the Russians and Chinese.  
Working Papers & Monographs
Dec 14, 2019 "America Must Dissuade China's Interest In Nuclear Arms," The National Interest
In all competitions there are winners and losers but in some competitions who benefits most and least can get hazy as the risks that the competition forces on both parties rise. A case in point is the slow nuclear race that China has begun to run against the United States and our closest Asian allies. Right now, Beijing has only several hundred nuclear warheads. But, the US Defense Intelligence Agency projects this arsenal will double by 2030. This is worrisome. In the attached The National Interest piece “America Must Dissuade China's Interest In Nuclear Arms,” Michael Mazza of The American Enterprise Institute and Henry Sokolski spell out what risks China's nuclear rise will run and how best to avoid them. As China’s nuclear weapons proficiency increases its arsenal will become more similar to our own. This, in turn, could encourage Beijing to toy with more aggressive nuclear use doctrines. Japan and South Korea are sure to be rattled. In the worst case, they could feel compelled to acquire nuclear weapons of their own. This would create dangerous uncertainties for both us and China. What should we do? Mike and I suggest three things. Piling up unnecessary nuclear kindling — uneconomical plutonium stockpiles and production plants as well enrichment capacity in excess of civilian demand — makes no sense. It should stop in China and Japan and not begin in South Korea or the United States. Meanwhile, the United States should focus its military modernization efforts on systems that would diminish the value of nuclear arms. These would include advanced space systems, long-rang precision strike weaponry, and submersible technologies. Developing these systems would encourage China to invest in nonnuclear naval and air defensive systems— weaponry incapable of doing direct harm to the US or our Asian allies.  
Op-Eds & Blogs
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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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