In this chapter, the committee addresses the first task in the study charge:
TASK 1: Identify key proliferation policy questions capable of being answered by a technical assessment of the host-state proliferation risk posed by a given nuclear fuel cycle, and discuss the utility of these questions for informing international nonproliferation policy decisions.
The first section addresses peaceful nuclear cooperation with target states with attention to Nuclear Cooperation Agreements. The second describes export controls and licenses of nuclear material through the Nuclear Suppliers Group guidelines. The last part of the chapter presents policy questions aimed toward research and development (R&D) of future safeguards.
The committee approached this task by first identifying a broad set of policy decisions that are often made and are related to the proliferation risk of the nuclear fuel cycle. These include whether and how to peacefully engage in a nuclear cooperation with a specific country, whether to approve a company’s request for an export license, future directions for U.S. nuclear fuel cycle R&D, priorities for nuclear safeguards, and possible changes in regulatory policy. In each of these cases, technical assessment of proliferation risk plays an important role in informing the decision-making process but is not the only input. Indeed, political, economic, environmental, and safety considerations are almost always relevant and, depending on the circumstances, may be given more weight in arriving at the final outcome.
Technical assessments are made using a variety of approaches, depending on the issue. In many cases, technical assessments are designed to address a question about the risk of a particular nuclear technology or capability in the context of a specific country or region. Such assessments are frequently performed by multidisciplinary teams, often in close collaboration with the intelligence community. They bring technical analysis together with in-depth knowledge of the country in question, and utilize a variety of approaches including hypothesis testing, scenario building to examine possibilities, trend analysis to look at patterns over time, and analysis of host-state technical capabilities. As
far as the committee was able to determine, these assessments do not use probabilistic risk assessment5 in their analysis. For a relatively small subset of questions concerning the relative proliferation resistance of a particular nuclear fuel cycle against existing fuel cycles (usually once-through cycles), technical assessments have been made using a “predefined framework” methodology. Such methodologies provide a structured approach for comparing the technical barriers to the proliferation of different generalized nuclear fuel cycles (see Chapter 3).
To illustrate the role of technical assessments in nonproliferation policy decisions related to the nuclear fuel cycle, we identify questions in three interrelated categories and discuss how technical assessments contribute to answering them. These categories are
• peaceful international nuclear cooperation agreements,
• export control, and
• nuclear fuel cycle R&D and nuclear safeguards.
PEACEFUL INTERNATIONAL NUCLEAR COOPERATION
Peaceful International nuclear cooperation takes many forms, ranging from cooperation on nuclear safety to fuel cycle R&D. Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act6 stipulates that a Nuclear Cooperation Agreement must satisfy specific nonproliferation requirements (see Box 2.1). Decisions to enter into Nuclear Cooperation Agreements (often referred to as 123 Agreements) require extensive interagency evaluations and must ultimately be approved by Congress. A Nuclear Proliferation Assessment Statement (NPAS) is prepared as part of this process, which includes
• background of the nonproliferation policies of the country in question;
• anticipated general areas of potential cooperation;
• summary of anticipated issues requiring U.S. advanced consent before the partner country can carry out certain activities using U.S.-supplied nuclear material, equipment, technology, or facilities;
• review of how the agreement will meet the nine criteria established by Section 123 of the U.S. Atomic Energy Act (see Box 2.1); and
• assessment of how the agreement is in the interests of the United States.
The NPAS is not a technical document and generally does not provide details of specific topics for cooperation. It is anticipated that these specific topics would be negotiated at a future time and be subject to additional approval processes, including export control. There is often a classified annex to the NPAS, which can provide greater technical details about potential issues.
5 See Appendix E: Glossary for a short definition of and reference for probabilistic risk assessment.
6 Atomic Energy Act of 1954 as amended, Public Law 83-703, Section 123.
Although technical assessments of proliferation risk might not be requested explicitly during the process of preparing the NPAS, technical analysis informs the discussion of the nonproliferation issues and bona fides of the country in question. Technical assessments would also be relevant during the negotiating process in delineating particular restrictions that should apply to the cooperation. Analysis to inform the process would be done on a case-by-case basis tailored to the particular country in question and would synthesize information about technical capabilities, political motives, past behaviors, as well as overall analysis of the regional security situation. Of all of these factors, host-state motivation is perhaps the most difficult to assess because it ultimately depends on the subjective decision making of political leaders.
Examples of questions addressed in the NPAS that require some level of technical judgment include:
• Is the country compliant with international nonproliferation commitments? Is it engaged in nuclear cooperation with countries of proliferation concern?
• Has the country engaged in R&D relevant to nuclear weapons now or in the past? Does it have the technical capability to make nuclear weapons?
• What are the country’s civilian nuclear energy aspirations, capabilities, expertise, and infrastructure?
• What will be the nonproliferation impacts of the anticipated cooperation (e.g. increased security)?
While Congress makes export control laws, the U.S. government officials within the Executive Branch implement the laws through policies and international commitments about nuclear exports. International policies require consensus and are harmonized within the Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG). International policies provide guidelines for specific nuclear exports according to a series of conditions. International guidelines are not mandatory, but they often become the basis for the national export controls that nuclear exporters are required to impose on particular commodities and technologies destined for specific countries.
Internationally, the NSG has a particularly important role.7 The NSG is a group of nuclear supplier countries that seeks to hinder if not prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons through the implementation of general “guidelines” for nuclear energy and
7 The Nuclear Suppliers Group is an international, consensus-based group of participating governments (PGs) which seeks to contribute to the non-proliferation of nuclear weapons by defining and maintaining guidelines for nuclear exports and nuclear related exports. See the website for the Nuclear Suppliers Group: http://www.nuclearsuppliersgroup.org/Leng/default.htm . The NSG Guidelines have been published in the IAEA document, INFCIRC/539: http://www.iaea.org/Publications/Documents/Infcircs/1997/inf539.shtml.
Atomic Energy Act Section 123 Agreement Analysis Requirements
The nine nonproliferation requirements listed within the Atomic Energy Act’s Section 123 are:
• All nuclear material and equipment transferred to the country will remain under safeguards in perpetuity.
• For non-nuclear weapon states, full-scope International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards must be applied to all nuclear facilities and materials under their control.
• Non-nuclear weapons states commit that transferred material, equipment, technology (or material made from them) will not have a role in development or research into nuclear weapons.
• For non-nuclear weapon states, the United States has the right to demand the return of transferred items should the country detonate a nuclear device or violate an IAEA safeguards agreement.
• The United States must consent to any retransfer of material, facility, or restricted data received under the 123 Agreement, or material produced from these.
• Adequate physical security must be applied to transferred nuclear material and all special nuclear material produced from materials or facilities transferred under the agreement.
• Prior consent from the United States must be provided before enriching, reprocessing, or otherwise altering any material obtained or produced under the agreement.
• Prior consent from the United States must be provided before storing plutonium, uranium-233 (U-233), or uranium enriched above 20% obtained or produced under the agreement.
• Any special nuclear material or production or facilities produced or constructed under the agreement will be subject to all of the above conditions.
nuclear energy–related technology transfer exports while also supporting legitimate trade within the industry. NSG Guidelines address items in two categories: trigger list items especially designed for nuclear use (materials, equipment, facilities, or technologies) and which can be directly used to make nuclear weapons (for example, centrifuges); and dual-use items that can make a major contribution to an unsafeguarded nuclear fuel cycle or nuclear explosive activity, but which have nonnuclear uses as well (e.g., high-strength aluminum tubes).
Member states of the NSG meet periodically to review the items on these lists as well as the guidelines. In preparation for these reviews, technical assessments are requested to answer questions (Bedell 2012) such as
• Does the item have an important function in the nuclear fuel cycle or in nuclear weapon design, manufacturing, or testing?
• Have countries seeking nuclear weapons sought the item in the past or might they do so in the future?
• Is controlling access to the item feasible or is the item internationally accessible?
• What would be the impact on nonnuclear trade? What would be the licensing burden?
• How many suppliers are there for the item? Are there sources of supply outside the control regime?
• Are there cost-effective substitutions for item?
• Would alternative paths to proliferation also need to be identified and safeguards developed to prevent them?
At a national level, an export license is required to export certain items or commodities (e.g., a reactor cooling pump) to certain countries. The interagency process of reviewing requests for export licenses includes technical assessments to address questions such as the following:8
• Is the commodity categorized correctly? What are the restrictions on export of this commodity?
• Is the commodity appropriate for the stated end use?
• Is the stated end use a proliferation concern?
• Does the commodity have application to other uses of concern? If so, what would be required to divert the item to these uses?
• Are the potential concerns significant relative to the country’s current capabilities?
• Are appropriate measures in place to prevent re-export of the technology without U.S. permission?
The committee notes that the technical assessments requested to support export control policy makers on both international and national decisions must systematically address a set of predefined questions, but do not utilize a formal methodology. Subject matter experts familiar with the commodities and the countries in question perform the analyses and produce reports to document their findings.
8 Export Control Review and Compliance, Enforcement and Interdiction Support, Office of Nuclear Controls (DOE, NA-242), (Welihozkiy 2012a–d). Note that this office provides the technical analysis to support decisions but does not make decisions itself. These are made by the U.S. State Department, Department of Commerce, or the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, unless the item is only technology, that is, not tangible, but information, in which case DOE NA-24 makes the recommendation and the general counsel and deputy secretary make the final decision. Use of the word “technology” here is consistent with its use in nuclear exports and refers to information, blueprints, software, or knowledge passed to others.
NUCLEAR FUEL CYCLE R&D AND NUCLEAR SAFEGUARDS
As the nuclear energy market evolves globally, the next generation of nuclear fuel cycle technology proposes safer and cheaper designs. As the primary source of funding for nuclear fuel cycle R&D in the United States and a participant in international R&D forums, such as the Generation IV Forum,9 the DOE-NE currently makes decisions about how to invest its R&D dollars based on several criteria including cost, sustainability, and proliferation risk.10 The committee notes that assessment of proliferation risk of a particular nuclear fuel cycle includes analysis of country-specific factors such as the probability that a country’s leadership would choose to proliferate using a specific fuel cycle and the probability that it would be successful if it chose to do so. The proliferation resistance of the fuel cycle in question could contribute to both of these factors. Potential questions about proliferation resistance of potential future fuel cycles were discussed and determined by the committee to include
• Are there significant differences in resistance to proliferation (e.g., time, cost, physical barriers, safeguard-ability, or transparency) associated with different potential future fuel cycles compared with those that exist today?
• Can extrinsic measures such as physical security and international safeguards, intrinsic measures such as reactor design or material composition, or new operational concepts significantly increase resistance?
Questions about the larger issue of proliferation risk are highly dependent on the intent and motivation of the host state, which include political and technical conditions at the time of fuel cycle deployment as well as the details of the facility design and application of safeguards. It is difficult to project how these conditions could feasibly contribute to decisions about R&D for new fuel cycles that might not be deployed for 20-30 years.
In addition to questions about proliferation resistance of future nuclear fuel cycles, policy makers in the United States and internationally continually grapple with questions about how to invest resources effectively to detect and impede proliferation. These issues are important in arguing for new approaches to IAEA safeguards and in determining R&D priorities for “next-generation safeguards,” where increasing proliferation resistance of existing fuel cycles whether through intrinsic (inherent to the fuel cycle) or extrinsic (application of safeguards) approaches is an important goal.11 An example of a question that requires technical analysis is
9In nuclear energy systems, current designs are referred to as “Generation III.” Future fuel cycles are referred to as “Generation IV” (GENIV).
10 The DOE-NE Technology Roadmap currently includes “proliferation risk” as one of four central criteria to be used to guide decisions on R&D for future nuclear fuel cycles. Therefore, the committee purposefully uses “risk” instead of “resistance” in this example.
11 The IAEA uses the Physical Model to organize existing data into the major components of a full nuclear fuel cycle in order identify weaknesses in safeguards.
For a given nuclear fuel cycle and facility, where are barriers to proliferation lowest? How can safeguards be most effective in raising these barriers?
A number of “predefined framework methodologies” have been developed to address questions about proliferation resistance and are discussed further in Chapter 3. Indeed, the remainder of this report is concerned primarily with these predefined methodologies and their applications.
FINDING 1.1: Technical assessments related to aspects of proliferation risk do make valuable contributions to nonproliferation policy decisions on a broad range of topics such as peaceful international nuclear cooperation, export control, nuclear fuel cycle R&D, and nuclear safeguards. However, technical assessments do not fully answer nonproliferation policy questions. Final decisions also include consideration of a much broader set of political, security, economic, and cultural issues.