July 24, 2013
Preventing the production and accumulation of fissile material is an important objective of nuclear nonproliferation efforts. Unfortunately, the nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) exempts the fuel used in naval propulsion reactors from the constraints the treaty otherwise applies to enriching uranium beyond the levels used in civilian power reactors. As the number of countries with nuclear-powered submarines expands, this exclusionposes a growing risk to achieving the nonproliferation goals of the treaty.
The United States and Britain are both poised to make long-lasting decisions on replacements for current classes of nuclear ballistic missile submarines that use weapons-grade uranium in their reactors. Brazil, meanwhile, has become the first NPT non-nuclear-weapon state to begin building a nuclear-powered submarine. The reactor designs chosen by these three countries and the degree to which the IAEA attempts to regulate the production, use, and disposition of naval reactor fuel are likely to influence global attempts to rein-in uranium enrichment in states of proliferation concern like Iran.
The the full text of the brief "The Naval Nuclear Reactor Threat to the NPT" is available online.
# # #
The Arms Control Association (ACA) is an independent nongovernmental organization dedicated to addressing the challenges posed by the world's most dangerous weapons.