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Title: Nuclear Naval Propulsion: A Feasible Proliferation Pathway?

There is no better time than now to close the loophole in Article IV of the Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty (NPT) that excludes military uses of fissile material from nuclear safeguards. Several countries have declared their intention to pursue and develop naval reactor technology, including Argentina, Brazil, Iran, and Pakistan, while other countries such as China, India, Russia, and the United States are expanding their capabilities. With only a minority of countries using low enriched uranium (LEU) fuel in their naval reactors, it is possible that a state could produce highly enriched uranium (HEU) under the guise of a nuclear navy while actually stockpiling the material for a nuclear weapon program. This paper examines the likelihood that non-nuclear weapon states exploit the loophole to break out from the NPT and also the regional ramifications of deterrence and regional stability of expanding naval forces. Possible solutions to close the loophole are discussed, including expanding the scope of the Fissile Material Cut-off Treaty, employing LEU fuel instead of HEU fuel in naval reactors, amending the NPT, creating an export control regime for naval nuclear reactors, and forming individual naval reactor safeguards agreements.
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Related Information: Nuclear Scholars Initiative: A Collection of Papers from the 2013 Nuclear Scholars Initiative, 188-202
Sarah Weiner; Center for Strategic and International Studies, Washington, DC, United States(US).
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Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL), Richland, WA (US)
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Country of Publication:
United States
nonproliferation; Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty; naval propulsion; nuclear security; Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty; proliferation pathway; export controls