Update (1/8/08): Consensus statement here.
A great bunch of contributions. Here are the ones that have come in since my last week’s summary.
I will need to write at least three posts to bring things together. First, in this post, I’ll summarize two new ideas that have been presented. Then I’ll write a condensed overall summary. Then I’ll evaluate the project. And somewhere in all that, I’d like to write a review of the four books I mentioned in the challenge post.
This week is looking pretty busy, so the three posts may be spread out over several days – even as late as Thursday or Friday.
But let’s get to those new ideas.
Dave Schuler is thinking about how to make the manufacture of nuclear weapons more expensive, so that even smaller nations can’t make them. He hasn’t pulled it all together yet, but he provides some food for though on several aspects of the economics of nuclear weapons.
Israel’s attack on Iraq’s Osirak reactor back in 1981 may have had the effect of raising the cost of developing nuclear weapons. Indeed, the perceived willingness of countries to attack the nuclear weapons development programs of prospective opponents has the effect of raising the cost of developing nuclear weapons by increasing the need for secrecy, hardening of development sites, etc. These things aren’t free.He goes on to estimate the cost of enriched uranium if you’re producing it from yellowcake, which turns out to be very much indeed. But stealing enriched uranium or a weapon saves on the capital costs, so he also suggests
Consider, for example, an international agency with the funding to buy and store a lot of uranium and a program something like the handgun turn-in programs that exist in some cities in which you can turn in handguns and be compensated for them no questions asked. Couldn’t black market HEU be removed from the market by buying it?Mark Safranski, in addition to a historical overview that is worth reading, considers the failure of a nuclear-armed state.
An international “quick reaction” agreement in place in case of a nuclear club member undergoing state failure and anarchy that imposes nuclear security obligations on all nuclear weapons powers and an intervention process until a new government can exercise responsibility over the nuclear arsenal. Pakistan is the poster-boy candidate here but we should not oversetimate how quickly seeemingly secure states can disintegrate. We were all very lucky in 1991.I’ll add that in 1991, Secretary of State James Baker and others scrambled to forge the Lisbon Protocol to START I, in which the new nuclear nations of Ukraine, Belarus and Kazakhstan agreed to ship their nuclear weapons to Russia and to join the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty as non nuclear weapon states. I think there is some material there, at least in the thinking and diplomacy that went into the Lisbon Protocol, that might be generalizable to Mark’s suggestion.
Phila responded to Mark’s suggestion with a couple of his own, that the UN might hold a repository for strike codes, or there might be a single arsenal under multinational control. I’ll add that this dovetails with Schuler’s idea of an international agency to buy up the black-market uranium.
Both of these clusters of ideas need more fleshing-out. I can see many ways they might go. New ideas like this are exactly what I was hoping would come out of our discussion.
And this is probably the place to add an aside that Shane Deichmans provided on the future of the national laboratories. This is an extremely complicated issue, but the size of the nuclear arsenal is one of the drivers for how the national laboratories are sized and what kind of work they will be doing. This is a topic worthy of another blog-tank, at least. I might be willing to take it on, but I want to come to some sort of closure on nuclear weapons policy first.