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NNSS Course
Brookhaven National Laboratory
Bldg. 197C
PO Box 5000
Upton, NY 11973


Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safeguards, and Security

in the 21st Century

Course Outline- Week 1

Why We Have a Nonproliferation Regime and How it Developed

Part One: Why
Part Two: How

Part One: Why

In 1934 Leo Szilard obtained a patent on the nuclear chain reaction, which in 1936 he assigned to the British Admiralty to protect its secrecy. In 1939, motivated by concern about possible German development of nuclear weapons, he convinced Albert Einstein to alert President Roosevelt to its military ramifications. This led to the creation in 1942 of the Manhattan Project. The immense destructive power of nuclear weapons was demonstrated in the two nuclear attacks on Japan in 1945. Some efforts to control nuclear energy began immediately after the World War II, but without success. The Soviet Union tested a nuclear explosive device in 1949, the British in 1952, the French in 1960, and the Chinese in 1964.

As nuclear weapons technology spread it became apparent that without effective international controls the world could uncomfortably anticipate the possibility of many more nuclear weapon states. In 1962, President John F. Kennedy famously predicted that "by 1970, there may be 10 nuclear powers instead of four and, by 1975, 15 or 20." But in addition to the first five states to do so, only India (1974 and 1998), North Korea (2006), and Pakistan (1998) have since tested a nuclear weapon.

At the same time, it was recognized that peaceful uses of nuclear energy could be a great benefit to the world. How to prevent or limit the spread of nuclear weapons while promoting the peaceful uses introduced the need for a nuclear nonproliferation regime that has become increasingly complex as the world faces evolving nuclear challenges.

Topics include:

  • Overview
  • The nuclear fuel cycle and nuclear weapons
  • Peaceful uses of nuclear and other radioactive materials
  • Acheson-Lilienthal Report/ Baruch Plan/ Atoms for Peace
  • U.S. and Soviet strategic arms control
  • Nuclear testing and strategic arms control - Eisenhower through the George W. Bush administrations


Acheson-Lilienthal Report.

President Eisenhower's 1953 Address to the UNGA.

George Bunn and Christopher F. Chyba, "U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policies for a New Era," chapter 8 in George Bunn and Christopher F. Chyba, editors, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy. (Brookings 2006).

Kathleen Bailey, "Why Do We Have to Keep the Bomb?" Bulleting of Atomic Scientists. (January/February 1995).

Ivo Daalder and Jan Lodal, "The Logic of Zero: Toward a World Without Nuclear Weapons," Foreign Affairs. (November/December 2008).

Mohamed ElBaradei - Nobel Lecture, Oslo, December 10, 2005:

George P. Shultz, William J. Perry, Henry Kissinger, and Sam Nunn. “A World Without Nuclear Weapons,” Wall Street Journal (January 4, 2007 and January 15, 2008).

Part Two: How

Over the past 60 years the United States has used unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral tools for addressing the spread of nuclear weapons to additional states. The result is what we broadly refer to as the nuclear nonproliferation regime – treaties, other multilateral arrangements, institutions, and formal organizations. The keystone of the regime is the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT). The overwhelming majority of states have decided that their interests are best served by becoming party to the NPT and forgoing the option of building nuclear weapons. Why have they done so? And why has a small but notable group of countries remained outside the Treaty?

Topics include:

  • National measures
  • Treaties - eg., NPT, Nuclear Weapons Free Zones, Test Ban, Fissile Material Cut-Off Treaty
  • Organizations - IAEA, UN Security Council
  • Multilateral arrangements - Zangger Committee, Nuclear Suppliers Group (NSG)
  • Nuclear Proliferation since conclusion of NPT -
         (a) Canada, Australia, Sweden, Switzerland
         (b) Israel, India, Pakistan, South Africa
         (c) Iraq, North Korea, Iran


George Bunn, "The Nuclear Nonproliferation Regime and its History," chapter 3 in George Bunn and Christopher F. Chyba, editors, U.S. Nuclear Weapons Policy. (Brookings, 2006).

David Hafemeister, “The Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty: Effectively Verifiable,” Arms Control Today (October 2008).

Jean du Preez, “The Fissban: Time for a Renewed Commitment or a New Approach?” Disarmament Diplomacy 79 (April/May 2005).

Siegfried S. Hecker and William Lou, “Dangerous Dealings: North Korea’s Nuclear Capabilities and the Threat of Export to Iran,” Arms Control Today (March 2007).

Mark Fitzpatrick, “Lessons from Iran’s Pursuit of Nuclear Weapons,” The Nonproliferation Review (November 2006).

C. Raja Mohan, “India and the Balance of Power,” Foreign Affairs (May/June 2006).

Gerald M. Steinberg, "Examining Israel's NPT Exceptionalism: 1998-2005," The Nonproliferation Review. (March 2006).

Sharon Squassoni, "Closing Pandora's Box: Pakistan's Role in Nuclear Proliferation," Arms Control Today (April 2004).

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Last Modified: December 2, 2010
Please forward all questions about this site to: Cathy Osiecki