June 28, 2024 | Nonproliferation Policy Education Center

Toward an International Norm against Enrichment and Reprocessing Proliferation

June 28, 2024 | Nonproliferation Policy Education Center

Toward an International Norm against Enrichment and Reprocessing Proliferation

Excerpt

The quinquennial review conference on the 1968 Nuclear NonProliferation Treaty (NPT), tentatively scheduled to take place in August 2022, provides the United States and its allies with an opportunity to make new commitments not to proliferate sensitive technologies that could contribute to the spread of nuclear weapons. The proliferation of advanced fuel cycle capabilities by such countries as Iran and North Korea, and the latter’s development of atomic weapons, have created interminable obstacles to regional and international security. This paper recommends that at the upcoming NPT review conference, as a leader in creating and sustaining global norms, the United States should announce an official moratorium on providing new enrichment and reprocessing (E&R) capabilities – the key processes that produce nuclear explosive material – and seek the commitment of key partners to forgo further supply and novel E&R acquisition. In doing so, Washington can lay the groundwork for a reinvigorated, enduring policy to encourage a broader international interpretation that the NPT’s intent is contrary to spreading E&R capabilities.

This paper suggests that U.S. and allied support for enhanced nonproliferation policy measures offers means to solidify a norm 39 against new E&R acquisition, including offers of incentives for states not to acquire E&R technology, punitive sanctions, diplomatic pressure to halt, deter, or reverse possession, supply restrictions, and support for control regimes and safeguards. Where possible, the United States must reverse existing exceptions to E&R supply. With Washington’s prolonged effort and sustained
leadership, E&R acquisition and supply to additional states could rise to the level of a violation of an international norm.

Andrea Stricker is deputy director of the Nonproliferation and Biodefense Program and a research fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.

Issues:

Iran Nuclear Nonproliferation North Korea U.S. Defense Policy and Strategy