At present, there is a surprising lack of academic debate and research about the global, regional and national security consequences of the spread of nuclear knowledge and technology, and about how the international and regional communities can cope with this spread. There is general agreement that in the nuclear renaissance many countries will have access to plutonium that could potentially be used to fabricate nuclear weapons, both by countries and by terrorists, since the information needed to produce nuclear weapons is widely available. But there is still a poor understanding of the range of risks present in an unregulated nuclear world.
This report discusses some of the more serious security issues that will be associated with a nuclear renaissance, including:
- The shortage of high-quality uranium for use as nuclear fuel
- The consequences of the use of fast breeder reactors (FBRs) and the widespread use of plutonium to fuel them
- The increased risk in a plutonium economy of the spread of nuclear weapons to both countries and terrorist groups.
Before discussing these security implications, the paper sets the context by describing important elements of the nuclear fuel cycle and by addressing issues related to uranium supply and the changing technology being used in nuclear power reactors.
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