Policy experts and heads of states have wrung their hands about the weaponization of nuclear energy programs for decades.
By Daniel Oberhaus | MOTHERBOARD
A study released on Monday in the journal International Security found that national nuclear energy programs “rarely” lead to the development of nuclear weapons.
This is contrary to a longstanding assumption among nuclear policy advisors and heads of state that the development of nuclear energy and the proliferation of nuclear weapons are closely linked. Last month, President Trump called for tougher sanctions on Iran for violating its landmark 2015 nuclear deal with the US, even though the country’s uranium enrichment program has successfully been scaled back to peaceful uses.
The tendency to link the peaceful use of nuclear energy with its weaponization is clearly persistent, but as demonstrated by this new study, it’s an association without much historical evidence. The majority of countries that have developed nuclear weapons either did so before developing commercial nuclear energy, or in tandem. As noted by the study, “Why Nuclear Energy Rarely Leads to Proliferation,” a country’s pursuit of nuclear energy results in increased international scrutiny of that country and raises the costliness of nonproliferation sanctions, which has the effect of disincentivizing the development of nuclear weapons by that country.