United States

United States

Nuclear Energy

Nuclear Power Plants

  • Nuclear Power in an Age of Uncertainty, U.S. Congress, Office of Technology Assessment, February 1984. This report, written at the end of the previous era of nuclear power plant construction in the United States, argues that much of the failure of nuclear power plants to prove cost-effective could be attributed to the relatively immaturity of the technology, and that improvements in both the power plants themselves and their management could make the plants viable.
  • U.S. Nuclear Plants in the 21st Century: The Risk of a Lifetime. David Lochbaum, The Union of Concerned Scientists, 2004. The risks for catastrophe change as nuclear reactors age, much like the risks for death by accident and illness change as people get older. Protection schemes must evolve to remain correlated with age if the threat level is to be minimized. For nuclear reactors, it means aggressively monitoring risk during the three stages of plant lifetime: the break-in phase, middle life phase, and wear-out phase. The risk profile for these three phases of life curves like a bathtub. The Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) identified the best ways to manage the risks from nuclear power at all points along the bathtub curve.
  • What History Can Teach US About the Future Costs of US Nuclear Power, Nathan E. Hultman, Jonathan G. Koomey, and Daniel E. Kammen. Paper submitted to Science Policy Forum, 1 August 2006. The authors developed a database of actual electricity costs from 99 individual U.S. nuclear reactors, and used it to analyze the potential for Gen IV reactors to achieve their design objectives. They conclude that “past technology development patterns indicated the importance of including high-cost surprises in the planning process.”

Spent Fuel Management

  • Reducing the Hazards from Stored Spent Power-Reactor Fuel in the United States. Robert Alvarez et al., Science and Global Security 11, 1-51, 2003. Because of the lack of off-site storage capacity for spent reactor fuel in the United States, U.S. spent fuel ponds are holding spent fuel at a density approaching that of reactor cores. This high density storage carries the risk of an accident that could release large amounts of highly radioactive material, as well as making an inviting target for terrorists. To prevent these scenarios, the authors suggest that all spent fuel be moved from wet storage to dry cask storage within five years of being discharged from nuclear reactors.
  • Robust Storage of Spent Nuclear Fuel: A Neglected Issue of Homeland Security. Gordon Thompson, Institute for Resource and Security Studies, January 2003. Arguing that “nuclear power plants and their spent fuel can be regarded as pre-deployed radiological weapons that await activation by an enemy,” this report calls for a robust strategy for storage of US spent fuel “as a major element of a defense-in-depth strategy for US nuclear facilities.”
  • GNEP and the U.S. Spent Fuel Problem, Frank Von Hippel, Congressional Staff Briefing, 10 March 2006. Von Hippel of Princeton University argues that GNEP is costly and unnecessary, as plutonium reprocessing is commercially unviable and increases proliferation concerns. Instead, interim dry cask storage is cheaper, safer, and more proliferation resistant.
  • Experts at AAAS Capitol Hill Briefing See Problems with Nuclear Waste Plans, Paul Recet, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 2 May 2006. Experts at a briefing organized by the AAAS argued that the US Dept. of Energy’s plans for Yucca mountain are inadequate for storing the waste from existing nuclear power plants, let alone any new plants that may be built.
  • New Nukes, Richard K. Lester, Issues in Science and Technology, Summer 2006. Lester, director of the Industrial Performance Center at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, argues that the Bush administration’s plan to reprocess plutonium is doomed to failure, and that dry cask storage remains the best option for dealing with nuclear waste.
  • GNEP and Yucca Mountain, Victor Gilinsky, American Association for the Advancement of Science, 17 February 2007. In this power point presentation, Gilinsky reviews US plans for Yucca Mountain and concludes that its expensive and unnecessary, and based on the idea that the public will not accept new reactors unless there’s a single repository site for the spent fuel.

Nuclear Fuel Cycle

  • U.S. Uranium Reserves Estimate, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Dept. of Energy, June 2004. The U.S. uranium ore reserves reported annually by the EIA for specific maximum forward-cost (MFC) categories represent the sums of quantities estimated to occur in known deposits on properties where data about the ore grade, configuration, and depth indicate that the quantities estimated could be recovered at or less than the stated costs given current mining and milling technology and regulations.
  • Is US reprocessing worth the risk? Steve Fetter and Frank Von Hippel, Arms Control Today, September 2005. Fetter and von Hippel argue that reprocessing does not eliminate the need for a repository, and there is no urgent need for additional repository capacity. Further, the new reprocessing technologies being examined by the Energy Department, if adopted, would make huge additional quantities of plutonium accessible for diversion by terrorist groups and would undercut the ability of the United States to oppose the spread of plutonium-separation technology to additional countries.
  • Plutonium Recycle in the US Nuclear Power System? Richard Garwin, Presentation at AAAS Symposium in San Francisco, 17 February 2007. Garwin, an IBM Fellow Emeritus, discusses in detail the mechanics of plutonium reprocessing and what it would mean for the US nuclear power system.
  • U.S. Uranium Reserves Estimate, Energy Information Administration, U.S. Dept. of Energy, June 2004. The U.S. uranium ore reserves reported annually by the EIA for specific maximum forward-cost (MFC) categories represent the sums of quantities estimated to occur in known deposits on properties where data about the ore grade, configuration, and depth indicate that the quantities estimated could be recovered at or less than the stated costs given current mining and milling technology and regulations.

Nuclear Weapons

U.S. Nuclear Weapons Posture

  • United States Nuclear Forces Guide. Federation of American Scientists. This website contains information about United States nuclear weapons systems, facilities, and organization.
  • Foreign Perspectives on U.S. Nuclear Policy and Posture: Insights, Issues, and Implications. Lewis A. Dunn et al., Science Applications International Corporation, 12 December 2006. After highlighting the most critical findings of the project, this report discusses some possible implications for future U.S. policy of this exploration of foreign perspectives on U.S. nuclear policy and posture. It includes discussion of a series of cross-cutting themes and a set of one-page summaries for specific key countries as well as more detailed results respectively for countries of the P-5, Europe (including NATO), Asia, the Middle East and Africa, and Canada and Latin America.
  • Nuclear Safety and the Saga of the Missing Bent Spear. Hans M. Kristensen, Federation of American Scientists, 22 February 2008. This article discusses the incident when six nuclear weapons went missing for a day at Minot Air Force base, and what the subsequent investigation reveals about the safety of U.S. nuclear weapons.
  • National Security and Nuclear Weapons in the 21st Century. U.S. Dept. of Defense and Dept. of Energy, September 2008. This report argues that nuclear weapons remain a vital part of U.S. security strategy, and calls for Reliable Replacement Warheads to replace aging nuclear warheads currently deployed.

Nonproliferation Policy

  • Beyond Arms Control: How to Deal with Nuclear Weapons. Rose Gottemoeller, Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, February 2003. This article argues that while the United States and Russia need to face the arms control problem, there is no longer a need for a Cold War-style, 500-page treaty like START I because both countries have many ways to know what is going on inside each other’s nuclear arsenal. Today, Washington and Moscow can relegate such cumbersome negotiated treaties to a few essential fronts and pursue exciting, innovative reduction efforts involving scientific and technical cooperation.
  • Remarks Prepared for Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, 2005 Carnegie International Nonproliferation Conference, 7 November 2005. In this speech, Bodman outlines how the US government is approaching the problem of simultaneously promoting the spread of nuclear power while also preventing the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
  • U.S. Nonproliferation Strategy and the Roles and Missions of the Defense and Energy Departments, Hearing of the Emerging Threats and Capabilities Subcommittee of the Senate Armed Services Committee, 29 March 2006. Testimony of Peter Flory, Assistant Secretary Of Defense For International Security Policy; Marine Corps Gen. James Cartwright, Commander, U.S. Strategic Command; Jerry Paul, Principal Deputy Administrator, National Nuclear Security Administration.
  • U.S. Strategy to Combat the Proliferation of WMD. Statement of Robert G. Joseph, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security, to the Senate Armed Services Committee Sub-Committee on Emerging Threats and Capabilities, 29 March 2006
  • Next Steps to Strengthen the National Nuclear Security Administration’s Efforts to Prevent Proliferation. Testimony of Matthew Bunn, Harvard University, to the Senate Subcommittee on Energy and Water Appropriations, 30 April 2008. Bunn argued that while money is not the most important constraint on progress for most of the nation’s efforts to prevent nuclear proliferation and terrorism, there are several areas where additional funds could help reduce major dangers to US national security.
  • Securing the Nonproliferation Capability of the Department of State. Institute for Conflict Analysis and Resolution, George Mason University, August 2008. This article argues that the U.S. State Department, which bears the brunt of the work on nonproliferation and arms control, has lost significant capability to do so. Following the election, the President-elect should appoint a high-caliber individual to head up a task force charged with laying out detailed priorities in nonproliferation and arms control and recommending structural changes needed within the executive branch to achieve those priorities.
  • An Evaluation of the Proliferation Resistant Characteristics of Light Water Reactor Fuel with the Potential for Recycle in the United States, compiled by Alan E. Waltar and Ronald P. Omberg, Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, November 2004. This is the report of a committee of international experts convened by the US Department of Energy to review the nonproliferation potential of advanced light-water reactor fuels. They conclude that the research and development on advanced fuels in the UREX process has the potential for a major nonproliferation advance.