Uranium Power and Horizontal Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons

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Science  01 Jun 1984:
Vol. 224, Issue 4652, pp. 952-957
DOI: 10.1126/science.224.4652.952


Only a few nonnuclear weapons states with uranium-fueled power plants have kept the weapons option open, and none has evidenced activities intended for diverting fissionable material from its civilian system. Analysis of alternative strategies shows that acquisition of nuclear weapons material would probably depend on military production facilities rather than diversion. Horizontal proliferation is primarily a political issue and is related only marginally to uranium power development. Restrictions of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Act on the supply of equipment and fuel by the United States appear to have induced, in some nonnuclear weapons states, the building of small-scale facilities that can be modified for production of weapons material. More attention should be given to the international political, economic, and military factors that persuade such states to abjure nuclear weapons.