James M. Acton

Nuclear Policy Program
Acton is co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. A physicist by training, Acton specializes in nonproliferation, deterrence, and disarmament.


PhD, Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University




James M. Acton is co-director of  the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. A physicist by training, Acton specializes in deterrence, disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. His current research focuses on the nuclear fuel cycle in Japan and hypersonic conventional weapons.

Acton’s publications span the field of nuclear policy. He is the author of two Adelphi books, Deterrence During Disarmament: Deep Nuclear Reductions and International Security and Abolishing Nuclear Weapons (with George Perkovich). He wrote, with Mark Hibbs, “Why Fukushima Was Preventable,” a groundbreaking study into the accident’s root causes. His analysis on proliferation threats, including Iran and North Korea, has been widely disseminated by major journals, newspapers, and websites.

Acton is a member of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Cuts and of the Nuclear Security Working Group. He is a former member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and was co-chair of the Next Generation Working Group on U.S.-Russian arms control. He has provided evidence to the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

Acton has published in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Survival, and the Washington Quarterly. He has appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and PBS NewsHour.

  • Podcast January 6, 2015
    Conventional Prompt Global Strike

    China has concerns about how the U.S. conventional prompt global strike program might affect East Asian stability.

  • Year in Crisis December 10, 2014 Русский 中文
    The World in 2015

    Our take on the year ahead.

  • Op-Ed Independent Military Review November 21, 2014
    A New High-Speed Arms Race

    Clear evidence has recently emerged that a new arms race in ultra-fast, long-range weapons may be brewing between the United States, China, and Russia.

  • Op-Ed National Interest November 4, 2014
    Who Cares about an Iranian Nuclear Breakout? Beware of an Atomic “Sneak-out”

    Negotiations over Iran’s nuclear program are foundering on the question of how much enrichment capacity it can be permitted. It’s time for America to rethink its strategy for preventing Tehran from getting the Bomb.

  • Op-Ed Defense One September 17, 2014
    Why Do We Need 'Hypersonic' Strike Weapons, Exactly?

    It’s hard to dispute the notion that before spending billions of dollars on a new weapon, the Pentagon ought to be able to explain what it’s for. So it’s surprising how often this rule isn’t followed. Take the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon.

  • Op-Ed Arms Control Wonk September 4, 2014 Русский
    Crashing Glider, Hidden Hotspring

    On August 7, China conducted a test of a hypersonic weapon. Open-source information about what happened that day in a remote part of Inner Mongolia allows for a few observations.

  • Op-Ed National Interest August 6, 2014 Русский
    How to Respond to Russia’s INF Treaty Violation

    Some are calling for the Obama administration to retaliate by backing out of this or other arms-control treaties. There are better options.

  • Op-Ed Nature June 25, 2014
    Nuclear-Weapons Dismantlement: Identifying a Hidden Warhead

    A means of verifying that nuclear warheads to be dismantled are genuine items has been proposed that potentially reveals no information to an inspector about the design of the weapons.

  • Rand Corporation June 9, 2014
    The Enduring Relevance of the Cold War

    The epithet “Cold War,” as applied to nuclear strategy, is almost never meant kindly. No part of the intellectual inheritance from the Cold War is more frequently maligned than the concept of strategic stability.

  • Intelligence and National Security June 4, 2014
    International Verification and Intelligence

    While intelligence sharing creates risks for both national intelligence agencies and international verification organizations, it is ultimately critical to the effective verification of arms control agreements.

  • International Institute for Strategic Studies March 14, 2011
    Deterrence During Disarmament: Deep Nuclear Reductions and International Security

    Although Russia, the United States, and American allies have been loath to downsize their nuclear arsenals, deep reductions would not undermine a nation’s security since arsenal size has little bearing on effectiveness of deterrence.

  • Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace February 13, 2009
    Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate

    A distinguished group of experts from thirteen countries explore how to overcome obstacles to nuclear disarmament and pose questions that require further official and nongovernmental deliberation.

  • Adelphi Paper September 16, 2008
    Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

    In this new Adelphi Paper published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), George Perkovich and James M. Acton examine the challenges that exist to abolishing nuclear weapons completely, and suggest what can be done now to start overcoming them.


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