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.

  • Policy Outlook September 29, 2015
    A Realistic Approach to Solving Japan’s Plutonium Problem

    There is a serious risk that, within the next few years, Japan will produce more plutonium than it can use. The resulting buildup would set a damaging precedent, exacerbate regional tensions, and increase the likelihood of nuclear terrorism.

  • Report September 29, 2015 Full Text
    Wagging the Plutonium Dog: Japanese Domestic Politics and Its International Security Implications

    Japan has pledged not to produce more plutonium than it can consume. Serious questions are emerging, however, about whether it can uphold this commitment.

  • Regional Missile Defense from a Global Perspective September 17, 2015
    U.S. National Missile Defense Policy

    U.S. missile defense policy has been remarkably stable since the end of the Cold War. This consensus represents an equilibrium between external threats, domestic politics, and technological and financial realities.

  • Op-Ed Tikkun September 9, 2015
    Apples, Honey, and Centrifuges: How to Talk to Your Jewish Grandmother About the Iran Deal

    With a little preparation, you can survive the conversation with bubbe about the Iran deal.

  • Op-Ed National Interest August 30, 2015
    The Risks of a ‘Better Deal’ with Iran

    If Congress prevents the United States from implementing its part of the deal, it would undercut not only Obama in attempting to a secure a better deal with Iran, but also any future president seeking to prevent proliferation through diplomacy.

  • August 6, 2015
    Parsing the Iran Deal

    An analysis of the Iran deal from a nonproliferation perspective.

  • Op-Ed Foreign Policy July 16, 2015
    Iran Ain’t Gonna Sneak Out Under This Deal

    Under the terms agreed to in Vienna, the country is going to be crawling with inspectors. No one is covertly building a nuclear weapon under this regime.

  • Op-Ed Hill June 25, 2015
    Iran Needs to Come Clean With What, Not Why

    After 18 months of negotiations, one of the remaining challenges to reaching a nuclear deal with Iran is the extent to which Tehran must “come clean” about the history of its nuclear program and, in particular, about apparent efforts to design a nuclear weapon.

  • Testimony U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission April 1, 2015
    China’s Offensive Missile Forces

    The military threat posed by Chinese gliders, should they be deployed, will depend on their range and payload. While regional gliders and nuclear-armed gliders would reinforce the status quo, conventionally armed intercontinental gliders would create a qualitatively new threat.

  • 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.

  • 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.

Source: http://carnegieendowment.org/experts/index.cfm?fa=expert_view&expert_id=434

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