In the coming years, new fuel cycle technologies—notably laser enrichment and pyroprocessing— may be commercialized, sparking a vigorous debate about their proliferation impacts. Advocates and critics have, however, tended to talk at cross-purposes. The former have argued that safeguards can effectively mitigate proliferation risks while the latter have argued that, once a technology is commercialized, its diffusion is more-or-less inevitable. These issues are of huge policy significance. Within the United States, the Nuclear Regulatory Commission is currently considering a petition asking it to conduct nonproliferation impact assessments of new technologies. Meanwhile, negotiations between the United States and South Korea over a renewal of their nuclear cooperation agreement have foundered on the question of pyroprocessing. So, what proliferation concerns are associated with new fuel cycle technologies? Have they been overblown? How should we assess proliferation risks? And, who should perform the assessment?
Jeffrey Lewis, Soon Heung Chang, Nancy Jo Nicholas, and Francis Slakey address these questions. Share your comments and questions below.