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Annex: Attributes of Proliferation Resistance for Civilian Nuclear Power Systems

The NERAC1 Task Force on Technology Opportunities for Increasing the Proliferation Resistance of Global Civilian Nuclear Power Systems (TOPS) determined at its first meeting in November 1999 that a set of metrics was needed to judge proliferation resistance and to identify areas in which technical contributions could be useful. However, because of the time constraints imposed on the Task Force and the difficulty of developing quantifiable metrics, it was decided that a set of qualitative attributes could be developed and would be useful in providing a framework for both future discussions and for the development of a set of quantifiable metrics.

This annex represents input to the TOPS as a framework to eventually compare and rate different technologies. This “attributes” framework is still in development. Additional work will help refine many of the discussions and ratings of the specific barriers to proliferation, enhancing the utility of the framework. In some cases, further work will allow a broader range of distinctions to be made in the degree of proliferation barriers posed by the features of a nuclear system. At the present stage of development, this framework cannot be used to quantitatively score or rank technologies. Also, in lacking a system to estimate the weights of various attributes, this framework is limited to comparisons of the effectiveness of each attribute among civilian nuclear power systems and proliferation threat scenarios.

Introduction

The choice between nuclear power systems leading to an acceptable growth in nuclear power among many countries must take into account a number of factors, including economic competitiveness, acceptable safety standards, acceptable waste disposal options, and acceptable risks of nuclear- weapon proliferation from such nuclear power systems. A process and a set of attributes (attribute: a quality, character, characteristic, or property) are proposed with which to compare the relative proliferation resistance among civilian nuclear power systems. These attributes help identify R&D areas that will open potential ways to enhance the proliferation resistance of the fuel cycle as nuclear power generation continues, and even expands, worldwide. The overall goal is to optimize the proliferation resistance of the civilian cycle such that it remains the less-preferred route to nuclear weapons development. Although civilian facilities can produce materials for nuclear weapons, most if not all those nations that have acquired nuclear weapons have done so using dedicated facilities, not through diversions from safeguarded civilian power facilities. Diversion from civilian research facilities has been tried on occasion and civilian programs can also serve as a cover to acquire the requisite skills, knowledge, and equipment.

 

Proliferation-resistance attributes should compare different schemes as easily as possible, identifying their relative merits and weaknesses. The current light-water reactor (LWR) system using once-through fuel serves as the basis for comparison. The LWR is the system in widest use today, and there is considerable documentation on their economics and safety, on the proposed disposition of their waste, and on their proliferation resistance.

We were guided by the extensive work of the U.S. National Academy of Sciences’ Committee on International Security and Arms Control2 and the Panel on Reactor-Related Options for the Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium.3 Although the materials and facilities involved here are far more extensive, and the options for proliferation far more varied, their work (and that of the more recent Interim Report by the Panel to Review the Spent-Fuel Standard for Disposition of Excess Weapons Plutonium4) is applicable to deriving attributes for the proliferation resistance of the entire civilian fuel cycle.

In the proposed framework, attributes are used qualitatively, realizing they would have additional utility if they could be transformed into quantifiable metrics which then could readily and objectively be compared with different systems or subsystems. In many cases, this is difficult or impractical, and it is not attempted in this study.

To develop a comprehensive set of attributes, the proliferation threats associated with each civilian nuclear power system must be identified, these threats examined and the barriers to them identified, and the associated relationships must be analyzed. Barriers are the counters to vulnerabilities (i.e., where vulnerabilities exist in the fuel cycle, sufficient barriers should exist to prevent their exploitation). Civilian nuclear power systems are examined systematically, from mining to disposal, to determine distinct threats and to evaluate barriers against each threat. These barriers can be examined at each point in the fuel cycle to identify the attributes of a civilian nuclear energy system for its proliferation resistance. Thus, the framework for developing attributes includes:

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identifying the proliferation threats and the linkage between fuel-cycle activities and proliferation. identifying various barriers to the threats. for each system or subsystem, outlining the important attributes that characterize the effectiveness of the barriers.