Nuclear Proliferation

March 17, 1978

Report Outline
U.S. Nuclear Export Policy
Changes in Control Strategy
Search for Safer Technologies
Special Focus

U.S. Nuclear Export Policy

Carter's Campaign to Restrict Technology

After a rocky beginning, President Carter's campaign to limit the further proliferation of nuclear weapons appears to be gaining support at home and abroad. Since taking office Carter has been trying to persuade other nations to follow America's lead by stopping — or at least reducing — the export of nuclear power technology that can be used for military purposes. What concerns the President is not the sale of nuclear reactors themselves. The danger lies in the ability of more countries to enrich uranium and reprocess used reactor fuel. It is in these stages of the nuclear fuel cycle that weapons-grade nuclear material — plutonium or highly enriched uranium — is produced.

“The benefits of nuclear power are … very real and practical,” Carter said in a policy statement issued on April 7, 1977. “But a serious risk accompanies worldwide use of nuclear power — the risk that components of the nuclear power process will be turned to providing atomic weapons.” Carter said that the United States would “defer indefinitely the commercial reprocessing and recycling of plutonium” and would instead accelerate research “into alternative fuel cycles which do not involve direct access to materials usable in nuclear weapons.”

Deferral of plutonium reprocessing and recycling also was recommended last year by the Nuclear Energy Policy Study Group — a 21-member committee set up by the Ford Foundation and the Mitre Corporation of McLean, Va. In its final report, the committee said that a decision by the United States to proceed with these technologies “would probably ensure worldwide movement to incorporate plutonium in the fuel cycle.” In the committee's view, the proliferation of nuclear weapons capability “is the most serious risk associated with nuclear power.”

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jul. 29, 2016  Modernizing the Nuclear Arsenal
Mar. 08, 2002  Weapons of Mass Destruction
Jan. 31, 1997  Chemical and Biological Weapons
Jun. 24, 1994  Nuclear Arms Cleanup
Jun. 05, 1992  Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 29, 1990  Obstacles to Bio-Chemical Disarmament
Apr. 22, 1988  The Military Build-Down in the 1990s
May 24, 1987  Euromissile Negotiations
Jul. 11, 1986  Chemical Weapons
Apr. 27, 1984  Reagan's Defense Buildup
Jun. 04, 1982  Civil Defense
Jul. 17, 1981  Controlling Nuclear Proliferation
Jun. 05, 1981  MX Missile Decision
Aug. 15, 1980  The Neutron Bomb and European Defense
Sep. 07, 1979  Atomic Secrecy
Mar. 17, 1978  Nuclear Proliferation
May 27, 1977  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1977  Politics of Strategic Arms Negotiations
Nov. 15, 1974  Nuclear Safeguards
Jul. 01, 1970  Nuclear Balance of Terror: 25 Years After Alamogordo
Jun. 18, 1969  Chemical–Biological Weaponry
Jun. 30, 1965  Atomic Proliferation
Mar. 21, 1962  Nuclear Testing Dilemmas
Aug. 16, 1961  Shelters and Survival
Oct. 12, 1959  Chemical-Biological Warfare
May 13, 1959  Nuclear Test Ban
Dec. 04, 1957  Scientific Cooperation and Atlantic Security
May 15, 1957  Changing Defense Concepts
Jul. 03, 1956  Civil Defense, 1956
Nov. 16, 1955  International Arms Deals
Oct. 04, 1954  Industrial Defense
Apr. 15, 1954  National Defense Strategy
Feb. 10, 1954  New Aproaches to Atomic Control
Oct. 10, 1953  Atomic Information
Apr. 11, 1952  Biological Warfare
Oct. 03, 1951  World Arms Race
Feb. 04, 1948  International Control of Atomic Energy
Dec. 06, 1946  International Inspection
Aug. 27, 1943  Gas Warfare
Jul. 24, 1937  The New Race in Armaments
May 05, 1932  Abolition of Aggressive Weapons
Arms Control and Disarmament
Hazardous Substances and Nuclear Waste
Nuclear Energy