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All hands on deck: advancing safeguards for naval nuclear materials


With the continued use of unsafeguarded naval nuclear-propulsion programs in all nuclear-weapon states, the commissioning of an Indian nuclear submarine, and the potential investment in such programs by non-nuclear-weapon states including Brazil and South Korea, movement toward a regulatory regime for nuclear material in the naval sector has become imperative. Such a framework faces a recurring debate on adequately protecting sensitive military technology while delivering assurances that naval nuclear material is not diverted to nuclear-weapon programs. In this viewpoint, we examine various prospective mechanisms to regulate naval nuclear stocks and assess them in terms of their effectiveness and scope. Drawing on lessons from the drafting, negotiation, and implementation of the Model Additional Protocol, we recommend a safeguards regime for naval nuclear material via a protocol that supplements the existing global nuclear-governance system. This protocol provides a standardized yet flexible approach to naval nuclear-material safeguards across all states (whether nuclearweapon states, non-nuclear-weapon states, or outside the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons) to handle variations among naval nuclear fuel cycles and technologies.

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