THIS SITE

The threat of the spread of nuclear, chemical, biological and radiological weapons to many countries remains one of the most serious foreign policy issues facing the U.S. today, as is illustrated by the concerns over Iran’s nuclear program.  There is often little technical support for the diverse views expressed on this subject even though the technical details are important.  On this site Gregory S. Jones, who has been a nonproliferation specialist for over forty years, provides non-partisan, independent and in-depth analysis on a variety of proliferation-related issues.  

Latest papers

Gregory S. Jones, “The Role of Boosting in Nuclear Weapons Programs,” July 25, 2017.  Boosting is not an intermediate technology on the road to two-stage thermonuclear weapons.  Four of the five countries that possess two-stage thermonuclear weapons have developed and/or deployed these weapons before boosted weapons.  In countries that have not developed two-stage thermonuclear weapons, stand-alone boosted weapons may be used to provide small, light weapons that use reduced amounts of nuclear material.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here 

.

Gregory S. Jones, “History of U.S. Production of Tritium 1948-1988,” June 12, 2017.  This history demonstrates that though the U.S. tested its first boosted nuclear weapon in 1951, it did not quickly decide to deploy such weapons which the U.S. did not produce until 1957.  The history also shows that at the peak of the U.S. nuclear stockpile in the 1960s, the U.S. tritium stockpile was roughly 100 kilograms.  To produce tritium the U.S. initially used natural lithium but later used lithium enriched up to 50%.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Seven: Nuclear Test Controversies,” May 3, 2017.  This paper is the seventh and last in a series that examines in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper addresses false claims regarding several nuclear tests.  It shows that the 1962 U.S. test of reactor-grade plutonium used plutonium with a Pu-240 content of between 20% and 23%.  This plutonium was produced in British plutonium production reactors.  The British Totem nuclear test series used plutonium which at most was mid-range weapon-grade and therefore did not provide any information regarding the suitability of non-weapon-grade plutonium in nuclear weapons.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, "The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Six: Reactor-Grade Plutonium in the Nuclear Weapon Programs of Sweden, Pakistan and India,” April 3, 2017.  This paper is the sixth in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper shows that both Sweden and Pakistan at one time chose to use reactor-grade plutonium in their nuclear weapon development programs.  India has retained the option to use reactor-grade plutonium in its nuclear weapon program and has possibly already used reactor-grade plutonium to produce up to half of its nuclear arsenal.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Five: Radiation and Critical Mass,” February 27, 2017.  This paper is the fifth in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper shows that neither the increased radiation from reactor-grade plutonium nor its increased critical mass are impediments to the use of reactor-grade plutonium to produce nuclear weapons.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Iran Nuclear Deal One Year Later, Constraints on Iran’s Nuclear Program Have Eroded Significantly,” January 17, 2017.  The Iran Nuclear Deal’s restrictions on Iran’s enrichment and reprocessing capabilities have eroded significantly.  Iran has twice violated the restriction on the size of its heavy water stockpile.  The Deal has cut off access to critical information on almost all aspects of Iran’s nuclear program, making it impossible to determine whether Iran’s current breakout time meets the Deal’s one year goal. To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Four: Heat,” December 15, 2016.  This paper is the fourth in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper shows that the decay heat of plutonium is not an impediment to the use of reactor-grade plutonium to produce nuclear weapons.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Three: Predetonation,” October 25, 2016.  This paper is the third in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper shows that the problem of the predetonation of an unboosted implosion fission weapon is not an impediment to the use of reactor-grade plutonium to produce nuclear weapons.  Moreover, boosted nuclear weapons may become the norm for early stage nuclear weapon states and these weapons are immune to predetonation.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here 


Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part Two,” September 1, 2016.  This paper is the second in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  This paper provides a short history of views regarding the nuclear weapon dangers of reactor-grade plutonium.  It also discusses how the nuclear industry’s desire to recycle plutonium has led it to downplay its dangers.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Myth of ‘Denatured’ Plutonium: Reactor-Grade Plutonium and Nuclear Weapons, Part One,” July 26, 2016.  In 1976 the U.S. revealed that reactor-grade plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons, yet there are still those in the nuclear industry who dispute this fact.  This paper is the first in a series that will examine in detail the nuclear weapon dangers posed by reactor-grade plutonium.  The paper describes some of the basic properties of plutonium, how it is classified into different grades, the variation in reactor fuel burnup and the properties of plutonium produced by different reactor fuels. To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “U.S. Increased Tritium Production Driven by Plan to Increase the Quantity of Tritium per Nuclear Weapon,” June 2, 2016.  Tritium is a vital component of every U.S. nuclear weapon.  The U.S. plans to significantly increase the amount of tritium per weapon.  This change is intended to reduce the frequency with which the tritium reservoirs in the weapons are replaced and to help ensure weapon reliability in an era where there is no nuclear testing.  I have estimated that the average amount of tritium per weapon will increase by about 50% from about 3.2 grams to roughly 4.5 to 5.0 grams.  Tritium production will need to rise significantly and will require the use of a second commercial nuclear power reactor.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The History of the Pu 240 Content of U.S. Weapon-Grade Plutonium,” May 4, 2016.  The declassification of documents related to the operation of the plutonium production reactors at Hanford allows the construction of a history of the Pu 240 content of U.S. weapon-grade plutonium.  In the 1940s the limit on the permissible Pu 240 content was 2.0% due to the relatively slow assembly time associated with early implosion fission weapons.  As implosion technology improved, the Pu 240 limit increased and was as high as 8.8% by 1954.  However, operating problems at Hanford limited the Pu 240 content to 5.5% until 1959, when it was set at its current value of 6.0%.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Reactor: A Potential Source of Plutonium for Nuclear Weapons,” March 24, 2016.  The nuclear deal with Iran virtually ignored Iran’s Bushehr reactor even though it produces about 240 kilograms of plutonium per year.  The first discharge fuel from the reactor contained 92 kilograms of fuel-grade plutonium which can be used to produce powerful nuclear weapons.  The Iran nuclear deal contains no requirement that this plutonium be exported.  By withdrawing fuel early from this reactor for purported safety reasons, Iran can produce additional quantities of fuel-grade or even weapons-grade plutonium whenever it wants.  Policy makers need to take a more realistic view of the proliferation dangers of reactors such as Bushehr.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “Heavy Water Nuclear Power Reactors: A Source of Tritium for Potential South Korean Boosted Fission Weapons,” February 29, 2016.  South Korea has accumulated an unsafeguarded stockpile of over four kilograms of tritium extracted from its heavy water moderated nuclear power plants.  If South Korea should give in to calls for it to develop nuclear weapons, the tritium could be used to boost any nuclear weapon that South Korea produces. To read a pdf of the full paper click here


Gregory S. Jones, "The Implications of North Korea Testing a Boosted Nuclear Weapon,” January 11, 2016.  North Korea may have tested a boosted fission weapon on January 6, 2016.  If so North Korea can now manufacture small light-weight nuclear weapons with reduced fissile material content, without sacrificing yield.  These weapons could allow North Korea to easily equip its ballistic missiles with nuclear warheads and to rapidly expand its nuclear arsenal.  The continued diffusion of boosting technology could make such weapons the norm for all countries seeking to acquire nuclear weapons. To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “Fissile Material Conversion Times, Wastage and Significant Quantities: Lessons from the Manhattan Project,” December 16, 2015.  The experience of the Manhattan Project demonstrates that the time required to produce the fissile material metal core for a nuclear weapon starting from uranium hexafluoride or plutonium nitrate is only about one week.  The wastage in this process is no more than 3% to 6%.  Even for the simple Nagasaki weapon design, the IAEA estimates of “significant quantities” are too high.  To read a pdf of the paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Iran Nuclear Deal: The End of Nonproliferation?,” November 2, 2015.  Enrichment and reprocessing are the key technologies required to produce the nuclear material for nuclear weapons.  Given that the Iran nuclear deal grants Iran the right to possess unrestricted enrichment and reprocessing in the long-term, it is going to be difficult for the U.S. to pursue a coherent nonproliferation policy. To read a pdf of the full paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “Distorting Intelligence to Sell the Iran Nuclear Deal,” October 8, 2015.  To try to justify the Iran nuclear deal the Obama Administration has completely reversed its estimate of when the Iran nuclear program, absent the deal, might be able to produce a nuclear weapon.  That the Administration has felt it necessary to do so highlights the weakness of the deal, which buys little at the expense of seriously damaging overall U.S. nonproliferation policy.  To read a pdf of the full paper click here 

.

Gregory S. Jones, “The Arak Reactor and the Iran Nuclear Deal’s Prohibition on the Production of Weapons-Grade Plutonium,” September 3, 2015.  One of the more puzzling terms of the JCPOA requires the Arak reactor “not to produce weapon-grade plutonium in normal operation.”  Since the U.S. revealed almost forty years ago that even reactor-grade plutonium, let alone the fuel-grade plutonium that will be produced by the Arak reactor, can be used to manufacture nuclear weapons this constraint has little significance with respect to Iran’s capability to develop a nuclear weapon.  However, President Obama has been seriously misinformed and has incorrectly stated that only weapons-grade plutonium can be used to produce nuclear weapons.  The President’s erroneous statements should be corrected since they threaten to undermine broader U.S. nonproliferation policy to restrict plutonium stockpiles in non-nuclear weapon countries.  Regarding the Iran nuclear deal itself, since the Arak reactor will be permitted to produce significant quantities of fuel-grade plutonium, the Administration should admit that the deal does not block Iran’s plutonium pathway to a nuclear weapon.  To read a pdf of the paper click here

.

Gregory S. Jones, “An Iran Nuclear Deal That Spreads Nuclear Weapons,” August 10, 2015.  The original goal of a nuclear deal with Iran was to prevent it from acquiring nuclear weapons.  This summer President Obama has claimed the deal does just that.  However, most analysts agree that the current deal is simply a short-term delaying tactic—a view held by President Obama himself just last April.  My analysis finds that the deal does little to delay Iran’s acquisition of nuclear weapons compared to the case where there is no deal.  What is worse, the deal eases Iran’s path to a nuclear weapon by removing the sanctions that have considerably increased the costs of Iran’s nuclear weapon program.  Additionally, the deal, by legitimizing centrifuge enrichment, heavy water production and the Arak reactor, greatly undermines U.S. nonproliferation policy, increasing the likelihood of the spread of nuclear weapons to other countries.  Congress should reject the Iran nuclear deal. To read a pdf of the full paper click here