Development of the fundamental attributes and inputs for proliferation resistance assessments of nuclear fuel cycles



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Texas A&M University


Robust and reliable quantitative proliferation resistance assessment tools are critical to a strengthened nonproliferation regime and to the future deployment of nuclear fuel cycle technologies. Efforts to quantify proliferation resistance have thus far met with limited success due to the inherent subjectivity of the problem and interdependencies between attributes that contribute to proliferation resistance. This work focuses on the diversion of nuclear material by a state and defers other threats such as theft or terrorism to future work. A new approach is presented that assesses the problem through four stages of proliferation: the diversion of nuclear material, the transportation of nuclear material from an internationally safeguarded nuclear facility to an undeclared facility, the transformation of material into a weapons-usable metal, and weapon fabrication. A complete and concise set of intrinsic and extrinsic attributes of the nation, facility and material that could impede proliferation are identified. Quantifiable inputs for each of these attributes are defined. For example, the difficulty of handling the diverted material is captured with inputs like mass and bulk, radiation dose, heating rate and others. Aggregating these measurements into an overall value for proliferation resistance can be done in multiple ways based on well-developed decision theory. A preliminary aggregation scheme is provided along with results obtained from analyzing a small spent fuel reprocessing plant to demonstrate quantification of the attributes and inputs. This quantification effort shows that the majority of the inputs presented are relatively straightforward to work with while a few are not. These few difficult inputs will only be useful in special cases where the analyst has access to privileged, detailed or classified information. The stages, attributes and inputs of proliferation presented in this work provide a foundation for proliferation resistance assessments which may use multiple types of aggregation schemes. The overall results of these assessments are useful in comparing nuclear technologies and aiding decisions about development and deployment of that technology.