Rules-of-trade for international nuclear commerce

by William R. Harris


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The rules-of-trade are those treaties, laws, agreements, and regulations pertaining to international transfers of nuclear material, equipment, technology, or personnel. They are needed to assure that international commerce in nuclear energy will not facilitate the manufacture of nuclear weapons. In this paper, the author argues that the rules are ineffective; to be enforceable they should be associated with institutions that offer tangible benefits through compliance. One enforcement problem is learning who is responsible for violations; part of the solution may involve "tagging" fuel at key phases of the nuclear fuel cycle. Flexibility mechanisms need to be established for reforming the rules-of-trade so they can serve energy and anti-proliferation policies in the future. By linking the central rules-of-trade with more attractive institutions (for fuel assurances and financial assistance), and by providing within these rules mechanisms for changes without unanimous consent, the system of rules can be effectively extended in scope and time.

This report is part of the RAND Corporation Paper series. The paper was a product of the RAND Corporation from 1948 to 2003 that captured speeches, memorials, and derivative research, usually prepared on authors' own time and meant to be the scholarly or scientific contribution of individual authors to their professional fields. Papers were less formal than reports and did not require rigorous peer review.

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