Historically, the U.S. has sought to use commercial trade in nuclear technologies to influence international nuclear security standards and promote nonproliferation. Concern has grown that, with a stagnating domestic nuclear industry and declining export industry, the U.S. will lose a significant tool of foreign policy and leverage in maintaining strong international standards. While the issue has been discussed extensively in the policy community and used as a powerful rhetorical tool to motivate tangentially related policies such as subsidizing existing U.S. nuclear plants, no one has systematically assessed the issue, structured the problem and proposed and evaluated potential solutions. Here we briefly analyze the current international state of play, and then outline a set of specific strategies the U.S. might adopt on its own, or promote internationally, to retain its influence. Building on the literature, nuclear security and nuclear power experts assisted us in framing the issues and then, in a participatory workshop, helped us to assess and refine possible strategies. While not all experts agreed that U.S. influence has already declined, most indicated that it likely would decline in the future if present domestic and international trends continue. Although none of the proposed strategies that we advanced or that the experts suggested are likely to be effective in the short term, several warrant ongoing refinements and, if they can be implemented, might have beneficial impacts in coming decades.

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Energy Policy
Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering

Lovering, J.R. (Jessica R.), Abdulla, A, & Morgan, G. (Granger). (2020). Expert assessments of strategies to enhance global nuclear security. Energy Policy, 139. doi:10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111306