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D.J. Sweeney, W.S. Charlton. , "Proliferation Pathway Decision Analysis for Nuclear Weapons Latency," Proceedings of the INMM 52nd Annual Meeting, Palm Desert, CA, July 17-21, 2011.


The decision to proliferate is just the first of many for a state seeking nuclear weapons. Choices between uranium and plutonium based weapons (or both), enrichment techniques, and reactor types are just a few of the decisions that will characterize the steps a state will take to proliferate. This series of steps is known as a "proliferation pathway." These pathway decisions will have significant impact on how long it will take for a state to proliferate, what signatures may be available to detect proliferation advances, and what options are available to slow the state's proliferation. A gap analysis of existing proliferation and near proliferation cases was completed to identify the pertinent attributes influencing the decisions of those states. The gap analysis served as the basis for a methodology using multi-attribute utility analysis (MAUA) to generate likely state preferences for potential proliferation pathway alternatives. This methodology was incorporated into a tool to simulate state proliferation in order to determine the state's nuclear weapons latency. Nuclear weapons latency describes the amount of time it would take a state to develop nuclear weapons accounting for the technical and institutional barriers which impede that effort. The latency tool is based on a computational network to simulate state proliferation. Both the underlying decision making process and the computational proliferation simulation network are compared to historical cases of proliferation. The latency tool could provide a valuable input to nuclear weapons and proliferation policy decision makers especially in a world with shrinking nuclear arsenals.

Associated Project(s):

  • Nuclear Weapons Latency

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