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Nicholas Miller Explores Links Between Nuclear Energy and Proliferation

Nicholas Miller photo

On October 8th, the Judith Reppy Institute for Peace and Conflict Studies hosted a talk by Dr. Nicholas Miller, Frank Stanton Assistant Professor of Nuclear Security and Policy at Brown University, on "Nuclear Energy and Proliferation: Examining the Links."

In a well-attended seminar, Dr. Miller defined the conventional wisdom on the issue as suggesting that nuclear energy programs facilitate weapons proliferation. He discussed how, particularly in the media, alarmist headlines often follow the announcement of nuclear energy programs, as was witnessed in the cases of Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Turkey, UAE, and Egypt. He discussed his research, most notably, his use of descriptive evidence and quantitative models in trying to address the questions of whether nuclear energy programs increase the odds that a country will pursue nuclear weapons or will acquire nuclear weapons, conditional on pursuit. To do so he used Cornell Professor Chris Way’s data on nuclear pursuit and the WNA’s data on power reactors.

Dr. Miller citied examples of several countries including Canada, Bulgaria, Armenia, Mexico, Romania, Ukraine, and the Netherlands which did not pursue nuclear weapons production despite having a nuclear energy program. Furthermore, Dr. Miller stated that these observations were backed by the results of his quantitative models which indicated that “there [was] no clear positive association between energy programs and the risk of nuclear pursuit.”

The talk was followed by a vibrant Q&A session, focusing on Dr. Miller’s research questions, the constraints of the dataset, and deliberations on his research methodology and interpretation of findings.