The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation has announced a new commitment to address nuclear threats, in particular by reducing the availability of, and reliance on, weapons-grade fissile material.
The third of the "big bets" announced by the foundation last August, the Nuclear Challenges initiative will support efforts to identify political and technical solutions that reduce the world's reliance on highly enriched uranium and plutonium. MacArthur is seeking advice from experts in diverse fields, including the natural and social sciences, industry, and the policy community, and hopes to promote collaborations that inform effective decision making in the nuclear security area. The foundation will support policy-relevant scholarship, expert and policy maker engagement, and the dissemination of policy prescriptions, as well as education about the nuclear threat, with the aim of spurring innovative thinking and building the human capital required to move the nonproliferation agenda forward.
Despite significant reductions in the number of nuclear weapons since the Cold War, rising geopolitical tensions, the threat posed by non-state actors, and command-and-control challenges have raised the risk of their accidental or intentional use. With nearly two thousand tons of highly enriched uranium and plutonium in the global stockpile, the challenge is to reduce the risk that nuclear technology will be used to build new weapons of mass destruction while harnessing the same technology for peaceful purposes.
"One overarching question motivates this work: How can we end the world's reliance on weapons-usable nuclear material, thus reducing nuclear risk, while still meeting growing demand for carbon-free energy?" said MacArthur Foundation president Julia Stasch. "The destructive potential posed by weapons-usable material presents an existential threat that must be mitigated."