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Instructor Class Description

Time Schedule:

Halvor A Undem
JSIS B 429
Seattle Campus

Nuclear Nonproliferation and International Safeguards

Examines the technologies of nuclear energy, the institutions that have been deployed to address the security threats related to peaceful uses of nuclear energy, and the issues and challenges confronting those institutions today.

Class description

Nuclear Nonproliferation and International Safeguards examines the dual nature of nuclear technology. President Eisenhower, having seen the horrors of the second World War, including the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, envisioned an alternative peaceful future that included wide contributions of nuclear technology to medicine, agriculture, science and industry, in addition to nuclear power generation. His Atoms for Peace speech subsequently motivated efforts over the following decade to build a global regime for peaceful uses of nuclear energy. At the same time, many countries, such as Sweden, started secret nuclear weapons programs. Due to strategic, political, and economic realities, neither this global regime nor many weapons programs came to fruition. But for many countries, nuclear weapons remained a national objective, even as the U.S. and U.S.S.R. joined forces to lead strong international nonproliferation efforts, including the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), entrusted with the responsibility to verify the peaceful use of atomic energy. South Africa stunned the world by destroying its nuclear weapons, while today, Iran and North Korea apparently pursue nuclear weapons in the face of vigorous United Nations Security Council efforts to stop them. Since the events of 911, terrorist nuclear threats are a new concern. This course will examine the technologies of “nuclear energy”, the institutions that have been developed to address the security threats related to nuclear energy, and the issues and challenges facing those institutions today.

Student learning goals

Understand the origins and context for nuclear nonproliferation problems, stemming from the American/Soviet Cold War competition from 1949 to 1991.

Understand the motivations for the non-nuclear weapon states to be motivated to support treaties/agreements that works for disarmament of the "superpowers" and the limiting of the spread of nuclear weapons globally.

Understand the origins of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the International Atomic Energy Agency.

Know the differences in the scope of Safeguards agreements, as described in IAEA Information Circulars (INFCIRCs) 66, 153, and 540.

Be able to identify those countries that stood outside the NPT and be able to discuss the motivations for noncompliance.

Synthesize the lecture material and in-class discussions by analyzing, in a term paper, a current and significant nonproliferation problem.

General method of instruction

A combination of lecture, video, and in-class discussion.

Recommended preparation

No formal prerequisites, but "Introduction to Weapons of Mass Destruction", JSIS B 427/527, would be most helpful.

Class assignments and grading

Grading determined by 20% class participation, 30% special exercises/group projects, 50% original term paper. Extra credit of 5% can also be earned by writing a New York Times style "Op-Ed".

Standard UW grading criteria.


The information above is intended to be helpful in choosing courses. Because the instructor may further develop his/her plans for this course, its characteristics are subject to change without notice. In most cases, the official course syllabus will be distributed on the first day of class.
Last Update by Halvor A Undem
Date: 09/27/2013