R. Scott Kemp
Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering
Kemp's research combines physics, engineering, and the history of science to draw more clearly the limits and policy options for achieving international security under technical constraints. His primary interest lie with policy issues relating to uranium enrichment. He has also worked on space arms control, cyber security, and methods for detecting covert nuclear-weapon programs.
Proliferation Dynamics of Uranium Enrichment
Most policies designed to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons were developed in a time when nuclear reactors dominated the proliferation landscape. Today that has changed. Five of the six most recent nuclear-weapon aspirants chose uranium enrichment as the means of producing fissile materials for weapons. Enrichment technologies play by different rules, and challenge the international security framework in new and difficult ways. Science-based characterization of enrichment systems helps to provide strong boundary conditions under which one can evolve policy approaches that better fit today’s nuclear-security realities.
Detection of Undeclared Nuclear Activities
Verification of peaceful activities is a fundamental tenet of today’s nuclear-security regime. It is widely viewed as an essential element of any arms-control agreement, and one of the principal benefits of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. The ability to verify the absence of undeclared activity, however, is increasingly difficult as nuclear technologies become smaller, cleaner, and more efficient. Unless the current verification gap is bridged, new international agreements in nonproliferation and arms control cannot be effectively negotiated under old conceptions of verification. Either new ways of detecting clandestine nuclear facilities must be developed, or a new understanding of the value of limited verification needs to be articulated. By using a science-based approach, we seek to identify areas rich for development as well as understand better the hard limits to verification.
The Social Construction of Nuclear Power and Security
Both nuclear power and the problem of nuclear proliferation are inseparable from the social systems in which they exist. Science-based approaches can identify hard limits on policy options, but are insensitive to social constraints. By studying the history of the proliferation-nonproliferation interplay, perceptions of nuclear weapons, and the societal challenges facing nuclear power, we aim to understand what kinds of technology policies and engineering research activities will be most in harmony with social requirements, now and in the future.
22.04 Social Problems of Nuclear Energy