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For the first time since 2019, nuclear experts and practitioners gathered in person in June 2022 for the UK PONI Annual Conference in London. This hallmark UK PONI event provided attendees with a platform to engage in a diverse, informed dialogue on pressing nuclear topics. The UK PONI Papers is a selection of the papers presented at the conference.
The nuclear field had an eventful 2022. Russia’s threats of nuclear weapons use in its ongoing invasion of Ukraine have served as staunch reminders of the risks of nuclear weapons and their role in armed conflict. The Russian attacks on Ukrainian nuclear power plants have also sparked discussions concerning the physical integrity of nuclear facilities – reactors, fuel ponds and radioactive waste stores – in armed conflicts.
The First Meeting of States Parties to the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), organised in Vienna in June 2022, ended with the adoption of the Vienna Declaration, as well as a Plan of Action that provides a roadmap to implement the TPNW in all its aspects, including the positive obligation to redress the harm caused by nuclear weapons use and testing. In August 2022, the Tenth Review Conference (RevCon) of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) failed to result in an agreement, with Russia refusing to accept the final draft outcome document of a four-week review of the NPT Treaty. The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in Iran faces an uncertain future, with prospects for returning to a nuclear agreement dimming. Additionally, China’s relentless modernisation of its nuclear weapons capabilities continues, signalling – in conjunction with the issues listed above – an uncertain and possibly unstable next chapter of nuclear affairs.
However, the future of nuclear politics and policymaking is not necessarily bleak. During the 2022 UK PONI Annual Conference, speakers, panellists and attendees addressed potential concerns arising from these developments and offered fresh perspectives on how best to tackle and overcome potential challenges facing the nuclear field.
The eight papers in this volume specifically engage with topics at the intersection of geopolitics and risk reduction, existing and future technologies, and sustainability.
UK PONI is funded and supported by a consortium of government and industry stakeholders. This support allows UK PONI to maintain an independent forum where emerging scholars can contribute new ideas on ongoing nuclear issues. In addition, UK PONI enjoys the support and guidance of its Board of Advisors, which includes representatives from government, industry, the military and academia.
UK PONI would like to express gratitude to its partners and sponsors for their continued support, especially the Atomic Weapons Establishment, Lockheed Martin UK, the UK National Nuclear Laboratory, Babcock, BAE Systems, MASS, the UK Ministry of Defence, and Rolls-Royce. These papers were accepted in September 2022 and the information therein was current at the time of writing. All views expressed are the authors’ own and do not necessarily reflect those of the authors’ institutions, UK PONI nor RUSI.
Dr Ana Alecsandru
Proliferation and Nuclear Policy
Open Source Intelligence and Analysis (OSIA)