How one USA President slowed down the nuclear war danger

Carter entered office and promptly pushed through Congress the 1978 Non-Proliferation Act

Carter’s U.S. nuclear doctrine was enormously unpopular among America’s nuclear science elite

To the chagrin of the powerful nuclear weapons and nuclear power lobbies, Carter abandoned the idea of a new nuclear renaissance.

 Jimmy Carter’s re-election defeat brought the nuclear establishment another opportunity.

United States Circumvented Laws To Help Japan Accumulate Tons of Plutonium, DC Bureau By Joseph Trento,  April 9th, 2012 “….Stopping the Spread of Fissile Material After Jimmy Carter won the presidency in 1976, he instituted an aggressive policy to control the spread of fissile materials. As a former nuclear reactor engineer on a Navy submarine, Carter knew better than any other world leader the immense power locked up in plutonium and highly enriched uranium. He was determined to keep it out of the hands of even our closest non-nuclear allies – including Japan.
Carter had good reason for this policy. Despite Japan’s ratification of the NPT in 1976, a study conducted for the CIA the following year named Japan as one of the three countries most able to go nuclear before 1980. Only the Japanese people’s historic opposition to nuclear weapons argued against Japanese deployment. Every other factor argued for a Japanese nuclear capability.

By now the CIA – and its more secretive sister agency, the NSA — had learned the position of Japan’s inner circle.

Carter knew the incredibly volatile effect plutonium would have on world stability. Plutonium is the single most difficult to obtain
ingredient of nuclear bombs. Even relatively backward countries – and
some terrorist groups – now possess the technology to turn plutonium
or highly enriched uranium into a nuclear weapon. But refining
plutonium or enriching uranium is an extremely difficult, costly task.
Carter knew that by limiting the spread of plutonium and uranium, he
could control the spread of nuclear weapons. He made preventing the
spread of plutonium the cornerstone of his nuclear non-proliferation

The Japanese were shocked when Carter entered office and promptly pushed through Congress the 1978 Non-Proliferation Act, which
subjected every uranium and plutonium shipment to congressional
approval and blocked a host of sensitive nuclear technologies from
Japan. Carter was determined not to transfer nuclear technology or
materials that Japan could use to make nuclear weapons. The decision
was hugely unpopular in America’s nuclear establishment as well.
America’s nuclear scientists had expected much from Carter since he
was one of them: someone who knew and understood nuclear energy.

Carter’s efforts ended America’s plans to reprocess spent nuclear
fuel. Carter stopped reprocessing because he feared the consequences
of Korean or Taiwan stockpiling plutonium. He believed it would lead
to an Asian arms race involving Japan and China as well as Korea or

Carter’s U.S. nuclear doctrine was enormously unpopular among
America’s nuclear science elite, who viewed a plutonium-based fuel
cycle as the future of nuclear energy. They saw the atom as the
solution to the problems that had stalled America’s great economic
boom – acid rain from coal, shortages and embargos of oil. With an
almost inexhaustible supply of cheap, clean nuclear energy, America
would reclaim its position as the world’s unquestioned economic
leader. But for many it went beyond even that. If America could
complete the fuel-cycle – complete the nuclear circle, all of humanity
could be lifted up by the nuclear bootstrap. At research centers
around the country and in the Department of Energy’s Forrestal
Building on Washington’s Independence Avenue, enthusiasm for the
breeder program reached almost a religious crescendo.

If the breeder reactor was going to revolutionize the world’s nuclear
economy, went the thinking in America’s nuclear establishment, the
United States would have to share it with her allies in Europe and
Japan. The very cornerstone of science is the free exchange of
information, and the American scientists shared openly with their
European and Japanese colleagues. The cooperation ran both ways. The
breeder reactor was proving to be a monumental technical challenge,
and DOE was eager to learn from the mistakes of Germany, Britain and
France, all of which had been working on the problem nearly as long as
the United States. Carter’s policies hindered America’s efforts to
develop and share a plutonium-based nuclear energy cycle.

To the chagrin of the powerful nuclear weapons and nuclear power lobbies, Carter abandoned the idea of a new nuclear renaissance.
Carter’s administration ushered in an era of reduced nuclear trade and
an interruption to the free flow of ideas among scientists. For men
like Richard T. Kennedy and Ben Rusche at the Nuclear Regulatory
Commission and Harry Bengelsdorf at the U.S. Department of Energy, the
restraints were completely unacceptable. Jimmy Carter’s re-election
defeat brought the nuclear establishment another opportunity.


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