Six questions for U.S. presidential candidates on nuclear policy

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Chinese nuclear missiles
A Chinese-made Hongqi-2 missile on display at the Military Museum in Beijing in 2011. China then announced a double-digit increase in its secretive military budget.
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FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP/Getty Images


With nuclear policy an increasingly serious issue in the world today, a Stanford scholar suggests in a newly published paper that the U.S. presidential candidates explain their viewpoints on these topics to the American people.

The journal article in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists includes six questions on nuclear terrorism, proliferation, weapons policy and energy developed by Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist and senior fellow at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) and the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.

Hecker served as a director of the Los Alamos National Laboratory before coming to Stanford. He is a world-renowned expert in plutonium science, global threat reduction and nuclear security. Hecker suggests that journalists and the public ask the candidates for the U.S. presidency the following questions:

• "Do you believe that nuclear terrorism is one of the greatest threats facing the United States, and, if so, what will you do to invigorate international cooperation to prevent it?

• How will you attempt to roll back North Korea’s increasingly threatening and destabilizing nuclear weapon program?

• Will you continue to support the (Iranian nuclear) deal and, if so, how will you work with Iran, quell dissent among our allies in the region, and answer criticism here at home?

• Do you plan to continue building a strategic partnership with India, and, if so, how will you reassure Pakistan that the U.S. insistence on nuclear restraint in South Asia includes not just Pakistan, but India as well?

• Will you continue to push for a reduced role for nuclear weapons in U.S. defense policy? If so, will you promote further nuclear arms reductions and ratification of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty? And if Russia and China stay their current course, how will you deal with US nuclear modernization, and how will you reassure America’s allies?

• What are your plans for the domestic nuclear power industry and for the role the United States will play in this sector internationally?"

In his article, Hecker describes the context surrounding many of these questions. For example, he noted that the alarming acceleration of North Korea’s nuclear arsenal in the last six years indicates that the current U.S. policy approach to that country needs to be revisited.

Also, Hecker points out the complexity of the current nuclear arms situation worldwide. Both Russia and China have expanded their nuclear systems and are pursuing a more aggressive foreign policy. On the other hand, every president of the post-Cold War era has reduced U.S. reliance on nuclear weapons for its national security.