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Naval Nuclear Propulsion Proliferation: An Analysis of the Factors Impacting State Decision Making Open Access

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Nuclear proliferation has been a topic of academic research since the dawn of the nuclear age and has traditionally focused on the spread of nuclear weapons. Another use of military nuclear technology, naval nuclear propulsion, is relatively unexplored and could have profound implications for U.S. nuclear policy. Nuclear-powered warships represent some of the most powerful and lethal military platforms in the world. The proliferation of naval nuclear propulsion introduces risks to the international nuclear nonproliferation regime including the spread of highly enriched weapons-grade uranium.This dissertation investigates the demand-side, supply-side, and international norms-based factors impacting state decision making on the exploration, development, and acquisition of nuclear-powered warships. This study employs a quantitative survival analysis with Cox proportional hazards to model the proliferation of naval nuclear propulsion from 1948 to 2010. Data were gathered on thirty-nine countries via fourteen independent variables based upon nuclear weapons proliferation literature. State decision making on the proliferation of naval nuclear propulsion was found to be impacted by elements of national security, technological determinism, prestige, domestic politics, nuclear assistance, and the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons. These findings were applied to Brazil, which is developing their first nuclear-powered submarine, and concluded that Brazil will most likely succeed in acquiring the warship. This study also contains a unique policy recommendation to curtail the further spread of naval nuclear propulsion technology and nuclear-powered warships.

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