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Nuclear Challenges

Our Goal

Seeking to reduce the nuclear threat by ending the production and eliminating the stockpiles of weapons-useable material

Why We Support This Work

Despite significant reductions in the number of nuclear weapons since the height of the Cold War, around 14,000 remain today. Rising geopolitical tensions, the non-state actor threat, and command and control challenges raise the risk of accidental or intentional use. Just one detonation could change the contours of global society. Multiple detonations at once could kill millions, devastate the environment, disrupt financial systems, and throw cities and countries into chaos. This destruction could occur in a heartbeat and presents an existential threat.

The key ingredients for nuclear weapons—highly enriched uranium and plutonium—are in plentiful supply. There are nearly 2,000 tons of weapons-useable material in the global stockpile, which fuels existing nuclear weapons arsenals and includes enough additional materials to build tens of thousands of new weapons. Some countries are producing more weapons-useable material to fuel additional weapons. Worldwide, these materials are subject to varying degrees of security and susceptibility to theft or diversion.

Complicating matters is the dual-use nature of nuclear technology. As nuclear power plays a role in diversifying energy portfolios, reducing carbon emissions, and curtailing pollution, the policies and technologies countries adopt will have implications for international security. If countries fuel these civilian applications with nuclear material that can also be used for weapons, the risks of weapons proliferation intensify.

The challenge is to curtail the risk that nuclear technology will add to weapons stockpiles while harnessing the same technology for peaceful purposes. If countries can employ alternatives to creating weapons-useable material, while meeting growing demand for carbon-free energy, they could reduce the existential threat that nuclear technology poses.

Our Approach

To make progress toward the goal of ending production and eliminating stockpiles of weapons-useable material, the nuclear regime must be stable. Currently, the regime is under threat because of the U.S. withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, the absence of communication between United States and Russian officials, questions about the strength of alliance relationships, and the growing tension between countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not.

We support work that aims to protect and strengthen critical aspects of the regime that embody its fundamental principles of nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses. We also support work that specifically aims to secure the nuclear fuel cycle.

We focus on five areas:

  • United States nuclear policy;
  • Tough cases in countries that are either developing weapons programs or whose behavior has suggested the possibility, principally North Korea and Iran;
  • Threshold countries in which questions about the wisdom of their nuclear-weapons-free status are emerging;
  • Countries that possess nuclear weapons and those that do not (possessors and non-possessors), and the tensions between these groups; and
  • The global fuel cycle.

Within our areas of focus, we seek to support policy research, policy dialogue, and efforts to strengthen the nuclear policy field. We believe that this grantmaking strategy will contribute to a more stable nuclear regime that upholds the principles of nonproliferation, disarmament, and peaceful uses, while educating policymakers and influencers, so they increasingly support the effort to the end production and eliminate the stockpiles of weapons-useable material.

Expected Outcomes

In the short term, we expect our grantmaking strategy will contribute to a stronger, more stable nuclear regime, a more influential nuclear field, and stronger relationships between key countries on nuclear issues. Long term, we seek increased adoption and implementation of policies to end the production and eliminate the stockpiles of weapons-useable material.

Funding Priorities

We fund proposals for work that falls within the focus areas of our Nuclear Challenges grantmaking strategy: the United States, Tough Cases, Threshold Countries, Possessor/Non-Possessor Tensions, and the Global Fuel Cycle. The types of work we support include policy research, policy dialogues, and efforts to strengthen the nuclear policy field.

Unsolicited proposals are not being accepted at this time. However, contact us to share new ideas or perspectives.


Measurement & Evaluation for Learning

We believe that informed decision making leads to more effective stewardship of resources and better results. It enhances our understanding of our work and helps to guide our thinking using Design/Build. Evaluation results are key inputs into our ongoing learning, and we consider how our learning needs change, with a greater emphasis on understanding context and the landscape earlier on, with more focus on understanding progress, outcomes, and our contribution over time. Evaluation is not a one-time event. It is an ongoing process of collecting information and using that information to deploy resources most effectively.

We are engaged in a rigorous, iterative, and collaborative process with an external learning and evaluation partner in order to measure progress against our strategy. This process entails the development of an evaluation design that is informed by four information needs: landscape, feedback, performance and outcomes, and impact. The focus of collecting this information is on learning. We aim to measure and evaluate the progress of strategy, test assumptions underpinning it, and enhance our understanding of the context in which our strategy operates. We will publish findings and analyses from our evaluation activities as they are available.


Updated May 2020

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