Events

USA, China, Russia, Iran - how much does nuclear power matter today?

5 November 2023

Ludovica Castelli

Ludovica Castelli, nuclear expert at the University of Leicester within the “Third Nuclear Age” project, highlights how the atomic component remains relevant in the policy of today’s main world powers. But also how each of them reduces nuclear policy according to its own objectives.

In the unstable multipolar system that has emerged in recent years (and continues to take shape today), nuclear power remains one of the main aspects of international relations,  with different objectives and purposes depending on the case. In these times, we are witnessing Russia’s withdrawal from the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, following a direction opposite to that of the People’s Republic of China, which instead could open a dialogue with the United States precisely on the control of nuclear arms. How much (and how) does nuclear power still weigh on world powers? Formiche.net talked with Ludovica Castelli from the “Third Nuclear Age” project at the University of Leicester, UK.

Note: original article appears in Italian.

Ludovica Castelli

Will Africa have a Nuclear Powered Future?

BBC World Service - 21 April 2023

Olamide Samuel

Africa is facing a power dilemma – it needs to reduce its reliance on fossil fuels, but renewable energy sources currently produce very little power on the continent. This is why some governments are looking seriously at nuclear power as an alternative. There is currently only one commercial nuclear power station on the continent, but there could soon be more. Questions of cost and safety will have to be addressed, and there are strict international regulations that take years to fulfil.

Africa Daily looks at what it takes to become a nuclear powered state, and which countries in Africa are considering it. Alan Kasujja speaks to Dr Stephen Yamoah, Executive Director of Nuclear Power Ghana, nuclear scientist Senamile Masango and nuclear policy analyst Dr Olamide Samuel.

Photo of Olamide Samuel
Olamide Samuel

nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT)'s
Review Conference - first session

23 January 2023

Olamide Samuel

With the eleventh Review Conference (RevCon) of the nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) slated for 2026, the first session of its Preparatory Committee will be held this year in Vienna. 

As the NPT cycle has been cut to four years instead of five due to pandemic-related delays, there is limited time for considered reflections on the ‘failure’ of the Tenth NPT RevCon to produce a final consensus document.

Given the prevailing international security environment, the near possibility of a ‘successful’ tenth RevCon was surprising. The Russian delegation’s last-minute decision to block consensus was equally surprising and ultimately led to the conference’s failure. 

Russia’s actions were especially disappointing, considering that numerous delegations were prepared to set aside their misgivings about the final document and join the consensus. With the exception of Russia, the symbolic importance of adopting a ‘middle-ground’ outcome document on the 50th anniversary of the treaty was widely understood to be of paramount importance.

Photo of Olamide Samuel
Olamide Samuel

Simulating the Cuban Missile Crisis on the 60th Anniversary

Written by Dr Cameron Hunter
9 November 2022

We gathered to mark the 60th anniversary of a showdown that brought the world to the brink of nuclear catastrophe. In November 2022, University of Leicester students, staff and guest experts gathered to simulate the Cuban Missile Crisis. Borne from the team’s sheer interest, this extra-curricular event had two goals: 1) to gain new perspectives on the historic crisis; and 2) to kindle interest in conflict simulation amongst a new generation.

A simulation cannot hope to replicate every aspect – some variables necessarily loom larger in the design construct than others. For our game, we emphasised the limitations of communications technology in 1962. This meant that players could only talk in person if they arranged meetings, with appropriate delays added for travel or bureaucratic wrangling. Otherwise, players were reliant on telegrams (and telephone calls, but security fears kept teams from using the phone on the day) – readers will recall that the Washington-Moscow hotline was not established until after the crisis.

Beyond communications technology, we structured the game with a full-fledged Cuba team, reflecting recent literature that revealed the heavy influence of Castro’s government in shaping the crisis. For the curious, the result of our simulation was a sort of limited Cuban “victory.” The Cuban team successfully played the superpowers off against each other to finish 1962 with newfound prestige and independence.

In our post-game discussion, however, our participants were convinced that Cuba could not have maintained this fragile “win” for long into 1963 or 1964 because of the irreparable damage to Cuba’s trustworthiness enacted by its double-dealing. Our game managers were especially pleased to see emergent gameplay dynamics. That is, politically credible choices and knock-on effects that were not directly due to the game mechanics, but rather from the interaction of players with one another (within the scenario’s restraints). We saw aspects of nuclear deterrence and risk management in player decisions, who tended to assume the worst-case scenario would be the result of their own provocative responses.

A broader question for anyone in the conflict simulation community is whether nuclear politics can be usefully simulated at all. In reality, players know that in the game the fate of their loved ones, fellow citizens or country is not actually resting in their hands. The weapons themselves can be difficult to manage under a crisis scenario, so the game designers’ decisions on how (or whether) to simulate these aspects powerfully and subtly also shape the game result. Nevertheless, the emotional engagement that a game can provide through immersion did capture a convincing sense of the historical crisis as relayed in the literature.

Regarding our objective of drawing in a new generation of crisis and war gamers, we polled our participants and found that they had a new sense of confidence in creating simulations for themselves. Our academic faculty now has a core group of simulation-savvy students eager for the next step, and those of us at the Third Nuclear Age project will be continuing to do our part to support the next generation of experts and practitioners.

Dr Cameron Hunter
Dr Robert Domaingue, former US State Department, briefs some of the players on how conflict simulation is used by government officials
Third Nuclear Age game managers and student participants pose after the Cuban missile crisis simulation

are nukes outdated in today's world?

University of Warwick invite Dr Cameron Hunter

8 December 2022
Cameron Hunter

On 8 December 2022, the Politics, Philosophy and Economics Society at the University of Warwick invited Dr Cameron Hunter, from the University of Leicester, to provide a lecture on whether nuclear weapons are relevant in today’s society. 

Dr Hunter engaged the audience on how different governments view their political relevance, nuclear threat as a deterrent, and how “conventional” militaries have been nuclearised and denuclearised in the past.

The talk was well-received with an extended Q&A due to audience interest. Dr Hunter is currently working on finalising the East Asia case study for the Third Nuclear Age project.

Dr Cameron Hunter

Difficult Conversations: Fingers off the Button

Andrew Futter

On Thursday 5 May 2022, Prof Andrew Futter, Dr Cameron Hunter, Dr Olamide Samuel, Marion Messmer & Dr Matthew Bolton participated in the Difficult Conversation Series. ‘Fingers off the Button’ was the fourth installment of the series.

The panel primarily considered questions regarding nuclear weapons in the UK.  

View the recording of this session, by clicking the link below. 

Defence Concepts and Capabilities: from Aspiration to Reality

Andrew Futter

On Tuesday 17 May 2022, Andrew Futter gave evidence to the UK House of Lords International Relations and Defence Committee on the subject: Defence Concepts and Capabilities, from aspiration to reality. View the recording of this session, by clicking the link below. 

Cambridge Center for Existential Risk workshop : War Gaming and the Third Nuclear Age

1st March 2022

March 1 2022, Prof. Futter presented a talk titled ‘War Gaming and The Third Nuclear Age’ at the Cambridge Center for Existential Risk. 

You can download the presentation here:

Professor Andrew Futter

TNA Project Runs procurement politics simulation

12th January 2022

The Third Nuclear Age Project Team ran a simulation of the politics of technological procurement.  The players were briefed on their starting positions and then were left free to choose whatever technologies they felt their team required to maintain national security over the long-term. This closed game was part of a process of developing and refining scenarios for future events with stakeholders.

Held at the imaginary “ERSATZ” classification level, the players took on the roles of senior defence procurement bureaucrats in the fictional region of “Archipelagia.” Each turn simulated 3 years of in-game time, allowing players to see the consequences of their procurement decisions and respond to their regional rivals. Competition was intense, and the players’ decisions resulted in a deteriorating security environment. At its conclusion, the game designers extrapolated how a military crisis in the region would play out in light of the new weapons capabilities that the players had selected.

Feedback from the players was incredibly positive, highlighting requirements and implications for the methodology of future games.

The finale session gave players an overview of actions taken by the game designers and their opponents – actions that were otherwise secret while the game was in progress.

The briefing was delivered by the fictional superpower’s military featured in the game.