This project, led by Professor Nicholas J Wheeler, investigated how far the bargain at the heart of the 1968 Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons treaty is ethically defensible, and whether the relationship between hierarchy and sovereignty within it can endure.  

Ethical dispensation

It also explored how far a new ethical dispensation in the nuclear field would require new legal, institutional and normative arrangements to successfully protect future human, national and global security.  It identified major challenges facing the nuclear non-proliferation regime in the near, medium and longer-term, considered related questions of national, regional and global governance, and sought to understand the ethical principles and related policy implications guiding the existing regime.

Nuclear sovereignty

A key focus was the development of the concept of ‘responsible nuclear sovereignty’ as it relates to states that possess and deploy nuclear weapons, and how far these agree as to what counts as ‘responsible nuclear conduct’.  

The research has contributed to the growing body of work at the intersection of security, nuclear weapons, and ethics. It explored the potential for using meetings between experts and practitioners from nuclear possessor states to deepen dialogue in relation to notions of common restraint and responsibility. These opportunities have now been pursued through an on-going collaborative relationship with the British American Security Information Council.