Date of Award

Spring 2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Political Science & Geography


Graduate Program in International Studies

Committee Director

Jesse Richman

Committee Member

Regina Karp

Committee Member

Patrick Hester


Nuclear weapons are seemingly permanent fixtures in international relations. Although nuclear abolitionists and actors within the Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) and the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) have taken significant steps towards designing a world without nuclear weapons, the longstanding realist logic that suggests nuclear disarmament is nonviable has born more fruit. On the other hand, some proponents of realism have suggested global nuclear disarmament is feasible, given that certain international instabilities are stabilized and that special care is taken during diplomatic negotiations. This presents an opportunity to test these predictions using fuzzy cognitive mapping, a computational modeling technique that identifies problems, their stakeholders, and stakeholders’ components in order to determine scenarios that solve complex disputes in ways that benefit the system as a whole. This study identifies two problems regarding nuclear disarmament. First, nuclear weapon states are resistant to giving up nuclear weapons, despite agreements to disarm. This problem follows realist logic. Second, the role that the IAEA plays in safeguarding special nuclear materials while guaranteeing states’ rights to nuclear technology is contrasted by states’ interest in maintaining levels of secrecy. These two problems constitute a “mess” that this study analyzes. Synthesis between the problems requires that solving one does not make the other worse. Therefore, this study tests various scenarios and finds that, given present-day international instabilities are stabilized, nuclear disarmament is feasible if three conditions are met: First, a global disarmament agreement must not unreasonably affect states’ sovereign rights outside of the agreement. Second, states outlying the NPT must be brought into the negotiations. Finally, present states with nuclear arsenals adopt the IAEA’s Comprehensive Safeguards Agreement with the Additional Protocol as a measure of good faith. A final factor suggests states’ rights to the technology inevitably means states should have an ability to re-proliferate in the event of future international instability that threatens global security. Once these steps are taken and technological rights guaranteed, this model suggests global nuclear disarmament is possible.


In Copyright. URI: This Item is protected by copyright and/or related rights. You are free to use this Item in any way that is permitted by the copyright and related rights legislation that applies to your use. For other uses you need to obtain permission from the rights-holder(s).