James M. Acton

Nuclear Policy Program
tel +1 202 939 2281
Acton is co-director of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment. A physicist by training, Acton specializes in nonproliferation, deterrence, and disarmament.


PhD, Theoretical Physics, Cambridge University




James M. Acton is co-director of  the Nuclear Policy Program and senior associate at the Carnegie Endowment. A physicist by training, Acton specializes in deterrence, disarmament, nonproliferation, and nuclear energy. His current research focuses on the nuclear fuel cycle in Japan and hypersonic conventional weapons.

Acton’s publications span the field of nuclear policy. He is the author of two Adelphi books, Deterrence During Disarmament: Deep Nuclear Reductions and International Security and Abolishing Nuclear Weapons (with George Perkovich). He wrote, with Mark Hibbs, “Why Fukushima Was Preventable,” a groundbreaking study into the accident’s root causes. His analysis on proliferation threats, including Iran and North Korea, has been widely disseminated by major journals, newspapers, and websites.

Acton is a member of the Commission on Challenges to Deep Cuts and of the Nuclear Security Working Group. He is a former member of the International Panel on Fissile Materials and was co-chair of the Next Generation Working Group on U.S.-Russian arms control. He has provided evidence to the UN Secretary General’s Advisory Board on Disarmament Matters and the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future.

Acton has published in the New York Times, the International Herald Tribune, Foreign Affairs, Foreign Policy, Survival, and the Washington Quarterly. He has appeared on CNN’s State of the Union, NBC Nightly News, CBS Evening News, and PBS NewsHour.

  • Governance of Dual-Use Technologies: Theory and Practice May 23, 2016
    On the Regulation of Dual-Use Nuclear Technology

    The regime for managing dual-use nuclear technology has proved remarkably successful to date, but it is becoming increasingly stressed and the prospects for buttressing it are bleak.

  • Nonproliferation Review February 3, 2016
    Russia and Strategic Conventional Weapons

    Russian political leaders and military strategists are growing increasingly concerned about strategic conventional weapons, particularly long-range, hypersonic weapons. Some fear that strategic conventional weapons could prove decisive in a major conflict and that Russia is lagging behind in their development.

  • Testimony House Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces December 8, 2015
    Prompt Global Strike: American and Foreign Developments

    The difficulty of reaching a definitive conclusion about whether to acquire Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS) weapons stems both from technological immaturity and from flaws in the Department of Defense’s approach to CPGS development.

  • Science & Global Security October 23, 2015
    Hypersonic Boost-Glide Weapons

    How do boost-glide weapons work? How effective will they be from a military standpoint?

  • Op-Ed Kyodo News October 23, 2015
    Give Future Generations a Choice About Nuclear Waste Disposal

    Japan’s government should take steps to create flexibility for future management of nuclear waste.

  • Policy Outlook September 29, 2015 日本語
    A Realistic Approach to Solving Japan’s Plutonium Problem

    There is a serious risk that, within the next few years, Japan will produce more plutonium than it can use. The resulting buildup would set a damaging precedent, exacerbate regional tensions, and increase the likelihood of nuclear terrorism.

  • Report September 29, 2015 Full Text 日本語
    Wagging the Plutonium Dog: Japanese Domestic Politics and Its International Security Implications

    Japan has pledged not to produce more plutonium than it can consume. Serious questions are emerging, however, about whether it can uphold this commitment.

  • Regional Missile Defense from a Global Perspective September 17, 2015
    U.S. National Missile Defense Policy

    U.S. missile defense policy has been remarkably stable since the end of the Cold War. This consensus represents an equilibrium between external threats, domestic politics, and technological and financial realities.

  • Op-Ed Tikkun September 9, 2015
    Apples, Honey, and Centrifuges: How to Talk to Your Jewish Grandmother About the Iran Deal

    With a little preparation, you can survive the conversation with bubbe about the Iran deal.

  • Op-Ed National Interest August 30, 2015
    The Risks of a ‘Better Deal’ with Iran

    If Congress prevents the United States from implementing its part of the deal, it would undercut not only Obama in attempting to a secure a better deal with Iran, but also any future president seeking to prevent proliferation through diplomacy.

  • International Institute for Strategic Studies March 14, 2011
    Deterrence During Disarmament: Deep Nuclear Reductions and International Security

    Although Russia, the United States, and American allies have been loath to downsize their nuclear arsenals, deep reductions would not undermine a nation’s security since arsenal size has little bearing on effectiveness of deterrence.

  • Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate
    Carnegie Endowment for International Peace February 13, 2009
    Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: A Debate

    A distinguished group of experts from thirteen countries explore how to overcome obstacles to nuclear disarmament and pose questions that require further official and nongovernmental deliberation.

  • Adelphi Paper September 16, 2008
    Abolishing Nuclear Weapons

    In this new Adelphi Paper published by the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS), George Perkovich and James M. Acton examine the challenges that exist to abolishing nuclear weapons completely, and suggest what can be done now to start overcoming them.

Source: http://carnegieendowment.org/experts/index.cfm?fa=expert_view&expert_id=434

Nuclear Policy Conference 2015

Areas of Expertise

Carnegie-Tsinghua Center for Global Policy
Sohu Internet Plaza 1 Zhongguancun E Rd, Building 9, Suite 402 Haidian District, Beijing 100083 China