Nuclear Policy Changes Under the Trump Administration

Alyssa Hobson
June 11, 2018

Submitted as coursework for PH241, Stanford University, Winter 2018

Previous Policies Regarding Nuclear Weapons

Fig. 1: Donald Trump (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

With each new administration, there are always big political shifts and nuclear energy is no exception to these political changes. Nuclear energy tends to be a hot topic in popular culture, whether it is being shown in a joking fashion on the simpsons or as nuclear weapons on the avengers, yet is a very real focus in politics. [1] An energy source as powerful and potentially dangerous as nuclear energy is bound to provoke political debate. Under President Obama, the biggest dictator regarding nuclear energy was the New START Treaty. This treaty between Russia and the United States furthered reductions of nuclear weapons. The treaty was a promising step towards a future with less fear of a nuclear war and one that could end cold-war like relations between the United States and Russia. However, one concern when the treaty was made was that Russia may not follow the sanctions, and instead continuing developing weapons. [2] With this fear, it was known that the policies may shift under a new president's administration and under Trump it appears as if policies may be changing.

Changes To Past Policies

The Trump administration has issued a new nuclear policy that will increase the focus on modernizing nuclear weaponry, but while staying within the limits of the START treaty. This is based on a belief that Russia has not been following the treaty and actually been building up a nuclear arsenal. These concerns have not been publicly addressed by President Trump. This increase in focus on nuclear weaponry will be an incredibly expensive program, estimated at 1.3 trillion dollars total. It will increase the number of nuclear arms in addition to technology changes. There is even potential for the development of a new warhead. These increases in weaponry mean that further reductions in nuclear weapons are highly unlikely. The previous goal of the New START treaty was to set an example for the world with a reduction in nuclear arms, but the newer policy seems to be a stopping point for these reductions. The basis for this halt was that other countries seem to be advancing their own arsenal, specifically Russia and America will not be left behind. [3]

Criticism and Concerns with Policies

There has been some public criticism regarding Trump's unwillingness to address Russia's potential buildup of weaponry as well as concern regarding his threats to North Korea. [4] Many critics would like for President Trump to not only address Russia's weaponry but also impose some sanctions against them. Concern for President Trump's unwillingness to address any problems with Russia has been a theme throughout his presidency. [3]

Future of Nuclear Weapon Policy

President Trump is expected to meet with North Korea on June 12, 2018 and more decisions regarding nuclear policies will be made at that time. At this moment in time it is looking as if President Trump will continue with policies in a similar fashion to past presidents, with keeping sanctions on nuclear weapons. However, policies are rapidly changing and it will be very interesting to see how the Trump administration proceeds. [4]

© Alyssa Hobson. The author warrants that the work is the author's own and that Stanford University provided no input other than typesetting and referencing guidelines. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.


[1] S. Gupta "Nuclear in Popular Culture ," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[2] M. Bradshaw "The New START Treaty," Physics 241, Stanford University, Winter 2017.

[3] D. E. Sanger and W. J. Broad, "To Counter Russia, U.S. Signals Nuclear Arms Are Back in a Big Way," New York Times, 4 Feb 18.

[4] M. Landler and D. E. Sanger, "Trump Veers to a Korea Plan That Echoes Failures of the Past," New York Times, 2 Jun 18.