This paper presents a nontraditional, almost revisionist approach to the vital topic of nuclear proliferation and the search for answers as to why proliferation has not progressed as far as it might have. Reynolds points out that states can achieve many of their national security goals through the mere capability of producing nuclear weapons. Existential deterrence may occur without even having any weapons, as long as the potential adversary believes that a state could develop them. This is not a good finding for the current nuclear nonproliferation regime, which attempts to stop the spread of weapons knowledge as well as the actual hardware, but it is good for nuclear nonproliferation in general. If states can deter other states by merely possessing the knowledge and skills necessary to make nuclear weapons, they do not have to proceed to the next step of actually weaponizing that capability. As Bill Kincade said in Occasional Paper 6, the most difficult and costly step in a proliferant's decision to go nuclear is the final one, that of weaponizing the system, of turning a concept into an actual warhead on the end of a delivery vehicle. Reynolds suggests that non-weaponization can achieve the same goals as nuclear weapon status, saves everyone enormous time and resources, and keeps the nuclear genie, while still out of the bottle, at least of manageable size. Reynolds' paper is an important addition to the debate over the role of nuclear weapons in the post-Cold War world and the pros and cons of traditional nonproliferation efforts. She recommends a new type of arms control agreement that focuses on tight state control of fissile materials, rather than traditional preventive approaches like the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty.
INSS Occasional Paper 7, Proliferation Series