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Stratton lecture looks at 'loose nukes'

"Loose Nukes: The Challenge of Controlling Nuclear Weapons" will be the topic of the annual Catherine N. Stratton Lecture on Critical Issues on Tuesday, Oct. 14.

At the lecture, a unique combination of experts will wrestle with the irony that for 40 years, the world was at risk because the Soviet government controlled thousands of nuclear weapons, while today the fear is that the Russian government will not be able to control its own weapons. Speakers include:

Institute Professor John Deutch, former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, former deputy secretary of defense and former undersecretary of energy, who will discuss how nuclear weapons affect US defense policies and risk assessment.

Graham Allison, director of the Center for Science and International Affairs at Harvard University's Kennedy School of Government and former assistant secretary of defense for policy toward the former Soviet Union, who will describe the importance of assisting Russia in the control and destruction of its weapons and weapons-usable materials.

Jessica Mathews, president of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, who will speak from her experience -- in the White House, the State Department, and at the World Resources Institute -- with nuclear proliferation, arms control and the environment.

Professor Paul Gray, former chair of the MIT Corporation and president of MIT, will moderate the discussion.

Some of the questions that the speakers will ask and attempt to answer include:

  • If the increasingly chaotic and cash-starved Russian economy is not able to support its nuclear scientists and their technical institutions, to what extent will scientists want to sell their skills and technology to others (for example, reactors to Iran)?
  • Is it realistic to expect Russia, China, France and Italy to continue supporting the UN embargo on Iraqi oil sales when they are owed billions of dollars for weapons they have sold to Iraq or they are contracting to develop new Iraqi oil fields?
  • Does North Korea have the plutonium and technology to make and launch nuclear bombs?
  • What does the United States need nuclear weapons for now? What would be the environmental consequences of disposal of weapons-grade materials?

The panel presentation and discussion will take place from 10am-noon in the Tang Center's Wong Auditorium (Building E51). It is free and open to the public.

The Catherine N. Stratton Lecture Series honors Kay Stratton, wife of the late MIT President Julius A. Stratton. Her 50-plus years of commitment to the Institute include not only these annual Critical Issues lectures, but also the seminars on Aging Successfully held every spring. The series is supported by an endowed fund initially seeded by the MIT Women's League, which regards the series as a core activity of its mission to serve the Institute.

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on October 8, 1997.

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