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Moniz gives talk on nuclear stewardship

Professor of Physics Ernest Moniz spoke on the challenges of responsible nuclear stewardship at the first seminar in a series co-sponsored by the science and technology programs at MIT and Harvard's Kennedy School.

About 100 people packed the room at the Nov. 14 event at MIT to hear Moniz--a former Undersecretary of the US Department of Energy from 1997-2001 and associate director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy from 1995-97--speak on "Nuclear Stewardship: Megatons and Megawatts."

He covered nuclear weapons and materials as well as environmental stewardship--subjects that had particular relevance in light of the George Bush-Vladimir Putin meeting that was taking place in Texas at the time of the seminar.

"It is a fact that the large arsenal of nuclear weapons and excessive stores of nuclear material possessed by the US and Russia, together with the latter's economic and political struggles over the last decade, provided the basis for the special relationship with Russia developed during the Clinton administration," Moniz said. "The Bush administration is rebuilding that relationship in the aftermath of the Sept. 11 terrorist events. Arms reduction and a recommitment to protecting nuclear materials are central issues."

Moniz noted two major objectives for the US-Russia relationship: reducing nuclear danger, and partnering for nonproliferation, energy and the environment. He also proposed a path involving tightly linked initiatives in these areas, with international collaboration on future nuclear power fuel cycles as a core element.

"Nuclear stewardship will remain a significant technical, financial and diplomatic challenge for decades to come, with significant implications for our national security. It is both an opportunity and responsibility to combine the considerable intellectual resources and experience base at Harvard and MIT to help shape a constructive agenda, particularly for US-Russia cooperation," Moniz said.

"It was great to get the faculty, fellows and students of Harvard's and MIT's technology and policy communities together to start making connections and building bridges. With luck, some of them will find connections that will lead to fruitful joint projects," said Matthew Bunn, assistant director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy Program at Harvard and also a graduate student in MIT's Technology and Policy Program (part of the Engineering Systems Division).

"Moniz effectively highlighted the complex interconnections between management of nuclear weapons, nuclear energy and nuclear wastes, as well as how much work there is yet to do, particularly with Russia, to keep nuclear warheads and materials safe and secure," Bunn added. "This is a particularly key issue after Sept. 11."

A version of this article appeared in MIT Tech Talk on December 12, 2001.

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