Month: July 2008

Polio eradication: The road to global pathogen security?

Polio eradication: The road to global pathogen security?

Given the rapid increase in the number of laboratories around the world that do research on diseases of bioterrorism concern, such as anthrax and plague, and emerging infections, such as SARS and avian influenza, there is an urgent need to prevent pathogenic microbes from escaping accidentally from a lab or being stolen by terrorists and criminals. With a few exceptions, dangerous bacteria and viruses can be isolated from nature, but different strains tend to vary widely in virulence, or the ability to cause illness and death.

In praise and fear of France’s energy policy

In praise and fear of France’s energy policy

I’m writing this column from the South of France, where for the past five days I’ve been a member of a Harvard delegation that toured several nuclear facilities operated by AREVA, the French state-owned nuclear company. AREVA is a product of the French government’s decision in the 1970s to chart a coherent and consistent national energy policy centered on nuclear power.

OPEC, peak oil, and the end of cheap gas

OPEC, peak oil, and the end of cheap gas

Since the beginning of the modern oil age in 1859, pessimists have warned that the oil wells would soon dry up or that oil production would peak and not be able to keep up with ever-increasing demand. Again and again, the pessimists have been proven wrong, often embarrassingly so, as science and technology have allowed more oil to be extracted from existing fields and from deposits in more challenging locations such as the Arctic and the deepest waters of the continental shelf.

The fallacy of the Megatons to Megawatts program

The fallacy of the Megatons to Megawatts program

Few U.S.-Russian cooperation efforts are more popular and less controversial than the “Megatons to Megawatts” program, also known as the HEU-LEU deal, which converts Russia’s highly enriched uranium (HEU) from nuclear weapons into low-enriched uranium (LEU) for U.S. nuclear power reactors. Under the agreement that the countries signed in 1993, Moscow made a commitment to eliminate 500 metric tons of HEU–probably more than one-third of the total HEU stock that the Soviet Union produced during the Cold War.

Deproliferation: An approach to preventing nuclear terrorism

Deproliferation: An approach to preventing nuclear terrorism

Earlier this year, four senior statesmen–former secretaries of state George Shultz and Henry Kissinger, former Defense Secretary William Perry, and former Georgia Democratic Sen. Sam Nunn, all veterans of the Cold War–issued a statement in the Wall Street Journal calling for complete nuclear disarmament. It’s an attractive vision, but an idea with little political reality.

Can space weapons protect U.S. satellites?

Can space weapons protect U.S. satellites?

Both presumptive presidential nominees–Arizona Republican Sen. John McCain and Illinois Democratic Sen. Barack Obama–have called for strengthening and/or increasing the number of international treaties and institutions to combat proliferation should they be elected president. An important new pact for them to consider is an agreement that restricts the weaponization of space. Not only are space weapons expensive and provocative, they’re also useless: They simply cannot protect us.

Biological threat reduction in Central Asia

Biological threat reduction in Central Asia

During the Cold War, the Soviet Union weaponized plague bacteria for possible use against the United States. Earlier this year, the deadly bacteria finally made its way into the country–albeit under peaceful circumstances. After five years of negotiation between U.S. and Kazakh officials, a U.S. Air Force C-17 cargo plane transported samples of bubonic and pneumonic plague bacteria from laboratories in Kazakhstan to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Fort Collins, Colorado. U.S.

Belarus takes a second look at nuclear energy

Belarus takes a second look at nuclear energy

When Unit Four at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant exploded in the middle of the night on April 26, 1986, the resulting radioactive fallout contaminated the territory of three countries–Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia. Belarus in particular bore a heavy burden, as cesium and iodine particles spread across 23 percent of the country. The devastation forced the resettlement of thousands of Belarusian families and left a legacy of persistent medical and psychological problems, leading to a national allergy to all things nuclear.

Breaking the tyranny of oil

Breaking the tyranny of oil

Contrary to popular belief, high gasoline prices are good, and they are good precisely because high oil prices are very bad. I’ll admit that doesn’t sound right, but allow me to explain. I’ll start with oil. Saudi Arabia, the country able to produce oil at the lowest cost, decided in 1986 to gain market share by increasing production. That caused the price of oil to collapse, and despite a momentary increase during the first Gulf War, oil prices remained low for the next 15 years.

An interview with Kurt Zenz House

An interview with Kurt Zenz House

Are we facing an energy crisis?

Several serious issues–including energy insecurity, resource scarcity, an accelerating demand for energy, and climate change–are interfering with the energy landscape. Oil prices have increased by a factor of 11 in real terms over the last 10 years. That change is largely driven by market fundamentals–put simply, demand has been growing faster than supply.