Month: August 2008

Nuclear waste repository case studies: Germany

Nuclear waste repository case studies: Germany

Currently, there are 17 nuclear reactors at 12 different sites in Germany. According to a 2002 amendment to the country's 1959 Atomic Energy Act, each reactor has a fixed amount of megawatt hours that it's allowed to produce. When it reaches its limit, the reactor has to be shut down permanently. Therefore, depending on their age and production history, all of Germany's reactors are expected to cease operating between 2009 and 2023.

Mixing climate change with the war on terror

Mixing climate change with the war on terror

Climate change and the war on terror mix like oil and water. Our understanding of climate change and its implications is built on hard science, which continues to grow in volume and refinement. It’s a singular challenge on an order of magnitude that we’ve never encountered and solving it requires an unprecedented level of involvement and cooperation from all nations and people.

Oil: To drill or not to drill

Oil: To drill or not to drill

We’ve all had the experience of talking with someone who has discovered “The Solution”–nearly always an overly simplistic idea that can only be advocated in the absence of accurate information. Regardless of subject matter, these acolytes insist that if the rest of us understood what they understand, then together, we could implement the obvious panacea. When implementation requires public policy, the believers become furious at policy makers whose intransigence –they believe–is dooming the country or even the world.

U.S.-Russian relations after the conflict in Georgia

U.S.-Russian relations after the conflict in Georgia

If there’s a consensus about the confrontation between Russia and Georgia, it’s that the conflict has seriously strained the relationship between Moscow and its Western counterparts–namely, the United States and NATO. Now that the worst of the conflict seems over, it appears that the harshest measures suggested in the first days of the conflict, i.e., expelling Russia from the G-8, won’t materialize. Despite all of the disagreements and mistrust, each party seems to understand that severing ties between Russia and the West isn’t realistic.

The future of GNEP: Next steps

The future of GNEP: Next steps

With the global expansion of nuclear energy and the weakening of international rules governing nuclear trade, there's a risk that sensitive fuel-cycle knowledge may spread, allowing more countries to acquire the capabilities to build nuclear weapons. The Bush administration claims that its Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP) will minimize this risk. Unfortunately, in reality, GNEP has encouraged the spread of the know-how that ultimately could allow many more countries to possess nuclear weapons.

The future of GNEP: Domestic stakeholders

The future of GNEP: Domestic stakeholders

While the Bush administration has focused much attention on forging an international coalition to support the Global Nuclear Energy Partnership (GNEP), there are also considerable domestic stakeholders involved. In particular, to promote and build support for the program, the Energy Department has cultivated relationships with the national laboratories, universities, industry, and local businesses and governments throughout the country.

Biosecurity lessons from the Bruce Ivins case

Biosecurity lessons from the Bruce Ivins case

We’ll never know if Bruce Ivins, a former U.S. government microbiologist, perpetrated the 2001 anthrax letter killings, but the circumstantial evidence is pretty convincing. The DNA of the anthrax strain used in the killings matched the anthrax strain in his laboratory. Searches of his home in Frederick, Maryland, turned up “hundreds” of letters similar to those used in the terrorist attacks.

Project Minerva revisited

Project Minerva revisited

In my last column, as well as in a column for Foreign Policy, I expressed reservations about Project Minerva–a $50 million Pentagon initiative to mobilize anthropologists and other social scientists to do research in aid of the “war on terror.” I argued that such research should be sponsored by a civilian agency such as the National Science Foundation (NSF) rather than by the Pentagon