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Global Nuclear Future Initiative Holds Workshop on Reducing Risk


Press Release

CAMBRIDGE, Mass. – Experts in nuclear materials security gathered for a workshop on Jan. 8 and 9, 2009, at the Center for International Security and Cooperation at Stanford University as part of the American Academy’s Global Nuclear Future Initiative, directed by Steven Miller (Harvard University) and Scott Sagan (Stanford University).

Convened by Sagan, the workshop, “Protecting Nuclear Materials and Weapons: New Approaches to Reducing Risk,” featured 25 representatives from the Department of Defense; Department of Energy; Harvard University; the Hewlett Foundation; the National Laboratories at Argonne, Idaho, Lawrence Livermore, Los Alamos, and Sandia; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission; the Nuclear Threat Initiative; the University of California at Berkeley; and Stanford University.

The workshop, supported by the Hewlett Foundation, was the first time that many of the attendees had the opportunity to interact and share ideas about their varied approaches to the physical security of nuclear plants and materials. Participants debated the strengths and weaknesses of the Design Basis Threat approach to nuclear security, currently in use by the United States and promoted by the International Atomic Energy Agency, and discussed how the threat of nuclear terrorism is unique in that the vulnerabilities of any one state are a threat to all.

The workshop produced a consensus about the need to create a security culture, both in the U.S. and abroad, that promotes open dialogue about threat perceptions, best practices, challenges, and past incidents of security breaches or near breaches.

Sagan will present conclusions from this workshop at the International Atomic Energy Agency symposium on security in Vienna in April. The American Academy will host a meeting with participants from other countries later this year to take this work forward.


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