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Managing Nuclear Waste: The Illogic of Reprocessing

November 20, 2007 |  5:00:00  |  Texas Union Governors' Room, 3.116

Dr. Frank von Hippel discussed the pros and cons of the proposed U.S. Department of Energy plan to process nuclear waste to separate and reuse plutonium. He explained that reprocessing, in addition to costing two to ten times more than on-site storage, creates a security risk. Reprocessed plutonium is compact and transportable, making it vulnerable to theft by terrorists or potentially even non-nuclear states looking to develop nuclear weapons programs. Therefore, Dr. von Hippel argued, the United States should not alter its policy of the previous three decades of opposing nuclear reprocessing until better safety standards are in place.

This presentation was part of the Strauss Center’s Jon Brumley Chair in Global Affairs. The Brumley Chair funds programs that examine current and past efforts to reconcile technological advances with security needs, particularly the world’s struggle to contain the menace of nuclear proliferation.

Dr. von Hippel is Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton’s Woodrow Wilson School. From September 1993 to 1994, he was Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, where he played a major role in developing US-Russian cooperative programs to increase the security of Russian nuclear-weapon materials. He is the chairman-elect of the American Physical Society’s Panel on Physics and Public Affairs. He also chairs the editorial board of Science & Global Security and is a member of the editorial board of the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. Dr. von Hippel received his B.S. degree in Physics from MIT in 1959 and D. Phil. in theoretical Physics in 1962 from Oxford, where he was a Rhodes Scholar.

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