Nuclear policy
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Steve Fyffe
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The United States has a growing inventory of spent nuclear fuel from commercial power plants that continues to accumulate at reactor sites around the country.

In addition, the legacy waste from U.S. defense programs remains at Department of Energy sites around the country, mainly at Hanford, WA, Savannah River, SC, and at Idaho National Laboratory.

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But now the U.S. nuclear waste storage program is “frozen in place”, according to Rod Ewing, Frank Stanton professor in nuclear security at Stanford’s Center for International Security and Cooperation.

“The processing and handling of waste is slow to stopped and in this environment the pressure has become very great to do something.”

Currently, more than seventy thousand metric tons of spent nuclear fuel from civilian reactors is sitting in temporary aboveground storage facilities spread across 35 states, with many of the reactors that produced it shut down.  And U.S. taxpayers are paying the utilities billions of dollars to keep it there.

Meanwhile, the deep geologic repository where all that waste was supposed to go, in Yucca Mountain Nevada, is now permanently on hold, after strong resistance from Nevada residents and politicians led by U.S. Senator Harry Reid.

The Waste Isolation Pilot Plant in Carlsbad New Mexico, the world’s first geologic repository for transuranic waste, has been closed for over a year due to a release of radioactivity.

And other parts of the system, such as the vitrification plant at Hanford and the mixed oxide fuel plant at Savannah River , SC, are way behind schedule and over budget.

It’s a growing problem that’s unlikely to change this political season.

“The chances of dealing with it in the current Congress are pretty much nil, in my view,” said former U.S. Senator Jeff Bingaman (D-NM).

“We’re not going to see a solution to this problem this year or next year.”

The issue in Congress is generally divided along political lines, with Republicans wanting to move forward with the original plan to build a repository at Yucca Mountain, while Democrats support the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future to create a new organization to manage nuclear waste in the U.S. and start looking for a new repository location using an inclusive, consent-based process.

“One of the big worries that I have with momentum loss is loss of nuclear competency,” said David Clark, a Fellow at the Los Alamos National Laboratory.

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“So we have a whole set of workers who have been trained, and have been working on these programs for a number of years. When you put a program on hold, people go find something else to do.”

Meanwhile, other countries are moving ahead with plans for their own repositories, with Finland and Sweden leading the pack, leaving the U.S. lagging behind.

So Ewing decided to convene a series of high-level conferences, where leading academics and nuclear experts from around the world can discuss the issues in a respectful environment with a diverse range of stakeholders – including former politicians and policy makers, scientists and representatives of Indian tribes and other effected communities.

“For many of these people and many of these constituencies, I’ve seen them argue at length, and it’s usually in a situation where a lot seems to be at stake and it’s very adversarial,” said Ewing.

“So by having the meeting at Stanford, we’ve all taken a deep breath, the program is frozen in place, nothing’s going to go anywhere tomorrow, we have the opportunity to sit and discuss things. And I think that may help.”

Former Senator Bingaman said he hoped the multidisciplinary meetings, known at the “Reset of Nuclear Waste Management Strategy and Policy Series”, would help spur progress on this pressing problem.

“There is a high level of frustration by people who are trying to find a solution to this problem of nuclear waste, and there’s no question that the actions that we’ve taken thus far have not gotten us very far,” Bingaman said.

“I think that’s why this conference that is occurring is a good thing, trying to think through what are the problems that got us into the mess we’re in, and how do we avoid them in the future.”

The latest conference, held earlier this month, considered the question of how to structure a new nuclear waste management organization in the U.S.

Speakers from Sweden, Canada and France brought an international perspective and provided lessons learned from their countries nuclear waste storage programs.

“The other…major programs, France, Switzerland, United Kingdom, Canada, they all reached a crisis point, not too different from our own,” said Ewing.

“And at this crisis point they had to reevaluate how they would go forward. They each chose a slightly different path, but having thought about it, and having selected a new path, one can also observe that their programs are moving forward.”

France has chosen to adopt a closed nuclear cycle to recycle spent fuel and reuse it to generate more electricity.

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“It means that the amount of waste that we have to dispose of is only four percent of the total volume of spent nuclear fuel which comes out of the reactor,” said Christophe Poinssot of the French Atomic and Alternative Energy Commission.

“We also reduce the toxicity because…we are removing the plutonium. And finally, we are conditioning the final waste under the form of nuclear glass, the lifetime of which is very long, in the range of a million years in repository conditions.”

Clark said that Stanford was the perfect place to convene a multidisciplinary group of thought leaders in the field who could have a real impact on the future of nuclear waste storage policy.

“The beauty of a conference like this, and holding it at a place like Stanford University and CISAC, is that all the right people are here,” he said.

“All the people who are here have the ability to influence, through some level of authority and scholarship, and they’ll be able to take the ideas that they’ve heard back to their different offices and different organizations.  I think it will make a difference, and I’m really happy to be part of it.”

Ewing said it was also important to include students in the conversation.

“There’s a next generation of researchers coming online, and I want to save them the time that it took me to realize what the problems are,” Ewing said.

“By mixing students into this meeting, letting them interact with all the parties, including the distinguished scientists and engineers, I’m hoping it speeds up the process.”

Professor Ewing is already planning his next conference, next March, which will focus on the consent-based process that will be used to identify a new location within the U.S. for a repository.

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Steve Fyffe
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Three CISAC scientists have joined 26 of the nation’s top nuclear experts to send an open letter to President Obama in support of the Iran deal struck in July.

“The Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) the United States and its partners negotiated with Iran will advance the cause of peace and security in the Middle East and can serve as a guidepost for future non-proliferation agreements,” the group of renowned scientists, academics and former government officials wrote in the letter dated August 8, 2015.

“This is an innovative agreement, with much more stringent constraints than any previously negotiated non-proliferation framework.”

CISAC senior fellow and former Los Alamos National Laboratory director Sig Hecker is a signatory to the letter, along with CISAC co-founder Sid Drell, and cybersecurity expert and CISAC affiliate Martin Hellman.

Six Nobel laureates also signed, including FSI senior fellow by courtesy and former Stanford Linear Accelerator director Burton Richter.

The letter arrives at a crucial time for the Obama administration as it rallies public opinion and lobbies Congress to support the Iran agreement.

You can read the full letter along with analysis from the New York Times at this link.

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Melissa Morgan
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For many people, nuclear weapons feel like something out of a history book rather than a news headline, a remnant left over from the era of go-go boots and rotary phones rather than the age of social media and quantum computing.

But Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats of a possible tactical strike against Ukraine are a stark reminder that nuclear weapons are still a major factor in strategic defense and deterrence policies.

In a geopolitical landscape like this, the perspective of scholars like Rose Gottemoeller, formerly the Deputy Secretary General of NATO and currently the Steven C. Házy Lecturer at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC) at Stanford University’s Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, is more important than ever.

Currently, she is acting as an advisor to the Strategic Posture Commission of the House and Senate Armed Services Committee and to the Department of Energy’s National Nuclear Strategy Administration (NNSA), but this is far from the first time she has been called on from Capitol Hill or the executive branch.

From her start as a Russian language major at Georgetown University, Gottemoeller’s expertise in arms control, nuclear nonproliferation, and political-military affairs has made her an invaluable resource to fellow academics and policymakers alike as they work to tackle the nuanced diplomatic challenges of our times.

A Missed Phone Call and a New Career

Gottemoeller’s most recent government service came with a few hiccups. In December of 2008, she was living in a small, bare-bones rental unit in Moscow while she finished the last few weeks of her tenure as the director of the Carnegie Moscow Center. Just a few weeks earlier, Barack Obama had been elected to the presidency of the United States, and the interim period of administration-building between Election Day and Inauguration Day was fully under way.

5,000 miles away from Washington D.C., Gottemoeller’s American cell phone rang. Racing across the apartment to try and answer it, the call ended before she could answer. Due to technological constraints at the time, there was no way to listen back to the voicemail on the Russian network.

Recounting the experience on “The Negotiators” podcast, Gottemoeller explained, “All I was thinking was, ‘Oh man, what is that, was the White House calling, or the Obama campaign? What if I’ve just lost my chance?’”

As soon as she landed back at the Washington Dulles airport, she got her answer. A return call to the number put her in touch with Secretary of State-designate Hillary Clinton’s office, where an offer to discuss the position of assistant secretary responsible for arms control issues was still on the table.

Rose Gottemoeller [left] stands with Hillary Clinton [right] in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington D.C.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, along with Rose Gottemoeller (left) delivers remarks on the ratification of the new START treaty in the Treaty Room at the U.S. Department of State in Washington, D.C., on August 11, 2010. U.S. Department of State (Flickr)

“Before I had even collected my luggage, I was on the phone letting them know I would be very glad to come interview with her,” said Gottemoeller.

That initial interview was nerve-wracking, to say the least. Walking into a borrowed New York apartment above Central Park where Clinton had set up her temporary office, Gottemoeller was grilled on nuclear deterrence, U.S. strategic policies, and strategic arms reductions by the future secretary and her two deputies for several hours.

“I thought it was going terribly. It was an exhausting hour and a half,” admits Gottemoeller. “I was convinced I hadn’t done very well.”

But a call the next day proved otherwise. Not only did Secretary Clinton offer her the job of assistant secretary responsible for arms control matters, but also put Gottemoeller’s name forward to the incoming White House to be the chief negotiator for the next strategic arms reduction treaty, what would eventually become the New START Treaty.

The New START Treaty, Then and Now

Formalized in 2010, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or New START, builds on prior agreements put in place between the United State and Russia through the 1970s and 80s to actively reduce and limit the number of strategic nuclear weapons.

As the lead (and first female) negotiator of the treaty for the U.S. side, Gottemoeller knows its strengths and holes better than almost anyone. Building on the progress made by the START I Treaty in 1994, the New START Treaty has successfully reduced the number of deployed strategic nuclear weapons Russia to 1,550, a 30 percent reduction from the approximately 6,000 deployed warheads that existed in 2000, and an astonishing 87 percent reduction from the estimated 12,000 deployed nuclear warheads available to the USSR and United States at the end of the Cold War.

Rose Gottemoeller listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill about the New START Treaty.
Rose Gottemoeller led the U.S. side of negotiations with the Russian Federation for the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (New START). Getty

New START continues to limit the number of strategic nuclear warheads that Russia and the United States are permitted to deploy, and it sets extensive protocols for monitoring and controlling such warheads in both countries. However, it has proven much more difficult to count and verify Russian warheads once they have been removed from their delivery vehicles and sent into storage.

“One of the major developments moving forward needs to be this more direct kind of constraint and oversight of warheads,” says Gottemoeller. “We’ve made some baby steps in that direction, but there’s certainly more we could and should be pushing for.”

Similarly, while New START has clear protocols for managing strategic nuclear warheads, there are gaps in constraining Russia’s stockpile of non-strategic nuclear warheads. Strategic nuclear weapons, as defined by NATO, constitute “weapons to whose use or threat of use only the highest authority of the State can resort, conceptually and structurally.” In the popular imagination, these are the weapons of M.A.D, or “mutually assured destruction,” which rests on the idea that the United States and Russian hold each other at constant risk of nuclear annihilation. A legitimate strategic calculation, this also serves as the basis for the "nuclear Armageddon" trope of Hollywood.

By contrast, non-strategic nuclear weapons, also referred to as “tactical nuclear weapons,” often carry smaller explosive yields, are carried on shorter-range delivery vehicles, and are designed to be used on the battlefield in combination with conventional forces. It is this type of weapon — not strategic missiles — which has caused concerns in the course of Putin’s invasion and ongoing bombardment of Ukraine.

The Invasion of Ukraine and Nuclear Sabre-rattling

Gottemoeller is clear on the repercussions that Vladimir Putin’s veiled threats of a possible tactical nuclear strike against Ukraine are having.

“Putin and his coterie have been extremely irresponsible in their rattling of the nuclear sabre,” she says. “There's absolutely no reason to be threatening nuclear use in Ukraine. This is a war of choice and invasion that Putin decided to undertake, not something he was provoked into by Ukraine, or NATO, or anyone else for that matter.”

Having watched and worked in Putin’s orbit on-and-off for decades, Gottemoeller believes that Putin and those in his inner circle understand that a strategic nuclear exchange of any kind would be “suicide.” But the escalatory risks inherent in a single tactical nuclear strike are still high.

“Threatening nuclear use, even if it’s a single, non-strategic use, is playing with fire,” warns Gottemoeller. “It’s dangerous. There is still far too much potential for escalation in that scenario.”

Intended or not, Putin’s nuclear posturing has also brought the discussion of nuclear weapons and the policies governing their use back to the forefront for people both in and out of government.

“In some ways, that’s not a bad thing,” Gottemoeller acknowledges. “Younger people in particular don’t pay as much attention to nuclear weapons. They’re much more gripped by environmental threats and the threat of climate change.”

The two existential threats are not unrelated, however. Citing an MIT study, Gottemoeller points out that a nuclear exchange would have a profound effect on the climate, potentially even leading to an extinction event for large portions of the global population.

“The notion that we could see nuclear escalation in this war in Ukraine is very, very serious,” says Gottemoeller. “It’s brought these issues into much sharper focus than it has been since the Cold War.”

Threatening nuclear use, even if it’s a single, non-strategic use, is playing with fire.
Rose Gottemoeller
Steven C. Házy Lecturer at CISAC

Developing Nuclear Policies for the Future

Meaningful nuclear policy has often been born out of such moments of sharp focus. The first major treaty, the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), first came into force in 1970 following the Cuban Missile Crisis in 1962. The treaty created the first binding commitments toward the goal of disarmament for the nuclear powers at the time — the United States, USSR, and United Kingdom — as well as setting policies of nonproliferation for an additional 46 party states. To date, a total of 191 states have joined and upheld the treaty, including the five current nuclear-weapon states of the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, and China.

The work that Rose Gottemoeller is currently undertaking as an advisor to the Strategic Posture Commission and National Nuclear Strategy Administration aims to provide the necessary legwork and critical expertise needed to prepare policymakers for high-level negotiations on future nuclear treaties. New START, currently the last remaining nuclear arms agreement between the United States and Russia, will expire in 2026, and cannot be renewed again without re-ratification by the U.S. Senate. Given the uncertainty surrounding the Kremlin’s actions regarding tactical nuclear weapon use, the importance of providing this type of in-depth policy expertise cannot be understated.

At the Strategic Posture Commision, Gottemoeller is working alongside other experts on a committee chaired by Madelyn Creedon, an expert in national security and defense and former assistant secretary of defense for global strategic affairs at the Pentagon. Working under bi-partisan leadership from both the House and Senate, this commission is in the process of evaluating the long-term strategic posture of the United States. This includes nuclear weapons, but also conventional weapons, trade agreements, economic progress, arms control diplomacy, and other capabilities of United States national power.

In this realm, Gottemoeller stresses that while nuclear weapons will never cease to be important, new defense strategies need to be focused on emerging technologies rather than the nuclear standoffs of the past. Writing in the August 2022 edition of Foreign Affairs, she stresses that:

“New defense innovations promise not just to transform warfare but also to undermine the logic and utility of nuclear weapons. With advances in sensing technology, states may soon be able to track and target their adversaries’ nuclear missiles, making the weapons easier to eliminate. And with nuclear weapons more vulnerable, innovations such as drone swarms — large numbers of small automated weapons that collectively execute a coordinated attack—will increasingly define war. A fixation on building more nuclear weapons will only distract from this technological revolution, making it harder for the United States to master the advances that will shape the battlefield of the future.”

At the National Nuclear Security Administration, Gottemoeller is similarly applying her expertise to develop better policies to monitor the nuclear warheads already in existence. Launched by Jill Hruby and Frank Rose, the leaders of NNSA, the purpose of this review is to determine how to improve the nonproliferation tools and instruments, one of the Biden administration’s key missions. Working alongside partners at the National Nuclear Laboratories, the NNSA is developing innovative ways to monitor and verify constraints on warheads and their delivery vehicles, including exotic delivery vehicles such as the Russian hypersonic Kinzhal air-launched ballistic missile.

“I do really see that there has been a lot of progress in this area and I feel like we are well prepared for a new negotiation,” says Gottemoeller.

The Power of Academia for the Good of Government

Thinking about her own dual career in government and academia, Gottemoeller is quick to point out the immense value that collaboration between the two brings to the policymaking process.

“Over the years, Stanford has been very active in these kinds of discussions and it's been extremely valuable, I think. The academic community plays a super important role for the policy community in Washington,” she says.

In her own recent experience, that has included a meeting with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, alongside fellow nuclear expert Scott Sagan, also of FSI’s Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC).

Gottemoeller points out that sometimes academics and their institutions can go where governments can’t. These so-called “track-two” settings create opportunities for experts, academics, and professionals from various states to come together for discussion and discourse even if formal “track-one” government negotiations are stalled or stagnant. Even as the war in Ukraine has intensified the divide between the governments in Washington and Moscow, non-governmental experts from the U.S. and Russia continue to meet to ensure lines of communication and understanding regarding key issues remain open.

The academic community can help in dialogues like this. Places like FSI attract very senior figures with immense amounts of policy experience, and we can be a resource for the government back in Washington.
Rose Gottemoeller
Steven C. Házy Lecturer

Gottemoeller believes institutes like FSI and other academic organizations can play a similarly important role in advancing discussion with China, particularly in the realm of nuclear security and weapons modernization. Some of these discussions, such as collaborations between the U.S. National Academy of Sciences and the Chinese Scientists Group on Arms control (of which Gottemoeller is a participating member), are already underway.

“I think dialogues like this are a way in which the academic community can help develop an environment in which the Chinese will then eventually be willing to come to the table in an official government-to-government way,” she explains.

As for her own academic home at the Freeman Spogli Institute, Gottemoeller is grateful for the work the institute and her fellow scholars allow her to do.

“Organizations like FSI and CISAC are a great home for practitioners as well as academic experts. The Freeman Spogli Institute attracts very senior figures with immense amounts of policy experience to come and work here. It’s clearly a resource for the government back in Washington, and I think these groups will continue to play that role very well for a long time.”

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Rose Gottemoeller listens during a press conference on Capitol Hill about the New START Treaty.
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Negotiating with Russia and the Art of the Nuclear Arms Deal

Rose Gottemoeller discusses “Negotiating the New START Treaty,” her new book detailing how she negotiated a 30 percent reduction in U.S.-Russia strategic nuclear warheads.
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A delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly visits the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies.
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NATO Parliamentary Delegation Joins FSI Scholars for Discussion on Ukraine and Russia

FSI Director Michael McFaul, Kathryn Stoner, Francis Fukuyama, Scott Sagan, Anna Grzymala-Busse, and Marshall Burke answered questions from the parliamentarians on the conflict and its implications for the future of Ukraine, Russia, and the global community.
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New START: Why An Extension Is In America's National Interest

Failing to renew the New START arms control treaty with Russia “is not a wise direction of travel,” said Rose Gottemoeller, a former Deputy Secretary General of NATO who ranked as one of President Barack Obama’s top nuclear security experts.
New START: Why An Extension Is In America's National Interest
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From a missed phone call in Moscow to becoming the lead U.S. negotiator of the New START Treaty, scholars like Rose Gottemoeller demonstrate the importance of collaboration between scholars in academic institutions and policymakers in government.

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Melissa Morgan
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Events on the ground in Ukraine are shifting quickly. In the east and south, the Ukrainian military continues to make progess on its counteroffensives. In Russia, thousands of draft-aged men have left the country in repsonse to the Kremlin's call for a limited mobilization. Across the NATO and the West, allied nations have reinforced their positions of solidarity and support for Ukraine.

To delve deeper into recent developments, former U.S. Ambassador to Russia and FSI Director Michael McFaul joined Ray Suarez for a special crossover episode of the World Class podcast and the World Affairs podcast. They spoke Just before Putin's military mobilization order on September 21 and discussed what the world can can expect from the war in Ukraine in the coming weeks and months, and how it may impact Russia's domestic politics and international standing.

Listen to the full episode here, or browse highlights from the conversation below.

Click the link for a transcript of "Putin's Failed War."

The following commentary from Michael McFaul has been excerpted from his original conversation and edited for length and clarity.


Russia and China’s Relationship


Publicly, there’s still support and solidarity between XI Jinping and Vladimir Putin. But we have to look at what’s happening between the lines. I think it’s pretty tense. At the most recent Shanghai Cooperation Summit in Kazakhstan, Putin acknowledged that one of his agenda items was to address Chinese concerns about what he called “the Ukraine crisis.”

“Concerns” is not a very friendly word. In the Russian readout of that meeting, Putin expressed his appreciation for Xi’s “balanced approach” to Russia’s operations in Ukraine.  But a “balanced approach” is hardly a big sign of support. In the Chinese readout of the meeting, Xi doesn’t even mention Ukraine.

Putin miscalculated. He miscalculated how the Ukrainians would fight. He miscalculated How the West would react. He's miscalculated how his own people have reacted. I think it will be the blunder that will erase his entire legacy.
Michael McFaul
FSI Director

I think the Chinese are shocked, quite frankly, by how poorly the Russian Armed Forces are performing. So many countries, China and the U.S. included, assumed that Russia had the world’s third most powerful military. But it turns out that just counting tanks and the GDP per capita spend on your military does not capture the full extent of its capabilities. If you’re China and you thought you had a loyal, powerful partner, I think this is raising a lot of doubts right now.


Conflict, Economics, and Energy


I have a hard time thinking of a single Russian living in Russia, who's benefiting from this war.

Some people say that sanctions aren’t working. Right now the aggregate numbers do look good for Russia, and that’s because the price of oil and gas went up as a result of their war. But that’s only a short-term gain.

Over 1,000 Western companies have left. That means the innovation, that technology that comes with those companies is also being pulling out. When Exxon Mobil pulled out of Russia, that means technology for their oil industry that we would have been seeing the results of for decades and the future is going to be lost.

While Putin is in power, I see no option whatsoever to go back to integration between Russia and the West. After Putin, we can prepare for that possibility. In the meantime, we have to do everything we can to make Ukraine successful.
Michael McFaul
FSI Director

And it’s important to remember that the biggest sanctions haven't come yet. Those will happen in December when the Europeans are going to reduce their imports of gas from Russia by a significant amount, and the G7 countries are going to lead an effort to put a price cap on all exports of Russian oil.

Russia thinks it can use energy to blackmail Europe and the West. I think they’ve miscalculated on this. I think they're underestimating the reaction many Europeans might have to being coerced. Nobody likes to be extorted. Nobody likes to be blackmailed.

I thinks it’s a basic psychological thing that when someone is trying to extort you, your response is not going to be, “Oh my goodness, we’ve got to lift sanctions and be friends with this guy that's freezing us.” I think it will be just the opposite, that people are going to be a little colder and be willing to pay a little more to get back at the guy who tired to do this to them.


The War Ahead


I sometimes get accused of being a warmonger. I see it exactly the opposite. Putin will not stop fighting until the Ukrainian army stops him on the battlefield. So if we really want peace in Ukraine, we must continue to arm the Ukrainians.

Putin has already radically failed in this conflict. He thought the Russian army would be embraced as liberators, and it didn’t happen. He thought he could take Kyiv, and it didn’t happen.

Nobody has done more to unify the Ukrainian people, nation, and culture than Vladimir Putin. I just wish it wasn't at such a tragic price.
Michael McFaul
FSI Director

This is a horrific war. The Russian Armed Forces attack civilian targets. That's terrorism. I'm not an expert; I don't know what the exact definition of terrorism is, but that feels like a terrorist act to me. They're not counter attacking the Ukrainian Armed Forces. They're literally trying to shut down the electricity grid and literally trying to drown people.

Putin doesn't care about basic human existence, and he's demonstrated that by the way he is fighting and by the way he is shipping innocent people into his country. He doesn't play by basic rules of the game that we thought were in place after 1945.

A month or two into the war, the Ukrainian government in Kyiv was talking in a much more limited way. Now that they've had these achievements and these victories, they're much more optimistic about their capabilities. And who are we to judge whether they're right or wrong? Because we've been wrong in judging their capabilities several times before. So, who am I to say, and who is anybody to say, that they don't have the capabilities to achieve these bigger objectives?

Michael McFaul, FSI Director

Michael McFaul

Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies
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NATO Parliamentary Delegation Joins FSI Scholars for Discussion on Ukraine and Russia

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What the Ukraine-Russia Crisis Says about the Global Struggle for Democracy

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What the Ukraine-Russia Crisis Says about the Global Struggle for Democracy
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To launch a new season of the World Class podcast, Michael McFaul discusses recent developments of the war in Ukraine and how those will impact Ukraine's future, Russia's standing in the world, and the responses of the global community.

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The United Nations kicks off the 10th Review Conference of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) on Monday, gathering 191 treaty members in New York. It’s an NPT review that typically takes place every five years, though the pandemic pushed the date back two years.

Read more at The Washington Post.

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Latin American countries will push again for nuclear disarmament at this month’s review conference

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A recent study has found small modular reactors (SMRs) may actually produce more radioactive waste than larger conventional nuclear power reactors has drawn reaction from vendors and supporters of SMRs.

Small modular reactors are often described as nuclear energy’s future. Nuclear power can generate electricity with limited greenhouse gas emissions, but large reactor plants are expensive, and they also create radioactive waste that pose a threat to people and the environment for hundreds of thousands of years. In an attempt to address this challenge, the nuclear industry is developing smaller reactors that industry analysts say will be cheaper, safer and yield less radioactive waste than the larger ones.

The study on SMRs noted above was conducted by Lindsay Krall, lead author and a former MacArthur Postdoctoral Fellow at the Center for International Security and Cooperation (CISAC), and co-authors Allison Macfarlane, professor and director of the School of Public Policy and Global Affairs at the University of British Columbia, and Rodney Ewing, the Frank Stanton Professor in Nuclear Security at Stanford and co-director of CISAC.

Summing up their findings, Krall wrote in the study, “Our results show that most small modular reactor (SMR) designs will actually increase the volume of nuclear waste in need of management and disposal, by factors of 2 to 30 per unit of energy generated for the reactors in our case study. These findings stand in sharp contrast to the cost and waste reduction benefits that advocates have claimed for advanced nuclear technologies.”

In a recent interview, Krall, Macfarlane and Ewing elaborated on the fuller context of and industry reaction to their study:

What have you learned from publishing this research?

Lindsay Krall: I would like to emphasize the positive responses to this article, particularly among experts in Europe’s nuclear waste management and disposal community, who found the results surprising and very important. It appears that the article has swiftly brought the discussion of SMR waste issues (or lack thereof) to the forefront and attracted the attention of decision- and policy-makers in certain European countries. This makes me hopeful that the results of this study and follow-up research will have a real-world impact and improve the viability of nuclear energy, at least in Europe.

Nevertheless, it is also apparent that the scarcity of practical expertise in nuclear waste management in the U.S., exacerbated by the 12 year-long absence of a waste management and disposal strategy, may make it difficult for the results of the study to reach policy- and decision-makers here.

Did your research involve contacting NuScale for information or clarifications regarding NuScale fuel burnup. If yes or no, please describe why?

Lindsay Krall: As part of the background research to the study, I attended advanced nuclear events around Washington, D.C., where I discussed the study with vendors, NGOs, university researchers, national laboratories, and the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC). The reactor certification application that NuScale had already submitted to the NRC contained much of the information needed to estimate and characterize the waste streams for their reactor, with the exception of the fuel burnup, which was redacted.  In an attempt to obtain the fuel burnup, I filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the NRC, but the burnup was not released. Therefore, I calculated the burnup as described in the appendix that was published with the article.

Why was the 160 MWth NuScale iPWR design chosen for study?

Lindsay Krall: The design certification application submitted to and reviewed by the NRC provided a comprehensive, high quality dataset for the iPWR analysis. In general, the analysis aimed to assess SMR designs that are undergoing or have undergone the regulatory approval process, rather than hypothetical future SMR designs that might be achievable provided significant technical or policy breakthroughs. Although the industry tends to market the benefits of SMRs around the latter “ideal” designs, these are not as “technologically ready” as the certified designs. Therefore, SMR vendors have levied some unfair criticism against this study, because the article and its accompanying appendix clearly state our preference for NRC-reviewed designs.

Please describe the challenges of completing your analysis in light of the lack of access to relevant design specifications?

Allison Macfarlane: It’s essential that quantitative analyses of waste production and management for new reactor designs be completed.  Our paper was an attempt to do so in an open way, to provide the beginning of the discussion of this issue.  Availability of quality data to do such analyses, especially by independent academic researchers, such as ourselves, will improve public confidence in small modular reactors.

What is your response to NuScale’s claim that its 250-MWt design does not produce more spent nuclear fuel than the small quantities typically observed in the existing light-water reactor fleet?

Rod Ewing: The fundamental point is that the information on the design and operational parameters for the 250MWth have not yet been submitted to the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. Our understanding is that the application will be submitted in December of this year. When the required data are available, then it will be possible to do the analysis.

What responsibility do the vendors, who are proposing and receiving federal support to develop advanced reactors, have in addressing concerns about the waste and conducting research that can be reviewed in open literature settings?

Allison Macfarlane: Vendors should have first-hand knowledge of all issues associated with their reactor designs.  These include waste production, of course (and all wastes – low-, intermediate-, and high-level), as well as fuel supply issues, supply chain issues, awareness of security challenges, and proliferation hazards (one assumes they understand safety issues already).  Many of these designers are early in their progress towards one day making their reactors a reality and so, perhaps, the blanks will be filled.  It will be important to do so transparently and in dialogue with other experts and the public to ensure public support of this technology.

What were your most significant findings in this research that people and the nuclear industry should be aware of?

Rod Ewing: The most important point of our paper is that with different reactor designs with new and more complex fuels and coolants, there will be an impact on the approaches that are required for the safe, final disposal of fuels and activated materials. Of particular significance is that at this time the United States has no long-term strategy for dealing with its highly radioactive waste streams, even from its present reactor fleet.

What have you learned from the reaction to this paper?

Rod Ewing: That many of the negative comments have been misplaced in that our paper has been taken as being anti-nuclear. Our paper had a simple purpose, that is to understand the implications of SMRs for the back-end of the nuclear fuel cycle, particularly for the permanent and safe disposal of nuclear wastes from SMRs. Although the question is a reasonable and an obvious question to ask, I now understand that it was an unwelcomed question to pose. We have been criticized for not seeing and acknowledging the bigger picture – the role of nuclear power in reducing greenhouse gas emissions – and instead focusing only on the nuclear waste issue. I see no reason why a paper about nuclear waste and disposal should also be a cheerleader for nuclear power. These are really two separate issues.

Another surprise was the lack of a technical response. Letters were written to the editor of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (which published the study), but these letters were not copied to the authors. Letters appeared on the web, but were not copied to the authors. This was a public relations response not a technical, scientific response. Public relations may win the day, but I do not think that this builds public confidence in nuclear power. The public has to see that important issues are discussed openly and in a way that converges on solutions rather than polarized positions.

There was one important, bright spot during the past week. Jose Reyes (chief technology officer and co-founder) of NuScale published his letter to the editor of PNAS in the Nuclear Newswire of the American Nuclear Society. We prepared a response to Dr. Reyes and submitted it to Nuclear Newswire, and it was accepted and published promptly on June 13.  This effort to foster discussion certainly reflects well on the American Nuclear Society.

Any other points?

Allison Macfarlane: I would like to emphasize a point Lindsay Krall made: no country has an operating geologic repository for spent nuclear fuel yet.  A few countries are moving in that direction, but the U.S. has fallen to the back of the pack in this regard.  The U.S. is at a stalemate with regards to developing a deep geologic repository for high-level nuclear waste and is largely uninterested in solving this problem.  Since a waste issue essentially brought us the climate catastrophe, is it responsible to ignore the waste problem from another energy source?

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A recent study has found small modular reactors (SMRs) may actually produce more radioactive waste than larger conventional nuclear power reactors has drawn reaction from vendors and supporters of SMRs. In a recent interview, Lindsay Krall, Allison Macfarlane and Rod Ewing elaborated on the fuller context of and industry reaction to their study.

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Siegfried S. Hecker
John Mecklin
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One of the world’s foremost nuclear security and policy experts, Sig Hecker has spent much of an illustrious career working to enhance cooperation among US and Russian scientists and their governments in hopes of reducing nuclear risk. In fact, Hecker has literally edited the book on the subject, Doomed to Cooperate: How American and Russian scientists joined forces to avert some of the greatest post-Cold War nuclear dangers.

Read the rest at the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

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One of the world’s foremost nuclear security and policy experts, Sig Hecker has spent much of an illustrious career working to enhance cooperation among US and Russian scientists and their governments in hopes of reducing nuclear risk.

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The Korea Program at Stanford will mark its 20-year anniversary with a conference focused on North Korean issues and South Korea’s pop culture wave (Hallyu), two aspects of Korea that continue to intrigue the public, exploring how to translate this public attention into an increased academic interest in Korea.

Bukchon Hanok village and text about Stanford's Korea Program 20th anniversary conference on May 19-20, 2022.

Featuring a keynote address by
Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

 

DAY 1: Thursday, May 19, 9:00 a.m. - 5:15 p.m.

9:00-9:15 a.m.
Opening and Welcome Remarks

Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Asia-Pacific Research Center and Korea Program, Stanford
Michael McFaul, Director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, Stanford
Gabriella Safran, Senior Associate Dean of Humanities and Arts, Stanford


9:15-10:45 a.m.
Panel on North Korea

Moderated by Yumi Moon, Associate Professor of History, Stanford

Siegfried Hecker, Professor Emeritus, Management Science and Engineering; Senior Fellow Emeritus, FSI, Stanford
Kim Sook, former ROK Ambassador to UN; Executive Director, Ban Ki-moon Foundation for a Better Future
Joohee Cho, Seoul Bureau Chief, ABC News


11:00-11:50 a.m. 
Korea Program at Stanford: Past, Present, and Future 

Moderated by Kelsi Caywood, Research Associate, Korea Program, APARC, Stanford

Paul Chang, Associate Professor of Sociology, Harvard University
Joon-woo Park, former ROK Ambassador to EU and Singapore; 2011-12 Koret Fellow
Jong Chun Woo, former president of Stanford APARC-Seoul Forum; Professor Emeritus, Seoul National University
Megan Faircloth, Senior in East Asian Languages and Cultures, Stanford


11:50 a.m.-12:30 p.m.        Lunch Break


12:30-1:30 p.m.
Keynote Address by Ban Ki-moon, former Secretary-General of the United Nations

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portrait of UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon

Introduction by H.R. McMaster, former National Security Advisor; Fouad and Michelle Ajami Senior Fellow, Hoover Institution, Stanford

Moderated by Gi-Wook Shin, Director of APARC and Korea Program, Stanford
 


2:00-3:30 p.m.
Panel on the Korean Wave

Moderated by Dafna Zur, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Director of Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford

SUHO, Leader of EXO
Angela Killoren, CEO of CJ ENM America, Inc.
Marci Kwon, Assistant Professor of Art and Art History, Stanford


3:45-5:15 p.m.
Documentaries on K-pop
 and North Korean Human Rights (teaser)*

Moderated by Haley Gordon, Research Associate, Korea Program, APARC, Stanford

Introduction of the films by Director Hark Joon Lee and Director of Photography Byeon Jaegil 

Vivian Zhu, Junior in International Relations and East Asian Studies, Stanford
Youlim Kim, Third-year PhD student in Microbiology & Immunology, Stanford
*The documentaries will not be shown on the livestream


Conference speakers
Conference speakers include (from left to right) Ban Ki-moon, Kathryn Moler, SUHO, Soo-Man Lee, Marci Kwon, Michael McFaul, Siegfried Hecker, Kim Hyong-O, Dafna Zur, H.R. McMaster, Michelle Cho, Gabriella Safran.

Day 2: Friday, May 20, 9:00 a.m. - 12:00 p.m.

9:00-10:30 a.m.
How to Translate Interest in North Korea and K-pop into Korean Studies

Moderated by Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Asia-Pacific Research Center and Korea Program

David Kang, Professor of International Relations and Business, USC
Yumi Moon, Associate Professor of History, Stanford
Michelle Cho, Assistant Professor of East Asian Studies, University of Toronto
Dafna Zur, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Director of Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford


10:45 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Future Visions of K-pop

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Soo-Man Lee
Keynote speech by Soo-Man Lee, Founder and Chief Producer of SM Entertainment

Introduction by Gi-Wook Shin, Director of Asia-Pacific Research Center and Korea Program

Conversation with:
Dafna Zur, Associate Professor of East Asian Languages and Cultures; Director of Center for East Asian Studies, Stanford
SUHO, Leader of EXO

Conferences
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Shorenstein APARC Japan Program April 18 Webinar information card: Japan's Foreign Policy in the Aftermath of the Russian Invasion of Ukraine, including photo portraits of speakers Hiroyuki Akita, Yoko Iwama, and Kiyoteru Tsutsui

April 18, 5:00 p.m - 6:30 p.m. PT / April 19, 9:00 a.m. - 10:30 a.m. JT

Russia’s invasion in Ukraine has transformed the landscape of international security in a multitude of ways and reshaped foreign policy in many countries. How did it impact Japan’s foreign policy? From nuclear sharing to the Northern Territories, it sparked new debates in Japan about how to cope with Putin’s Russia and the revised international order. With NATO reenergized and the United States having to recommit some resources in Europe, how should Japan counter an expansionist China, an emboldened North Korea, and a potentially hamstrung Russia to realize its vision of Free and Open Indo-Pacific? What might be the endgame in Ukraine and how would it impact the clash of liberal and authoritarian forces in the Indo-Pacific region? Featuring two leading experts on world politics and Japan’s foreign policy, this panel tackles these questions and charts a way forward for Japan.

Square photo portrait of Yoko Iwama

Yoko Iwama is Professor of National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS). She is also the director of Security and Strategy Program and Maritime Safety and Security Program at GRIPS. 

She graduated from Kyoto University in 1986 and earned her PhD in Law. Having served as Research Assistant of Kyoto University (1994–97), Special Assistant of the Japanese Embassy in Germany (1998–2000), and Associate Professor at GRIPS (2000), she was appointed Professor at GRIPS in 2009. She was a student at the Free University of Berlin between 1989-1991, where she witnessed the end the reunification of the two Germanies. 

Her specialty is international security and European diplomatic history centering on NATO, Germany, and nuclear strategy. 

Her publications include John Baylis and Yoko Iwama (ed.) Joining the Non-Proliferation Treaty: Deterrence, Non-Proliferation and the American Alliance, (Routledge 2018); “Unified Germany and NATO,” (in Keiichi Hirose/ Tomonori Yoshizaki (eds.) International Relation of NATO, Minerva Shobo, 2012). 

Her newest book The 1968 Global Nuclear Order and West Germany appeared in August 2021 in Japanese. She is working on a co-authored book on the origins and evolution of the nuclear-sharing in NATO and a co-authored book on the Neutrals, the Non-aligned countries and the NPT.  

Square photo portrait of Hiroyuki Akita

Hiroyuki Akita is a Commentator of Nikkei. He regularly writes commentaries, columns, and analysis focusing on foreign and international security affairs. He joined Nikkei in 1987 and worked at the Political News Department from 1998 to 2002 where he covered Japanese foreign policy, security policy, and domestic politics. Akita served as Senior & Editorial Staff Writer from 2009 to 2017, and also worked at the “Leader Writing Team ” of the Financial Times in London in late 2017. 

 Akita graduated from Jiyu Gakuen College in 1987 and Boston University (M.A.). From 2006 to 2007, he was an associate of the US-Japan Program at Harvard University, where he conducted research on US-China-Japan relations. In March 2019, he won the Vaughn-Ueda International Journalist Award, a prize for outstanding reporting of international affairs. He is an author of two books in Japanese: “Anryu (Power Game of US-China-Japan)”(2008), and “Ranryu (Strategic Competition of US-Japan and China)”(2016). 

Square photo portrait of Kiyoteru Tsutsui

Kiyoteru Tsutsui is the Henri H. and Tomoye Takahashi Professor, Professor of Sociology, Senior Fellow at the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies, and Deputy Director of the Walter H. Shorenstein Asia-Pacific Research Center, where he is also Director of the Japan Program. He is the author of Rights Make Might: Global Human Rights and Minority Social Movements in Japan (Oxford University Press, 2018), co-editor of Corporate Responsibility in a Globalizing World (Oxford University Press, 2016) and co-editor of The Courteous Power: Japan and Southeast Asia in the Indo-Pacific Era (University of Michigan Press, 2021).  

 

Kiyoteru Tsutsui
Kiyoteru Tsutsui

Via Zoom Webinar

Yoko Iwama Professor & Center Director National Graduate Institute for Policy Studies (GRIPS)
Hiroyuki Akita Commentator Nikkei
Authors
Michael Breger
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China and the United States are the two biggest carbon-emitting countries in the world. Decarbonization in these two countries will have material impacts on a global scale and is timelier than ever, according to a recent report from Stanford University’s Precourt Institute for Energy, Stanford Center at Peking University, APARC's China Program, and Peking University’s Institute of Energy.

The report is the product of a roundtable series, held in October 2021 that brought together leading American and Chinese current and former officials, and experts in the public and private sectors working on energy, climate, the environment, industry, transportation, and finance. The roundtables promoted discussion around how China and the United States can accelerate decarbonization and cooperate with one another to meet their carbon neutrality goals by mid-century.

The thematic areas of the roundtables included U.S.- China collaboration on climate change, global sustainable finance, corporate climate pledges, and the opportunities and challenges for the acceleration of decarbonization in both countries in general, as well as specifically for the power, transportation, and industry sectors.

The resultant report reviews the key themes and takeaways that emerged from the closed-door discussions. It builds on the “U.S.-China Joint Statement Addressing the Climate Crisis” released by the U.S. Department of State on April 17, 2021 and shares some common themes with the “U.S.-China Joint Glasgow Declaration on Enhancing Climate Action in the 2020s” released on November 10, 2021. Shiran Victoria Shen of the Hoover Institution authored the report, with contributions by Yi Cui of the Precourt Institute for Energy, Zhijun Jin of the Institute of Energy and Jean Oi, Director of APARC's China Program

The report suggests that tensions in U.S.-China relations have hindered the acceleration of decarbonization and that open science in fundamental research areas must be encouraged. Universities can educate future leaders, advance knowledge, and foster U.S.-China collaboration on open-science R&D, regardless of the political environment. The report argues that the most promising strategy to decarbonize energy is to electrify consumption now served by fossil fuels as much as possible while decarbonizing electricity generation. 

The roundtables identified six areas where the U.S. and China could collaborate: global green finance, carbon capture and storage, low-carbon agriculture and food processing, methane leak reduction, grid integration and greater use of intermittent renewables, and governance, including at the subnational level. The report further identifies more concrete and additional promising areas for accelerated decarbonization and bilateral collaboration, as well as the obstacles to be tackled, including institutional, political, and financial constraints. 

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Ban Ki-moon Urges Global Cooperation to Address Twin Crises of Climate Change, COVID-19

“We need an all hands on deck approach underpinned by partnership and cooperation to succeed...we must unite all global citizens and nations...indeed we are truly all in this together.”
Ban Ki-moon Urges Global Cooperation to Address Twin Crises of Climate Change, COVID-19
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Navigating Chinese Investment, Trade, and Technology: The New Economy Conference

Ambassador Craig Allen, David Cheng, James Green, and Anja Manuel explore the role of Chinese economic activity in California in the context of the greater US-Chinese relationship.
Navigating Chinese Investment, Trade, and Technology: The New Economy Conference
Paper boats with Chinese and American flags
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Partner, Competitor, and Challenger: Thoughts on the Future of America’s China Strategy

Ryan Hass, Michael H. Armacost Chair in Foreign Policy Studies at the Brookings Institution, discusses the future of US-China relations. Can we find room for cooperation in this contentious relationship?
Partner, Competitor, and Challenger: Thoughts on the Future of America’s China Strategy
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A report on China and the United States' decarbonization and carbon neutrality proposes areas of collaboration on climate change action, global sustainable finance, and corporate climate pledges. The report is the product of roundtables with participants from the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy, SCPKU, APARC's China Program, and Peking University’s Institute of Energy.

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