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2012 Dr. Frank von Hippel

Dr. Frank von Hippel
Professor of Public and International Affairs
Princeton University

A Global Cleanout of Nuclear Weapon Materials

Lecture on Wednesday, April 4, 2012 at 4:00 P.M.
Michigan Student Union Ballroom

Lecture Abstract:
Humanity has created enough highly enriched uranium (HEU) and separated plutonium to produce well over 100,000 nuclear explosives. Most of this material is a legacy of the U.S.-Soviet Cold War nuclear arms race but separation of about half of the plutonium was initiated to provide startup fuel for plutonium breeder reactors that were never built.

Today, excess Cold War HEU is being blended down to low-enriched uranium (LEU) for use in power reactor fuel and some of it is being placed in reserves for future use as naval-reactor fuel. Excess separated plutonium is also mostly being disposed of in power reactor fuel.

A small part of the HEU -- but still hundreds of weapon equivalents -- was spread to more than 40 nations in reactor fuel for research reactors that the U.S. and Soviet Union supplied during the 1950s and 60s under their Atoms for Peace Programs. Today, a major effort is focused on converting those of these research reactors that are still operating to LEU and retrieving the fresh and spent HEU fuel. As France has demonstrated, naval reactors also could be converted to LEU fuel.

Biographical Sketch of Dr. Frank von Hippel

Frank von Hippel, a nuclear physicist, is a Professor of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University where, in 1975, he co-founded what is now Princeton’s Program on Science and Global Security and, in 1989, the journal Science & Global Security, whose Editorial Board he chairs.

He has worked on policy proposals relating to the control of plutonium and highly enriched uranium (HEU) for more than three decades, including initiatives to end: the production of plutonium and highly-enriched uranium for weapons (Fissile Material Cutoff Treaty); the use of highly enriched uranium as a reactor fuel (the Global Threat Reduction Initiative); and plutonium separation from spent nuclear fuel.

Von Hippel co-founded and is currently Co-Chair of the non-governmental International Panel on Fissile Materials, which includes experts from 17 countries and develops proposals for initiatives to reduce global stocks of plutonium and HEU and the numbers of locations where they can be found.

During 1993-4, he served as Assistant Director for National Security in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy and played a major role in developing what is now called the International Nuclear Materials Protection and Cooperation Program.

During 1983-1991, while he was chairman of the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) and the FAS Fund, he partnered with the Committee of Soviet Scientists for Peace and Against the Nuclear Threat (Evgenyi Velikhov, chairman) to help provide technical support for Gorbachev’s initiatives to achieve a Comprehensive Test Ban, and the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces and Strategic Arms Reductions Treaties.

Von Hippel’s awards include: the American Physical Society’s (APS) 2010 Leo Szilard Lectureship Award for “outstanding work and leadership in using physics to illuminate public policy in the areas of nuclear arms control and nonproliferation, nuclear energy, and energy efficiency;” the American Association for the Advancement of Science’s 1994 Hilliard Roderick Prize for Excellence in Science, Arms Control and International Security; a MacArthur Foundation Prize Fellowship (1993-8); and the 1977 APS Forum Award for Promoting the Understanding of the Relationship of Physics and Society with Joel Primack for their book, Advice and Dissent, Scientists in the Political Arena (Basic Books, 1974; New American Library, 1976).

The American Institute of Physics published a collection of his articles in its “Masters of Modern Physics” series under the title Citizen Scientist (Simon and Schuster, 1991).