CNS: The Power and Promise of Nonproliferation Education
“The Power and Promise of Nonproliferation Education and Training” was the name given to the 20th anniversary celebration held for the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) in 2009. Nonproliferation education remains at the core of the Center’s mission today, and was the focus of two highlights from the past few months of CNS activities.
Following the June 18 meeting between President Obama and President Putin of Russia at the G-20 Summit in Mexico, the U.S. Department of State issued a joint statement by the two presidents which included an attachment citing the U.S.-Russia Virtual Science Challenge for Youth as a significant example of cooperation between the two nations.
The program brings U.S. and Russian high school students together online to investigate solutions for managing the world’s 240,000 metric tons of spent nuclear fuel. If not managed properly, spent fuel could cause a widespread release of radiation or be used in the development of nuclear explosives. Designed to enhance cross-cultural understanding and collaborative research, the project uses a dedicated and secure website to connect 20 U.S. and Russian students representing five high schools in each country.
The students utilize online workshops, e-learning modules, and virtual classrooms to become familiar with unclassified information about the science and technology of nuclear weapons, nuclear reactors, the nuclear fuel cycle, and the proliferation risks posed by highly enriched uranium and plutonium. Then, students examine options for handling spent nuclear fuel, especially plutonium. The study requires scientific prowess, critical thinking, and cross-cultural cooperation. At the final stage, the teams come together and present their findings and proposed solutions in a virtual science fair.
The U.S.-Russia Virtual Science Challenge for Youth is funded by the State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, which last fall chose CNS as the sole U.S. organization in the nation to conduct the project.
The spring issue of the Carnegie Reporter, a publication of Carnegie Corporation of New York, featured several students from the Nonproliferation and Terrorism Studies program at MIIS. Titled “Next Gen Nonproliferation,” the article portrays the students as future leaders in the global effort to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Last fall, the Carnegie Corporation awarded MIIS and CNS a three-year $900,000 grant to support nonproliferation education and training. The article notes that Carnegie places great faith in CNS Director William Potter, who “is building tomorrow’s global community of nonproliferation experts today.” Dr. Potter in turn places a great deal of trust in his students, and notes that there are different ways to determine potential—academic excellence matters, but there also has to be an element of passion.
MIIS and CNS continue to be the leading educators of the next generation of nonproliferation professionals, providing a key training ground for future leaders in one of the most vital fields of study there is.