Category Archives: 2011-2012

2012 Student Spring Conference Report in Vienna

CIF Report: High School Students Present on
Nuclear Safety and Security in Vienna

View the 2012 Conference Photos


Although, many believe that high school students are too young to be engaged in issues related to nuclear safety, security, nonproliferation and disarmament, this type of conventional wisdom can often be a hindrance to engaging stakeholder in the most innovative and fresh ideas for tackling the world’s pressing challenges. As was evident at the 2012 Critical Issues Forum (CIF) conference, the world’s future leaders are ready to get involved in important discussions related to global peace and security.

The spring 2012 CIF conference was held in Vienna, Austria, as a side event of the first session of the Preparatory Committee for the 2015 Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT PrepCom). This year’s conference was held on April 30 at the Vienna International Center (where the PrepCom occurred), and on May 1-2 at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. IAEA Director General Yukiya Amano gave the keynote address, highlighting his enthusiasm in disarmament and nonproliferation education.

The CIF program is funded by the U.S. Department of Energy to promote nonproliferation education of high school students and teachers. This year’s conference was co-sponsored by the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), the Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs, the Vienna Center for Disarmament and Nonproliferation (VCDNP), and the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education and the NPT Review Process

Disarmament and nonproliferation education at all levels, including secondary education, was the subject of the Secretary General’s report on the UN Study on Disarmament and Nonproliferation Education, and also is highlighted in the Action Plan of the 2010 NPT Review Conference Final Document. The co-sponsors of the CIF conference hoped that by providing high school students with an opportunity to observe part of the 2012 NPT PrepCom and facilitating their interaction with senior diplomats and officials from international organizations, the CIF event would serve as a concrete example of how education can promote nuclear nonproliferation and disarmament.

Since the Austrian government and CNS opened the VCDNP in February 2011, the VCDNP has been conducting numerous nonproliferation and disarmament education activities in cooperation with the Austrian MFA. In conjunction with this development, CNS and the Austrian MFA together with the VCDNP decided to conduct this year’s CIF spring conference as a side event of the NPT PrepCom.

Overview of the 2012 Program

The annual cycle of the CIF program started with the teachers training workshop held in December in Monterey. Based on the education curriculum developed by CNS on this year’s topic, “Nuclear Safety and Security,” students with guidance from their teachers, worked diligently on their projects and submitted two papers in preparation for the conference.

Students selected from five US high schools and five from Russia’s closed nuclear cities as well as one school from Bosnia and Herzegovina participated in the final conference in Vienna. In addition 10 students from the Austrian Red Cross High School and several students from the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna joined the conference as observers.

While many youth delegations from civil society participated in the NPT PrepCom, CIF high school students were the youngest group among them. Since high school students are not generally allowed to participate in the NPT related meetings, they were granted a special exception to the age limit for participation in the NPT PrepCom.

The students worked very hard to investigate formidable challenges related to the issues of nuclear safety and security, which have major impact on global peace and security. These issues are not new, but the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident reawakened the world to the fact that while the probability of nuclear accidents or attacks may be low, should they occur, the potential consequences are enormous.

CIF Conference Special Session at VIC

During the session held at the Vienna International Center (VIC) on April 30 as a side event of the NPT PrepCom, IAEA Director General Mr. Yukiya Amano gave a keynote address. Mr. Amano began his talk by mentioning why he became interested in nonproliferation and disarmament issues. He encouraged the young people in the audience to pursue their goals and dreams, and find something they can be passionate about. He also engaged students during the question and answer portion of his talk. High school students enthusiastically asked many substantive questions ranging from current proliferation challenges, such as the nuclear issues in North Korea and Iran, to youth involvement in the NPT Review Process.
High school students from Franklin High School in California, and Gymasia 164 in Zelenogorsk, Russia presented in front of delegations to the NPT PrepCom. These two schools worked together remotely, communicating via email and Skype to create a combined presentation. Their presentation focused on the attitudes of developed and developing nations towards nuclear safety and security. Using several country case studies, the students’ presentation was very insightful and convincing. Many participants who observed the presentation were very impressed by their high quality presentation.

The students’ presentation was followed by a testimonial of a Special Communicator for a World Without Nuclear Weapons designated by the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mr. Masahito Hirose, an atomic bombing survivor from Nagasaki shared his experience with the students and participants during this event. For most of CIF students it was their first time to listen to such a story directly. Inspired by his experience and continuing and ever growing passion for nuclear disarmament, many of these high school students expressed their determination to contribute to making progress toward a nuclear weapons free world.
Representing co-hosts, Japanese Ambassador Toshiro Ozawa, Permanent Representative to the International Organizations in Vienna, and Mr. Ronald Sturm from Austrian Federal Ministry for European and International Affairs congratulated students for their great work.

Sessions at the Diplomatic Academy

The CIF spring conference reconvened on May 1 at the Diplomatic Academy of Vienna where all the participating schools presented their findings on nuclear safety and security. Students presentations ranged from global challenges of nuclear safety and security to issues related to their local nuclear power plants.

Student presentations were creative and innovative based on their thorough studies. Gymnasium #41 from Novouralsk, Russia’s presentation linked nuclear safety and security issues to the philosophical teachings of Emmanuel Kant. The students investigated past nuclear power plants accidents and threats of nuclear terrorism in an effort to answer overall philosophical questions posted by Kant.

Choate Rosemary Hall from Connecticut discussed nuclear safety and security issues using the Indian Point Nuclear Reactor facility in Buchanan, New York due to its proximity to their school. Their presentation included the history of this reactor including site selection and design, the company, accidents that have occurred at the plant, the plant’s upcoming recertification in 2013, the security of the plant, and the economic and political factors that have formed and will continue to form the basis for all discussions about this plant. They focused on possible changes in plant design and ways to address the safe storage of nuclear waste.

Santa Catalina School from Monterey participated in the CIF program for the first time. They discussed the intricate psychological sociological, economic and political effect of a cyber-attack on a nuclear facility through outlining past cyber-attacks.

School of Cosmonautics, Zheleznogorsk, Russia presented nuclear safety in Ukraine based on lessons learned from the Chernobyl accident. They discussedinternational efforts to enhance nuclear safety and focused on particular measures implemented in Ukraine in compliance with obligations under the Convention on Nuclear Safety, the Convention on Early Notification of a Nuclear Accident, the Convention on Assistance in the Case of Nuclear Accident and the Joint Convention on the Safety of Spent Fuel Management and on the Safety of Radioactive Waste. Their presentation also covered the lessons Ukraine learned after the most serious accident in the history of the nuclear industry as well as after the Fukushima tragedy. Their presentation included an educational animated short video clip for pre-college school students to learn more about the impact of natural hazards on Ukrainian nuclear power plants.

This year’s CIF welcomed a new school from Bosnia and Herzegovina, United World College in Mostar. They presented their studies on challenges related to Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and proliferation issues. In addition, the students introduced their schools’ unique plan to integrate nonproliferation issues in its cross disciplinary activities. Each school’s presentation was followed by a question and answer session where students actively engaged.

Graduate students specializing in nonproliferation at the Monterey Institute who participated in the NPT PrepCom also contributed to a successful CIF conference sharing their experience and expertise. Four CNS students, Karen Hogue, Jennifer Dahnke, Amanda Sayre, and Sophie Manoukian shared their motivation to study nonproliferation issues, and encouraged high school students to continue to study this important subject. Tamara Patton, a second year student currently interning at the Conference on Disarmament in Geneva presented “Geospatial Tools for Nonproliferation and Disarmament Research” demonstrating how to construct accurate digital 3D models of buildings such as nuclear reactors, using aerial satellite imagery and shadow measurement techniques in Google SketchUp and Google earth. These graduate students presentations increased the high school students’ interest in nonproliferation issues particularly using technology to contribute to nonproliferation and disarmament research.

Ms. Olga Martin, Program Manager, Global Initiatives for Proliferation Prevention Program Nuclear Nonproliferation Division at Los Alamos National Laboratory, representing the US Department of Energy, the major funder of the program, congratulated students on their excellent work, and discussed the importance of science in international security, while encouraging students to continue to study this important issue.
Representing the Japanese Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Michiru Nishida, who studied nonproliferation issues at the Monterey Institute, expressed his view on the importance of nonproliferation and disarmament education while introducing the Japanese government’s initiative in this sphere.

At the closing ceremony, Mr. Ronald Sturm from the Austrian MFA congratulated each participant for his or her hard work and the extraordinary great outcome of the conference.

Other Conference Activities

CIF students and teachers also had an opportunity to participate in a tour of the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO), including a presentation on the verification regime, visits to the radionuclide rooftop station and the International Data Center. On the final day of their stay, the students and teachers enjoyed cultural activities in Vienna visiting Schönbrunn Palace and enjoyed a guided tour at the Kunsthistorisches Museum (museum of fine arts).


This year’s NPT PrepCom testified that more and more state parties and civil society are becoming aware of the importance of disarmament and nonproliferation education to make progress toward a world free of nuclear weapons. Austrian Ambassador Alexander Kmentt, the Director for Disarmament, Arms Control and Non-Proliferation in his statement ( highlighted the CIF spring conference as one example of Austria’s commitments to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education. Moreover, Austria and Japan co-submitted a working paper ( ) on disarmament and nonproliferation education again highlighted their co-sponsorship of the CIF Conference along with each country’s efforts to promote such education.

The CIF conference proved that in order to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education, it is essential for state parties and educational and research institutes to closely cooperate on this endeavor. CNS continues to make efforts to reach out to more schools in different countries, including in the Middle East and Asia, to promote disarmament and nonproliferation education.

Elucidating the importance that a program such as CIF has for the world’s future leaders, the concluding remarks of the students at the session held at the Vienna International Center in front of delegations to the NPT PrepCom noted:

We the students of the world, understand that we will one day be given the responsibility of leading and preserving our world, so we’ve found educating ourselves and participating in the disarmament and nonproliferation movements to be so incredibly important.

2011 Spring Conference Report

American, Chinese, and Russian
High School Students Discuss Solutions
to Nuclear Challenges in the Middle East

View the 2011 Conference Photos

The recent political upheaval in the Middle East and the March 2011 nuclear accident at the Fukushima Daiichi plant in Japan have brought issues of nuclear safety, security, and proliferation to the top of the global agenda. For more than a decade, the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS), with support from the Ford Foundation and the U.S. Department of Energy, has encouraged high school students to explore these vital issues through its Critical Issues Forum program (CIF). This program aims to increase the awareness of nonproliferation and disarmament issues and enhance critical thinking skills in these students. The culmination of the 2010-2011 CIF program occurred on April 28 and 29, as students and teachers from China, Russia and around the United States gathered in Monterey to present the results of their research on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons in the Middle East. Sixty students and 27 teachers from 8 U.S. high schools, 10 schools in Russia’s closed nuclear cities attended along with students from Tsinghua High School in Beijing, marking the first time in the project’s history that a school from China has participated in the conference.

The 2010-2011 CIF program was kicked off in November 2010 with a curriculum development workshop for teachers where this year’s topic was introduced. The participating teachers followed the curriculum on nuclear energy and nuclear weapons in the Middle East with their own students. Throughout the semester, participating students, under the instruction of each school’s CIF teacher, undertook comprehensive coursework including topics such as nuclear technology, history of the Middle East, and proliferation concern in the region. Students also researched relevant multilateral nonproliferation and arms control regimes. The CIF program had students examine possible ways to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons in the region, including establishment of a Middle East nuclear weapon free zone (NWFZ), strengthening International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) safeguards, enforcing sanctions, and military action.

CIF Participants Look for Solutions

The presentations at the conference approached complex regional issues from a variety of perspectives. First time participants from Tsinghua High School presented their views on nuclear proliferation in the Middle East in a very innovative way. Tsinghua students used Iran and Israel as case studies and incorporated cultural and economic factors to formulate their recommendations. They also used an analogy between scientific aspects of nuclear weapons and political dimensions of nuclear development of countries in the region. Maine’s Presque Isle High School marked its second year of participation in the program with a thoughtful examination of possible solutions to concerns about nuclear proliferation in the Middle East. One of the veteran participants, Franklin High School from Elk Grove, California, reviewed issues surrounding nuclear development and conflicts in the Middle East using several medium from both historical and contemporary perspectives. Elk Grove’s presentation dramatically incorporated poetry, video, music, and soliloquy; the students gave a solid overview of nuclear program development in the region—including scientific, political, and historical aspects—while at the same time providing a creative and artistically entertaining presentation.

The timing of the conference marked the 25th anniversary of the Chernobyl nuclear power plant accident. Therefore, participating students, particularly, Russian students incorporated the issue of nuclear safety to prevent future occurrence of such accidents. School No. 125 from Snezhinsk, Russia, focused their analysis on global concerns about nuclear activities in the Middle East given the possibility of an upsurge in civilian nuclear development in the region. The school presented on the civilian nuclear programs and plans of major countries in the region based on their comprehensive review of issues from technical, historical and economic perspectives. The students also highlighted the history of the discussion around a Middle East nuclear weapons free zone. The presentation from School No. 41 of Novouralsk, Russia used multimedia to highlight the history of nuclear programs in Egypt. The presentation posed the interesting question of what the future holds for nuclear issues in Egypt, particularly with the country’s recent change in leadership.

The School of Cosmonautics, a high school in Zheleznogorsk, Russia, focused on nuclear issues related to Syria, with an overview of the country’s history, reasons for developing nuclear power, and analysis on the possibility that Syria might develop nuclear weapons

Monterey Nonproliferation Students and Experts Share Perspectives

A panel discussion by Monterey Institute of International Studies (MIIS) graduate students specializing in nonproliferation has become an important feature of the CIF conference. Each panelist shared his or her unique experience related to the decision to study nonproliferation issues. The graduate students encouraged CIF participants to work on important global issues and towards creating a safer world. Jessica Varnum, adjunct professor at MIIS and project manager at CNS, moderated the panel. She shared her experience from high school and college, how she came to be interested in this issue, and highlighted the importance of working for something meaningful so that each of us can contribute to a better future. She also emphasized the importance of science education in order to effectively involved oneself in the policy making process. Dawn Verdugo, a chemist teaching science for nonproliferation and terrorism studies while earning a Certificate in Nonproliferation studies, shared her experience working on the technical aspects of nonproliferation. CIF high school students actively engaged the panelists in dialogue during the question and answer session.

Gaukhar Mukhatzhanova, CNS research associate and Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty project manager, gave the keynote address at the conference. In her speech, “Nuclear Proliferation and the Middle East, Predicting the Unpredictable?” she shared her analysis on nuclear proliferation challenges in the region. A lively question and answer session followed, with the students asking many stimulating and provocative questions.

CIF Students’ Gain Knowledge, Critical Thinking Experience

All the high school students participating in CIF worked hard to master knowledge on this daunting topic over the past semester. They gave high quality presentations of their research and analysis and showed clear enthusiasm for the study of nonproliferation issues. Before attending the spring conference, students also completed a written assignment on the topic based on the curriculum. Through this process, students were able to engage in important research and educational activities including brainstorming, evaluation of content, critical thinking, synthesis of information, and academic writing. Most students found the CIF program critical in improving their understanding of nuclear nonproliferation issues and the connection with and concerns of other people and nations; they also generally agreed that participating in CIF has improved their writing and analytical skills. Students also were able to become acquainted with fellow participants from around the United States, Russia and China and build friendships that will contribute to better understanding across cultures.

2011-2012 Teachers’ Lectures and Presentations

Miles Pomper, Nuclear Renaissance lecture video

Miles Pomper, Nuclear Terrorism and Nuclear Security lecture video

Karen Hogue, Nuclear Energy overview lecture

Patricia Lewis, Connection between nuclear safety and security, nuclear disarmament and nonproliferation

Margarita Sevcik, Deputy Director of the CNS Education Program,
lecture focused on nuclear and radiological security in former Soviet Countries:


2011-2012 Teachers’ Workshop Agenda

Thursday Dec. 1, 2011

8:30AM (PST)– 8:45AM (PST)
Welcome Remarks
Dr. William Potter, CNS Founding Director

8:45AM (PST)–9:00 (PST)
Introduction of New CNS Education Program Director
Dr. Avner CohenNonproliferation Education Program Director, Adjunct Professor

9:00AM (PST)–9:15AM (PST)
Overview of the Workshop and 2011-2012 CIF Program

9:15AM (PST)–9:45AM (PST)
Introduction of the 2011-2012 Program Curriculum Guidelines
Stephen Sesko, CNS Consultant

9:45AM (PST)–10:45AM (PST)
Content Lecture 1: Nuclear Energy Overview
Karen Hogue, CNS Graduate Research Assistant, MANPTS student

10:45AM (PST)–11:00AM (PST) Break

11:00AM (PST)–12:00PM (PST)
Content Lecture 2: “Nuclear Renaissance” Overview
Miles Pomper, CNS Senior Research Associate, Washington, DC Office

12:00PM (PST)–12:15PM (PST) Group Photo

12:15PM (PST)–1:30PM (PST) Lunch Break (lunch on own)

(Afternoon sessions will be held in McCone Board Room)

1:30PM (PST)–2:30PM (PST)
Content lecture 4: Connection between Nuclear Safety/Security and Nuclear Nonproliferation/Disarmament
Patricia Lewis, CNS Deputy Director, Scientist-in-Residence

2:30PM (PST)–3:30PM (PST)
Content Lecture 3: Challenges in Nuclear and Radiological Security (Nuclear Terrorism)
Miles Pomper, CNS Senior Research Associate, Washington, DC Office

3:30PM (PST)–3:40PM (PST) Break

3:40PM (PST)–4:15PM (PST)
Teacher-led Session: Brainstorming on Designing Learning Activities
Lead teachers: Bob Shayler, Orinda Academy, and Linda Palmer, Presque Isle HS

6:00PM (PST) Hosted Dinner

Friday, December 2, 2011

9:00AM (PST)–9:10AM (PST)
Questions and updates

9:10AM (PST)-10:10AM (PST)
Content Lecture 5: Challenges in Nuclear Safety (Nuclear Power Plant Accidents)
Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-VeressScientist-in-Residence & Adjunct Professor

10:10AM (PST)–11:10AM (PST)
Content Lecture 6: Nuclear Spent Fuel Management
Dr. Ferenc Dalnoki-VeressScientist-in-Residence & Adjunct Professor

11:10AM (PST)–11:20AM (PST) Break

11:20AM (PST)-12:10PM (PST)
Content Lecture 7: Governance, International Management of Nuclear Safety and Security
Miles Pomper, CNS Senior Research Associate, Washington, DC Office

12:10PM (PST)–1:30PM (PST) Lunch Break (lunch on own)

1:30PM (PST)–2:30PM (PST)
Content lecture 8: Regional Challenges, East Asia
Stephanie LieggiCNS Senior Research Associate, East Asia Nonproliferation Program
Steven Anderle, CNS Graduate Research Assistant, MANPTS Student

2:30PM (PST)–3:30PM
Content lecture 9: Regional Challenges, Former Soviet Countries
Margarita Sevcik, CNS Education Program Deputy Director

3:30PM (PST)–3:45PM (PST) Break

3:45PM (PST)–4:30PM (PST)
Exercise and Discussion: How to Solve the Issue of Spent Fuel Management? Group Activities

Saturday, December 3, 2011

9:00AM (PST)–10:00AM (PST)
Evaluation of Students Work and Citation
Stephen Sesko and Sue Ann Dobbyn, CIF Consultant

10:00AM (PST) –11:00AM (PST)
Discussion on Students Assignment

11:00AM (PST)–11:15AM (PST) Break

11:15AM (PST)–12:15PM (PST)
Planning for the Spring Conference and Timeline

12:15PM (PST)-12:35PM (PST)
Using Geospatial Analysis Tools for Nonproliferation Research
Tamara Patton, CNS Graduate Research Assistant, MANPTS Student

12:35PM (PST)–1:45PM (PST) Lunch (lunch on own)

1:45PM (PST)–2:45PM (PST)
Tools for Online Community Building and Website Presentation
Lisa Donohoe LuscombeProject Manager, Nonproliferation Education

2:45PM (PST)-3:15PM (PST)
Introducing Resources, Discussion

The CIF Teacher Development Workshop is supported by grants from the
  U.S. Department of Energy, MacArthur Foundation, and Ford Foundation.

2011-2012 CIF Workshop Report

Teachers from 12 U.S. high schools in California, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, and Wisconsin, three schools in Russia’s closed nuclear cities of Novouralsk, Zelenogorsk, and Snezhinsk, and one Chinese high school in Beijing participated in the 2011-2012 Critical Issues Forum (CIF) Teacher Development Workshop from December 1-3, 2011, at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) at the Monterey Institute of International Studies.

The CIF is a unique nonproliferation education program for high school students. This year the participating schools are tackling one of the most challenging and pressing issues in the international peace and security field—nuclear safety and security.

Fukushima Accident

The Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant accident reawakened the world to the fact that, while the probability of accidents or attacks against nuclear power plant is relatively low, their potential consequences could be extremely grave. The accident was a wake-up call to address serious shortcomings in nuclear safety and security around the world.

Consultation with CNS Experts

At the workshop, teachers were introduced to this year’s curriculum benchmarks that the CIF project team developed in consultation with CNS content experts, and received instruction on how to conduct the CIF program with students. CNS experts delivered lectures of various aspects related to nuclear safety and security. The content lectures included:

  • An overview of the mechanics of nuclear energy
  • A discussion on the increasing interest in nuclear energy, especially in developing countries in Asia and the Middle East
  • The intersection between nuclear safety and security, nuclear terrorism
  • Challenges in nuclear safety such as past nuclear power plant accidents, including Three Mile Island, Chernobyl, and Fukushima accidents

Participants also discussed:

  • How to solve the issue of nuclear spent fuel
  • How to control and govern nuclear safety and security issues both domestically and internationally.

Workshop Participants

Participants were actively engaged in the discussions and many lively questions were raised.

This year, local high schools in Monterey, including Santa Catalina, York and Monterey High School, participated in the program for the first time.

In addition, two European schools (United World College Moster in Bosnia-Herzegovina, and United World College Maastricht in the Netherlands), and Amman Baccalaureate School in Amman, Jordan joined the workshop using a Web conference tool.

The Russian teachers will hold a parallel workshop in mid-December in Novouralsk with other participating teachers from Russia’s closed nuclear cities: Lesnoy, Ozersk, Sarov, Seversk, Trekhgorniy, Zarechniy, and Zheleznogorsk.

Special Conference in Vienna

The 2011-12 CIF academic year coincides with the run-up to the second Nuclear Security Summit to be held in Seoul in March 2012, and the first session of the Preparatory Committee of the 2015 Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference that will be held in May 2012 in Vienna, where an emphasis is expected to be placed on nuclear safety and security.

The teachers participating in the workshop will work with their students on the topic of nuclear safety and security during the semester for the final project, and selected schools will attend a special conference in Vienna to be held as a side event of the NPT Preparatory Committee session.