T H E   W H I T E   H O U S E

Under Secretary of Energy, United States Department of Energy

Help Site Map Text Only


Under Secretary of Energy, United States Department of Energy

It is a daunting task for someone schooled in the law to talk to an audience of such renowned technical leaders, but I am comforted by Niels Bohr's observation that an expert is but an individual who has made all the mistakes which can be made in a very narrow field. I have found as Under Secretary that I have a daily opportunity to make all the mistakes that can be made in many fields, and so I can lay claim to broad expertise on these and other matters.

Our fundamental objective in nonproliferation is to stop the potential for growth in the number of fingers on the nuclear trigger around the world. The Department of Energy's role in this effort arises from our stewardship of the nation's nuclear stockpile. While that responsibility requires our continued and serious attention, in the last two years we have also created the Office of Nonproliferation and National Security to better focus those aspects of the Department's programs and assets that addressed post-Cold War threats.

DOE's technical expertise, particularly the outstanding talent of the national laboratories, many of whom are with you today, represents a global resource with a critical part to play in stopping nuclear proliferation. Let me offer a few examples of the fundamental role this unique expertise plays in stemming proliferation.

DOE experts are providing the technologies today that will be needed to verify the comprehensive ban on the testing of nuclear weapons, as they have in the past provided the expertise to verify the Arms Control Agreements that have been negotiated in past Administrations. In another decade-long effort, DOE experts have developed most of the technology for the International Atomic Energy Agency used to implement nuclear safeguards throughout the world. Indeed, it is a fundamental cornerstone of the entire nonproliferation regime.

Consider Iraq: When it came time to dismantle Iraq's nuclear weapons program, uncover its supplier network, and design the monitoring system needed to make sure Iraq never rebuilds its nuclear effort, DOE experts were on call to get that job done and they did.

Or consider North Korea: When the corrosion of North Korea's spent fuel appeared to offer Pyongyang a potential excuse to restart reprocessing, DOE experts working with colleagues from around the world provided technical solutions that if given the opportunity will allow us to manage this fuel safely and, we hope, forestall the crisis that would certainly follow if Pyongyang had begun separating bomb material from this fuel.

Our efforts focus not only on prevention but on response as well, known as "counter- proliferation." John Deutch, my good friend who was on the earlier panel, and I last year executed a Memorandum of Understanding that in a more focused and systematic (and we hope budgeted and supported) way, will bring the expertise of our national laboratories more directly to bear on counter-proliferation threats of weapons of mass destruction beyond nuclear.

Let me now focus on our cooperation with the former Soviet Union. There is no issue on the national agenda today more important than stabilization of the former Soviet States. What we do now can make the difference between peace and instability for generations to come. These, the Cold War legacies, pose very difficult challenges for the United States. In Russia, those challenges must be met in the midst of a wrenching transition, and with a budget crisis that makes our own budget difficult choices easy by comparison.

Working closely with the States of the former Soviet Union, our Administration has developed a comprehensive four-part plan to manage the nuclear material legacy of the Cold War: Securing nuclear materials; building confidence through openness; halting further accumulation; and carrying out their ultimate disposition, transforming these materials into forms that pose far less security risk.

Most urgent is the task of securing nuclear materials, as any newspaper reader of the last six months can attest. A critical part of this task has been assigned to an innovative, laboratory- to-laboratory partnership between DOE laboratories and their Russian counterparts. This has been a wonderful melding of scientific capability, initiative in the laboratories, and the wisdom in Washington to recognize the great potential capacity that this partnership has for securing these nuclear materials.

We do not take credit for the initiative. We take credit for coordinating what the laboratories brought to the table. Together we have developed a three-part approach: Improving the facilities, demonstrating and deploying technology, and instituting national standards.

The remarkable work done at Kurchatov Institute in Moscow, which made the press this last February in Russia, is an example of the kind of success we hope that we will repeat elsewhere. It is an unprecedented joint effort between Kurchatov, Sandia, and Los Alamos that has brought a very dramatically improved security system to two critically important sites in Kurchatov.

Kurchatov is but one of an ever-expanding list of efforts. Also in the laboratory-to- laboratory program a new modular material control and accounting system has been set up at Arzamas 16 to demonstrate technologies that could be deployed throughout Russia's nuclear complex. The key to this strategy that we are developing is a cooperative program: We emphasize mutuality of effort over and over again between their institutes and our laboratories to use those institutes, as the implementing agents in Russia to distribute technologies and knowledge throughout the very large number of civilian facilities in Russia that have possession of direct weapons-usable materials.

Through this year, much of this work has been funded by the Department of Defense, through the Nunn Lugar program, which was the subject of our earlier panel. In fiscal year 1996 the laboratory-to-laboratory and government-to-government programs on material protection, control, and accountability are both included in the Department of Energy's budget request, totalling $70 million dollars. I believe we have a compelling case to make to Congress and that this program will receive strong bipartisan support. Indeed, it would be hard to think of a better investment in our nation's security.

Related to this effort is the industrial partnering program which represents an equally innovative security investment. Created in fiscal year 1994, this program is based on a clear vision that trade and investment, not government aid, is the long-term answer to peace and stability in the New Independent States. The industrial partnering program brings together United States national laboratories, private industry, and laboratories and institutes in the NIS in cost-share partnerships designed to commercialize new technologies.

This is a win-win-win approach: It redirects weapons scientists to profitable civilian scientific work; it increases United States industry investment in the New Independent States; and it provides assistance in program management and business education to scientists in those states who need the skills to adapt their technical talents to the commercial marketplace.

Already hundreds of contracts employing hundreds of weapons scientists have been signed, designed to bring a broad range of technologies to market. I am very happy to say that United States industry has been an enthusiastic partner with the United States and the former Soviet laboratories if you will, a market-test validation of the worth and merit of this program.

The first eloquence, Lloyd George remarked, "is that which gets things done." These programs described briefly before speak eloquently for themselves in the face of urgent opportunity. They represent the best tradition of the science community's long-standing contribution to world security, and I am proud to be associated with them. Thank you.

Joshua Lederberg
Return to Forum Homepage

President and First Lady | Vice President and Mrs. Gore
Record of Progress | The Briefing Room
Gateway to Government | Contacting the White House
White House for Kids | White House History
White House Tours | Help | Text Only

Privacy Statement