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DEPARTMENT COLLOQUIUM | Who Gets the Bomb? The Engineering Physics Behind Contemporary Nuclear Proliferation

Wednesday, March 11, 2015
4:00 AM
340 West Hall

Policymakers have long viewed technology as a limiting factor in the proliferation of nuclear weapons. Over the last thirty years, systematic improvements in information access, engineering design,and manufacturing have eased that challenge. Are those changes sufficient to enable developing countries, or possibly even private organizations, to make nuclear weapons of their own? There is mounting evidence that this transition has occurred. In this talk, MIT's Scott Kemp examines gas centrifuge isotope separation, a technology now widely pursued by states that aspire to become nuclear powers. He reviews the consequences of 45 years of technology change, over twenty historical cases of  proliferation, and the intelligence capabilities for counterproliferation, concluding that a near-foundational shift for nonproliferation policy is now needed.

R. Scott Kemp is Assistant Professor of Nuclear Science and Engineering at MIT, and director of the MIT Laboratory for Nuclear Security and Policy. His research combines physics, engineering, and the history of science to draw more clearly the limits and policy options for achieving international security under technical constraints. From 2010-2011, he served as the State Department's science advisor in the Office of the Special Advisor for Nonproliferation and Arms Control, where he was primarily responsible for negotiations with Iran. Kemp received his Ph.D. from Princeton University, and a bachelor's in Physics from the University of California, Santa Barbara.