I will reflect back to March 22, 2013 when I presented a paper on nuclear energy and security at the Graduate Student Research Conference at George Mason University. During my presentation I discussed some of the controversies surrounding nuclear issues and security and that some scholars have suggested that the spread of nuclear energy technology could also result in more countries proliferating weapons. The argument is that some countries may be using nuclear energy programs as a pretense to gain the technological capabilities to build nuclear weapons. The purpose of my discussion was to show that most topics surrounding nuclear energy and weapons from sustainability to safety and security is widely debated and that some people have suggested that even the use of nuclear energy needs to be highly regulated. After my presentation I received a rather aggressive questioning campaign from a man from the Department of Energy, the United States department that deals directly with both nuclear energy and nuclear weapons. He asked me if I understood the process to create weapons from nuclear energy materials. He was attempting to tear the argument apart that suggests that some countries may use their nuclear energy programs to manufacture weapons by stating that nuclear weapons and nuclear energy are completely separate entities that should not be connected. I was completely sidelined by this questioning and obviously unprepared. The overall purpose of my presentation was to discuss the controversies within the nuclear field and to encourage further safety and security discussions. The driving force behind this new project of mine is to find out exactly what the connection is between nuclear energy and nuclear weapons manufacturing and how to talk about it since I am not a physicist.
Based on my own experience I understand how unapproachable entering into technical discussions surrounding nuclear weapons can be. However, it does not need to be. My plan is to research and write about the process from mining to energy generation and weapons programs in both an explanatory narrative and also a more in-depth look into the actual science of nuclear materials for those who are interested. PNA seeks to create dialogue surrounding nuclear issues and I hope to encourage the fulfillment of this mission by enabling what seems to be a very distant and unapproachable topic into something we can all understand and feel confident discussing. Stay tuned for the first installment of Nuclear 101: Nuclear Physics for Non-Scientists.