To compete and thrive in the 21st century, democracies, and the United States in particular, must develop new national security and economic strategies that address the geopolitics of information. In the 20th century, market capitalist democracies geared infrastructure, energy, trade, and even social policy to protect and advance that era’s key source of power—manufacturing. In this century, democracies must better account for information geopolitics across all dimensions of domestic policy and national strategy.
The need to mitigate emissions of global warming gases in the energy sector is critical. It has been widely argued that the most plausible and cost effective strategy to achieve deep decarbonization is by deploying a portfolio of “everything we’ve got.” Most integrated assessment models ascribe a future role in the low carbon energy mix to nuclear power. But burdened with extensive regulation, a dated development model, and longstanding negative externalities such as waste and perceived accident risk, the future role of nuclear in decarbonization is uncertain. In this seminar, we will briefly examine the history of the U.S. Department of Energy in advanced nuclear research and development and propose an alternative path that is better suited to the market and technical realities of advanced nuclear concepts. We will also examine broader issues of institutional capacity that may impact the wider deployment of nuclear power to meet carbon mitigation goals.
Michael Ford is the French Environmental Fellow at the Harvard University Center for the Environment. He earned his Ph.D. in Engineering and Public Policy from Carnegie Mellon University (CMU). Prior to his doctoral studies, Mike completed a distinguished career in the United States Navy, where he served as the commanding officer of a guided missile cruiser and a destroyer and held sub-specialties in nuclear engineering, finance, and operations analysis. He is a past Fellow in the MIT Center for International Studies Seminar XXI program, specializing in national security and international affairs. In his research, Mike examines the potential for nuclear energy to play a role in decarbonizing the energy sector. He has explored the history of advanced reactor research and development in the United States, the potential for broader nuclear development worldwide, and also studies issues surrounding novel nuclear deployment options such as floating nuclear power plants.