WASHINGTON, D.C.—Last week, the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI) announced that former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest J. Moniz, 72, will lead the Washington, D.C.–based think tank starting on 1 June. The longtime Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge physicist earned accolades for his diplomatic efforts in hammering out the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Science caught up with Moniz earlier today to discuss how he will address nuclear threats in his new role. This transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
Q: NTI has sought to galvanize global support for a vision of a world without nuclear weapons—a vision embraced by U.S. administrations since World War II. At the Carnegie Endowment’s nuclear policy conference last week, National Security Council Senior Director Christopher Ford indicated that the Trump administration is reviewing whether it will continue to support such a vision. Will you help NTI make a better case for it?
A: I am among those who support the vision of a world without nuclear weapons, and that was part of the Prague set of proposals that President Obama set forward [in 2009]. Certainly that vision is decades away [from], hopefully, being realized. What I think is really critical, what NTI has done as a do tank as opposed to a think tank, is advocating for and facilitating practical steps that can be taken in the near and medium term to reducing nuclear threats. Things like the Nuclear Security Index, catalyzing the establishment of a nuclear fuel bank in Kazakhstan, and more recently, initiating a dialogue with hospitals about reducing dirty bomb threats by replacing radioactive sources with x-ray sources.
Q: Last October, the Russian government suspended an agreement with the United States on nuclear R&D cooperation and terminated another…