Alexander Glaser is an associate professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering and international affairs, and he is co-director of the Program on Science and Global Security.
Glaser’s work has focused on the technical aspects of nuclear-fuel-cycle technologies and policy questions related to nuclear energy and nuclear weapon proliferation. He plans to continue research on these issues and to locate it in two important new contexts that have emerged only recently: 1) proposals to increase reliance on nuclear energy, as part of the effort to mitigate climate change, and 2) proposals to cut deeply the number of nuclear weapons and perhaps even eliminate them entirely. Glaser intends to work on these issues with his current colleagues at the Program on Science and Global Security and on the International Panel on Fissile Materials. More importantly, he hopes to develop new collaborations with faculty and researchers in the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and to contribute to the work on international security and climate change at the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs and at the Princeton Environmental Institute.
Nuclear Energy and Nuclear Proliferation: The spread of gas centrifuge uranium enrichment technology, and especially the activities of the A.Q. Khan network and the crisis over Iran’s nuclear program, has triggered a search for ways to better safeguard and control this technology. Glaser plans to build on his previous research, in which he modeled the characteristics of centrifuge machines and cascades, to develop a better technical basis for such nonproliferation initiatives. In particular, he intends to assess the practicality of the new approaches to safeguards and to the detection of clandestine enrichment activities being considered by the International Atomic Energy Agency. Glaser also plans to analyze initiatives to place enrichment plants under multinational control and management. Most of these schemes rely on a “black box” approach, in which critical components are supplied prefabricated to a country with facility operators denied access to proliferation-sensitive information. Glaser intends to examine the critical technical attributes, institutional arrangements and policy trade-offs that could determine whether “black box” technology transfer is viable as a long-term strategy to stem nuclear proliferation.
Nuclear Energy and Climate Change: In response to the proposed increased use of nuclear power, nuclear engineers are exploring a panoply of new reactor types such as plutonium-fueled fast breeder reactors, small “nuclear battery” reactors and thorium-fueled and high temperature reactors for deployment to replace existing reactor-types in the next several decades. Glaser plans to develop a research program that would help assess these proposed reactor technologies and their fuel cycles, in terms of their technical feasibility, life-cycle economics, safety, proliferation-resistance and environmental impact.
Nuclear Forensics, Nuclear Archaeology and Nuclear Weapons Reductions: Recent work on nuclear forensics, including work by Glaser, has focused on identifying the origin of intercepted nuclear material or of nuclear particles in the debris from a terrorist nuclear explosion for purposes of deterring states from supporting nuclear terrorism either actively or through negligence. In addition to providing an independent and critical assessment of technical capabilities, Glaser’s research will identify potential new applications of these methods, especially helping to verify nuclear disarmament. Through such “nuclear archaeology,” he plans to help determine the feasibility of verifying declarations by states of their past production of missile materials for weapons and civilian uses.
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