8/24/2010 Colloquium - Siegfried Hecker
Siegfried HeckerStanford University
Title: The promise, peril and puzzle of plutonium
Date: Aug 24, 2010
Location: 3105 Etcheverry Hall
Plutonium evokes the entire gamut of emotions, from good to evil, from hope to despair, from the salvation of humanity to its utter destruction. There is no other element in the Periodic Table that has had such a profound impact on the consciousness of mankind. Nearly 2,000 metric tons of plutonium exist throughout the world as spent nuclear fuel, nuclear weapons components, various nuclear inventories, legacy materials and wastes. Whereas it can serve as valuable fuel for commercial nuclear power to electrify the world, it takes less than 10 kilograms in the form of a nuclear bomb to destroy a large city. A complex blend of global political, socioeconomic and technological challenges must be overcome to manage these inventories efficiently and safely for centuries to come. From physical, chemical, and technological perspectives, plutonium is one of the most complex and fascinating elements in the Periodic Table.
Siegfried Hecker is a professor (research) in the Department of Management Science and Engineering, a senior fellow at FSI, and co-director of CISAC. He is also an emeritus director of Los Alamos National Laboratory. Hecker's research interests include plutonium science, nuclear weapon policy and international security, nuclear security (including nonproliferation and counter terrorism), and cooperative nuclear threat reduction. Over the past 15 years, he has fostered cooperation with the Russian nuclear laboratories to secure and safeguard the vast stockpile of ex-Soviet fissile materials. His current interests include the challenges of nuclear India, Pakistan, North Korea, and the nuclear aspirations of Iran. Hecker works closely with the Russian Academy of Sciences and is actively involved with the U.S. National Academies, serving as a member of the National Academies Committee on International Security and Arms Control Nonproliferation Panel.
Hecker joined Los Alamos National Laboratory as graduate research assistant and postdoctoral fellow before returning as technical staff member following a tenure at General Motors Research. He led the laboratory's Materials Science and Technology Division and Center for Materials Science before serving as laboratory director from 1986 through 1997, and senior fellow until July 2005.
Among his professional distinctions, Hecker is a member of the National Academy of Engineering; a foreign member of the Russian Academy of Sciences; a fellow of the TMS, or Minerals, Metallurgy and Materials Society; a fellow of the American Society for Metals; an honorary member of the American Ceramics Society; and a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His achievements have been recognized with the US Department of Energy’s Enrico Fermi Award, the American Nuclear Society's Seaborg Medal and the Alumni Association Gold Medal and the Undergraduate Distinguished Alumni Award from Case Western Reserve University, where he earned his bachelor's, master's, and doctoral degrees in metallurgy.