Krige Wins 2011 McElvany Nonproliferation Challenge

HTS Professor John Krige has won the Doreen and Jim McElvany 2011 Nonproliferation Challenge for his essay “The Proliferation Risks of Gas Centrifuge Enrichment at the Dawn of the NPT: New Light on the Negotiating History.”

An initiative of The James Martin Center for Nonproliferation at the Monterey Institute of International Studies, Middlebury College, the competition is designed to publish the most outstanding new thinking in the nonproliferation field.

Krige, who is Kranzberg Professor of the History of Technology and Director of Graduate Studies in the School of History, Technology, and Society, utilized overlooked archival sources to reassess the concerns of the negotiators of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT) regarding the proliferation potential of gas centrifuges for uranium enrichment. (Unlike other enrichment technologies, gas centrifuges are relatively inexpensive to build and operate; they also require significantly less space and consume less electricity, making them harder to detect.) Contrary to popular belief, wrote Krige, the negotiators—particularly in the United States and United Kingdom—debated the issue extensively. The United States believed the risk could be managed via classification, safeguards, and a focus on peaceful uses, while the British worried that secret centrifuge operations would undermine the treaty.

Krige has long been engaged in nuclear matters and viewed the McElvany competition as an opportunity to use historical insights to enrich current proliferation debates. “Deep personal satisfaction apart, this success has vindicated the importance of history to policy, and the value of crossing disciplinary boundaries and of breaking national frames of analysis.”

An essay by Lyndon Burford, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Auckland, New Zealand, was also selected a 2011 winner. 

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