Based on a description posted in the School of Diplomacy's E-Newsletter last spring, second-year grad student Mia Oliveri took a chance and applied to the Brookhaven National Laboratory's Summer 2022 Nuclear Nonproliferation, Safeguards, and Security in the 21st Century course (NNSS). She hoped the course would answer the question of whether nuclear energy should be part of our climate change solution toolkit or if the risk of nuclear weapons proliferation outweighs the benefits of peaceful uses of nuclear technology. After her acceptance into the Brookhaven course, she worked with the School of Diplomacy's resident aerospace engineer, Father Brian Muzás, to earn school credit for the course as part of an independent study.
For two weeks in June, Mia participated in a nine-day intensive class that, in total, consisted of more hours than a standard 3-credit class. Days were broken down into lectures from leading experts who covered various topics related to the global nonproliferation regime, from the nuclear fuel cycle and dual-use technology to safeguards agreements and verification techniques. Intermixed with the lectures, Mia completed daily exercises and group projects with the other 20 participants, which included other graduate students and nuclear sciences professionals from around the world. The course concluded with a simulated virtual inspection in which the students acted as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors to verify that the facility was not diverting nuclear material for non-peaceful purposes. During the simulation, Mia and her team members picked up on concerns that actual IAEA trainees had not, and she credited Brookhaven with teaching them well. Reflecting on the course, Mia said, "The breadth and depth of the nuclear nonproliferation field and the expertise of the scientists and policymakers working in this field is incredible. Thanks to the NNSS course, I can participate in conversations about an extremely important but not widely understood topic."
As part of her independent study, Mia worked with Father Brian to apply what she was learning in class to the real world. One of her assignments tasked her with looking into what the world could expect to hear from the Mission of the Holy See to the UN during the Tenth Review Conference of the Parties to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons which took place in August. Because Mia did not choose the topic, she learned that she could get up to speed quickly on things she does not know much about, a skill she believes will serve her well in her future endeavors. For her final paper, she examined the idea of post-Cold War nuclear disorder and the importance of U.S. and Russian cooperation and leadership in restoring some sense of global nuclear order. Mia spoke highly about the independent study option, as it allowed her to explore a topic she wanted to learn more about and work with an expert in the field to gain a different perspective than traditional classes.
While Mia still hopes that nuclear energy can be part of the climate change toolkit, she came to appreciate the nuclear nonproliferation regime of nations more through the class. She built on concepts from her other classes in the program, like cost-benefit analysis that she learned in Professor Ann Marie Murphy's Comparative Foreign Policy and threat perception and misperception in International Security. Because of this outside learning opportunity that she was able to bring back to the classroom, Mia now has a greater appreciation for all aspects of nuclear security and new career paths to explore.