On February 21, 2020, the IAUNRC and the Russian and East European Institute presented a nonproliferation and nuclear security workshop to students and faculty at Eastern Kentucky University (EKU), one of our partner institutions.
The workshop was led by Margarita Kalinina-Pohl, Senior Program Manager and Research Associate at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies (CNS) of Middlebury Institute of International Studies in Monterey, CA. The majority of attendees were undergraduate majors in the Homeland Security Program, as well as students from Criminal Justice and Political Science. Three members of EKU faculty also attended.
The first part of the workshop was devoted to an overview of specific terms, a brief introduction to the Central Asian region, and the history of the collapse of the USSR, as well as information on Soviet programs to develop weapons of mass destruction and their legacies in Central Asian states. Such programs included uranium mining, weapons-grade materials production, nuclear weapons testing at the Semipalatinsk Test Site, and biological weapons production and testing at the Stepnogorsk facility and on Vozrozhdeniye Island in the Aral Sea.
This introduction was followed by a Zoom presentation by Sara Bidgood, also from CNS, on US-Soviet Nonproliferation Cooperation and the current state of US-Russian arms control. In the hour before lunch, Ms. Kalinina-Pohl discussed current proliferation and nuclear security threats in Central Asia: nuclear/radiological and environmental security threats, other types of security threat such as terrorism and drug trafficking, and current activities related to nuclear programs in Central Asia, from uranium mining to nuclear power plant construction.
The first part of the afternoon session was devoted to the potential for US-Russia collaboration in Central Asia in several areas, including the remediation of uranium tailings, supporting Central Asian states’ counter-terrorism efforts, including preventing “dirty bomb” terrorism, and supporting Central Asian states in their efforts to prevent the radiological/nuclear risks posed by theft or loss of radioactive/nuclear material or their illicit trafficking. This was followed by a documentary film on the history of the Semipalatinsk Test Site and a group discussion.
An interactive group exercise concluded the workshop. Participants were divided into four teams representing regional (Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan) and international (Russia and the United States) stakeholders at a hypothetical meeting of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna to discuss the building and operating of a nuclear power plant in Uzbekistan by Uzbekistan and Russia to see if its benefits would outweigh concerns by various stakeholders.
The workshop received very positive reviews from students and faculty. Several attendees stayed on to talk to Ms. Kalinina-Pohl about issues discussed in the workshop, to share their own future career plans, and to seek guidance. We look forward to further opportunities for collaboration with our EKU partners in the future.