Science, Technology, and Society Seminar: STS Circle at Harvard


Monday, November 12, 2018, 12:15pm to 2:00pm


CGIS South Building, 1730 Cambridge Street, Room S050

"Cultures of Nuclear Security: How Different Countries Decide How to Protect their Nuclear Facilities"


Matthew Bunn, Professor of Practice at Harvard Kennedy School.

Co-sponsored by the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences and the School of Engineering and Applied Sciences, Harvard University.


Kasper Schiølin


Sheila Jasanoff, Faculty Associate. Pforzheimer Professor of Science and Technology Studies, Harvard Kennedy School.

Lunch is provided if you RSVP via our online form by Thursday, October 25th


In most countries, security for nuclear weapons, materials, and facilities operates as a punctuated equilibrium; decision-makers are satisfied with security as it is until some form of incident or external pressure forces them to reconsider and make changes. But different countries have decided on very different levels of nuclear security over the years, and have reacted to incidents quite differently. Perceptions of what security measures are appropriate are not primarily driven by “rational” risk calculations, but by the particular institutional and cultural approaches to nuclear regulation and risk regulation more generally in each country. Because most countries for most of the nuclear age have not considered nuclear security a very important topic, these decisions are made by small groups of mid-level officials with little senior-level oversight, opening even more pathways than usual for idiosyncratic and path-dependent outcomes. International recommendations, though vague and non-binding, have been surprisingly influential, offering often non-expert regulators a convenient and easy-to-defend set of approaches they can adopt; U.S. pressure has also been influential in pushing states to upgrade nuclear security requirements.


Matthew Bunn is a Professor of Practice at the Harvard Kennedy School. His research interests include nuclear theft and terrorism; nuclear proliferation and measures to control it; the future of nuclear energy and its fuel cycle; and innovation in energy technologies. Before coming to Harvard, Bunn served as an adviser to the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy, as a study director at the National Academy of Sciences, and as editor of Arms Control Today. He is the author or co-author of more than 25 books or major technical reports (most recentlyPreventing Black-Market Trade in Nuclear Technology), and over 150 articles in publications ranging from Scienceto The Washington Post.