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Professor Albert Carnesale chosen for Obama’s prestigious Blue Ribbon Commission

By Neil Paik

Feb. 25, 2010 10:53 p.m.

The United States Department of Energy has chosen UCLA Professor and Chancellor Emeritus Dr. Albert Carnesale to serve on a high-level national commission that will take a strategic look at America’s nuclear waste production.

Earlier this year, President Barack Obama called for the establishment of a 15-person Blue Ribbon Commission on America’s Nuclear Future, with the goal of providing a comprehensive review of instructions for dealing with nuclear wastes from power plants.

Secretary of Energy Steven Chu announced the formation of the commission in late January, and Carnesale was chosen to serve on it one week later.

“I got a phone call from a very high official in the Department of Energy asking if I would be willing to be considered,” Carnesale said. “And then the next thing I heard actually was yes, they would like to appoint me to the commission.”

In a memorandum to Secretary Chu, Obama said the commission, which is to submit its final report within two years, should include members from a range of disciplines and with a wide variety of perspectives.

Carnesale, who has a Ph.D. in nuclear engineering, has a long history in both science and international affairs.

In the early 1970s, Carnesale served on the United States delegation to the Strategic Arms Limitation Talks to coordinate restrictions on nuclear proliferation with the Soviet Union.

Then under the Carter Administration, he was the senior advisor for the United States delegation to the International Nuclear Fuel Cycle Evaluation.

“He’s really the only person in the country that marries that engineering expertise in the nuclear world with the policy expertise in the nuclear world,” said Associate Professor of Public Policy Amy Zegart, who teaches a United States National Security Policy course with Carnesale once a year.

Currently, Carnesale chairs a committee at the National Academies, which advises the United States on science-related topics.

The committee has been looking at possible solutions to the issue of climate change.

Carnesale has been in the academic world for decades. In 1991, he was appointed dean of the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard and became University Provost three years later. He then served as chancellor of UCLA from 1997 to 2006.

“He is an incredible worker and he takes his teaching very seriously,” Zegart said. “I’ve learned as much from him as anyone that I’ve ever worked with.”

Carnesale said the Blue Ribbon Commission will have the task of utilizing the latest science and technology to foster an effective policy that will also have bipartisan appeal.

In reference to creating a policy that will appeal to Congress, his motto has been, “An optimum policy that cannot be implemented ain’t optimum.”

Carnesale said he is honored to serve on the commission and excited to take on the important set of issues on its agenda.

“It’s an important question that relates not only to nuclear power and reduced dependence on fossil fuels but also to climate change and nuclear proliferation,” he said.

“What we choose to do in the United States with the spent fuel … may have significant implications in terms of nuclear proliferation,” he added.

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Neil Paik
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