Dr. Ernest Moniz defended the Iran nuclear deal and argued for a renewed push toward green energy technology at the 2016 Trainor Lecture and Award in the Intercultural Center on Monday.
Hosted by the Institute for the Study of Diplomacy, Moniz was honored for his role in the Iran nuclear negotiations and awarded the 32nd Jit Trainor Award for distinction in the conduct of diplomacy.
Moniz participated in the P-5+1 talks between the permanent United Nations member states, China and the European Union as a part of the American-led international delegation working toward a plan to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
The nuclear agreement requires Iran to roll back its nuclear program and imposes a verification system to ensure it does not initiate new efforts to obtain a nuclear device, in exchange for lifting sanctions that have crippled the Iranian economy since 1996. Former Ambassador to Yemen and Director of the ISD Barbara K. Bodine welcomed the audience before introducing School of Foreign Service Dean Joel Hellman, who praised Moniz as a scientist serving the nation and one of the first scientists to win the Trainor Award.
“The transnational challenges we are facing go beyond the capacity of any single nation-state to solve,” Hellman said. “Individually and as the head of the Department of Energy, he really epitomizes the role of science in the service of the national interest and global community.”
Moniz emphasized the long, active role in diplomacy that the Department of Energy has played over the years, balancing multiple responsibilities including nuclear security and climate change.
“[The DOE] is sometimes referred to as the Department of Weapons and Windmills, Quarks and Quagmires because of the nuclear security responsibilities and clean energy, particularly climate change,” Moniz said. “It is the largest supporter of the physical sciences in the United States and we operate the key facilities like accelerators and resources that serve over 30,000 scientists each year to do their work.”
Moniz said he worked to build trust with Iranian scientists based around their work as scientists in negotiations.
“We had to go through a myriad of trade-offs, but the important thing is that a relationship of trust was built up at the scientist-to-scientist level,” Moniz said. “This did not in any way diminish our responsibility to achieve our core objectives, but it was built upon a trust in which we felt what was being discussed was always an honest proposition.”
Moniz said he was proud of the progress that he achieved through these negotiations.
“Until recently, the major focus was on eliminating their plutonium capability, which would come from a rack reactor that was under construction. It would produce more than enough plutonium for a bomb a year. The discussion was all around who would bomb it when. That was what was in the news,” Moniz said. “Today, the core of that reactor has been filled with cement as a result of the negotiations. Sounds to me like a better outcome.”
According to Moniz, criticism surrounding the deal tends to focus on what the deal does not do, instead of what it accomplishes.
“It did not stop arms transfers to Hezbollah, it did not solve the Houthi problem, it did not solve the missile problem. That was a choice made years ago that a manageable negotiation would be attempted,” Moniz said. “It’s very similar to what President Reagan did in the 1980s in negotiating arms control separate from all of our other problems with the Soviet Union.”
Following Moniz’s lecture, ISD Board Chairman and Ambassador Thomas R. Pickering moderated a question-and-answer segment, which featured questions ranging from potential plans for the United States to begin a fuel-leasing program to the roles Georgetown students play in combating climate change.
Maria Ciacci (SFS ’18) said she enjoyed listening to Moniz’s explanation of the Iran deal.
“I thought it was really informative. I like that he kept it basic enough for anyone that’s not necessarily in the field to understand,” Ciacci said. “He was really thorough with the history of his field as well as the Iran deal, and it was easy to understand and really see the intersection of diplomacy and science.”
Will Hallisey (COL ’16) also praised the secretary’s explanation of the DOE’s responsibilities.
“My dad does energy investing and so I know a little bit about this stuff, but it’s a brave new world because you have to figure out a world where there’s a cohesive interconnection of energy opportunities,” Hallisey said. “Someone talked about oil in developing countries, they mentioned it’s the department of weapons and they really do have a very encompassing job. His expertise is very encompassing as well.”
Hallisey said the lecture clarified his understanding of the Iran nuclear talks.
“You get the sound bytes on TV of the less educated point of view, but the fact that he is fundamentally assured of his position because he’s so educated, exactly what it takes for a country to have a nuclear weapon,” Hallisey said. “I think that’s what was one of the most important parts because you really do realize how extensively affected these people, these individuals.”
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