Carnegie 2015

Here are videos from many of the sessions of last week’s Carnegie International Conference on Nuclear Policy. You can see some very big names in the field – Director General Yukiya Amano of the IAEA, US Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz – and other names that are familiar to people who follow nuclear issues.

The Carnegie Conference (Twitter hashtag #nukefest2015) is the premier gathering of people concerned about nuclear weapons issues, mainly arms control and nonproliferation. Carnegie shifted the focus a few conferences back to nuclear policy more generally, but most of the people who attend deal with arms control and nonproliferation.

The videos are well worth viewing. None of the sessions offered breaking news. Moniz came closest by announcing new DOE policies on dealing with nuclear waste and spent fuel. Some offered new ways of looking at a situation. I’m not that current on China, so “Managing Strategic Friction on China’s Periphery” was helpful to me. I also liked Alexey Arbatov’s summary of Russia’s concerns in “The INF Treaty and Beyond.” Unsurprisingly, nobody who was involved in the Iran negotiations provided any news, but Bob Einhorn’s comments were helpful in understanding the context.

The 30% level for women speakers was far better than some organizations, and a great many young women were in attendance. Although part of the reason for attending is to hear from the big names, I’d also like to hear from young people (that would include men too). Not just a few, carefully selected by the powers that be, but part of most panels.

The unvideoed part of the conference, equally important, is the networking. The nonproliferation community is small, and we read what the others write and network on Twitter and Facebook; if you follow me, you will see conversations with and retweets of others in the network. Meeting people in real life is part of the fun, as is seeing old friends again. Disagreement is good-natured, usually treated as a means toward finding the best way forward.

Carnegie recognizes this and provides half-hour breaks and two big evening receptions, generously fueled with food and drink. The Embassy of the Netherlands helped out with Monday’s. The food at the conference is good; this year, the food was lighter than it has been in the past – chicken and fish with lots of veggies, which I like. But no sweets at the Monday evening reception?

The Conference had an app that was very helpful with the agenda and list of attendees, along with a comment stream that looked a lot like Facebook. Because I was tweeting for Nuclear Diner, I didn’t have a lot of time to look at that comment stream. The Conference encourages tweeting and published a Twitter list of attendees’ handles, which could be used to follow their comments, as could the #nukefest2015 hashtag.

One person tweeted that the hashtag seemed too frivolous for such a serious topic. I am a bit uneasy about it, too, but the discussions and seeing friends are so enjoyable it makes sense in that regard.

It seemed to me that the tweetstream from the conference was more sedate than it was at the previous conference in 2013. Nonetheless, there was one incident in which an organizer felt he had to chastise a person for too candid a tweet. Twitter is not something the organizers can control; they need to recognize that.

The app also had the capability of polling attendees. One of the sessions made use of this. It was a fun approach to a late session in the conference: the audience was polled on four questions, and the panel discussed their disagreements on the questions. The app didn’t work at first, and it continued a little balky. About 200 out of 800 attendees used it. Not a carefully controlled social science experiment, but interesting to see a poll of experts.

It was a very intense two days – from 7:30 in the morning until 8 or later at night – but thoroughly enjoyable.


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